There is a face that a Bangalorean will make when you ask him to do something. It is a contortion, almost comical in its sincerity. It says, “What you are asking is currently difficult for me but I really want to accommodate and help you. So please help me help you– by downsizing your expectations, if possible to zero. Then we can just get along and have a by-two coffee together.”

As an honorary Bangalorean, I have spotted this face often– in plumbers and mechanics, sales managers and sari-sellers. It comes out when you urgently need something and they need to have their oota or kaapi or thindi. I have made this face when someone asks me for a favour– to buy time, to say No without saying No. It is a face with a hand gesture as if you are grasping a lotus stem– along with a look that says, “Swalpa adjust maadi” or “Please adjust.”

Bangaloreans do this often without drama or fuss. We take things in our stride. If you give us jolada-roti (jowar), we will eat it. Ragi mudde (ragi balls), you say? We will swallow it. Akki (rice) roti? Heck yes. We will enjoy it fully, especially if it has sabsige soppu or dill leaves. The point is that every Bangalorean savours the moment, is grateful for what is given, doesn’t make a fuss, tries to cultivate humility, and lives life to the fullest.

You can see it in the way we stand outside tiny roadside hotels, taking small bites of the vada and chatting quietly with each other as the morning sunshine filters through the gently swaying rain trees. You can see it in Airlines Hotel where we sit under the young morning sun and take long, slow sips of our coffee from those glass tumblers, as if trying to prolong the beauty of that moment.

Road rage is minimal here even though the traffic snarls.  Sure, the Uttara Karnataka folks (UK) have fire in their veins and are known for their slang and swear words, all of which come out fluently and have exact correlations with their Hindi counterparts.  What do you think soole-maga or baddi-maga means?

But even the firebrands from other regions of Karnataka and other states calm down when they come to Bangalore.  Why is that? For a city of some 12 million, Bangaloreans are amongst the most genteel and polite people in India, if not the world. Ours is not the false formal politeness of the Japanese with their constant bowing.  Our gentility comes from within.  Why, we don’t know ourselves. 

It perhaps has to do with the weather.  Every day here is like April in Paris complete with blooming flowers and trees, no matter where you go.  “The living is easy” and not just in “Summertime.”  

The other reason for the Bangalorean’s ability to adapt and adjust is because Karnataka the state is perhaps more varied that most other states.  We have practice in getting along with a variety of folks.

There is Coastal Karnataka or Tulu-nadu with its distinctive Tulu language, culture and rituals like Bhoota Kola, made famous by the movie, Kantara.  Mangalore and coastal Karnataka is a melting pot of India’s big three faiths.  Mangalore Christians have music in their fingers. The Muslim cuisine of the Konkan coast is distinct and delicious.  As for the Hindus, they too have their quirks and foibles that you can read about in translated books such as Defiance by Na Mogasale.

Coorg is famous for its language and customs, its beauteous landscape, handsome people, its nature worship that reveres the river Kaveri, and its famous pandi curry made with pork.

Upper Karnataka with its dry drought-laden landscape, plain-speaking freely-swearing earthy people is the stuff of legend in the state.  Quixotically, for such a barren land, its people are amongst the most cultured in the land.  Dharwad-Hubli is home to Gangubai Hangal, Mallikarjun Mansur, D.R. Bendre, and Leena Chandavarkar. It is home to the Dharwad Pedha, Gokak Karadhantu, Ladagi laddu, Belagavi Kunda, Tuppada Mandige and many other sweets.

There is the Udupi and Kundapur heartland with its own dialect, customs, spice mixes and famous dishes including the Kundapur Koli saaru or chicken gravy, Udupi sambar and other delicacies.

The Mysuru-Mandya region brings its own ecosystem with its sugarcane fields, Mysorepak, Mysore masala dosa, Mysore bonda and Mysore Concerns coffee that is now famous in Mumbai’s Matunga.

Given this mish-mash of locals, it is no wonder that the average Bangalorean needs to adjust. Add to this, the immigrants like me, from states far and near. Everyone somehow jostles through and gets along. Some part of it is the reflexive politeness of the native Kannadiga. People who keep talking about Lucknow’s tehzeeb have not met the average Kannadiga.

Here’s an example. There is this story that goes around in the IAS circles of Bangalore, about how a peon shows his new boss around the office. “And here Sir is your kind office, your kind chair, and next room is the kind bathroom and the kind commode,” he says. It sounds better in the bureaucratic Kannada accent mixed with English. Go to Bangalore Club, and get your IAS old-timer friends to down a local beer or two and ask them to recount this story to get the full picture, complete with deferential posture.

It is this gentility that is part of the DNA of Bangaloreans. No matter where you are from, you will fit in and get along. The auto driver will speak your language whether it is Telegu or Tamil. The courier delivery person will offer Hindi as a first step if you look North Indian before realising that you can speak Kannada. The police man will say a few words in English if he senses that your Kannada is bad.

In which other city in India can you see this happening?

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