How is that, you ask. In response, I quote Steven Spielberg who famously said in a Time magazine cover story, “I dream for a living.”
Imagine the average startup founder sitting in a car in Bangalore. He (or occasionally she) is en route to a meeting and traffic is, as always stalled. So what does he do? He checks his messages, emails, Instagram, and then looks out defeated, to see if the traffic is inching along. Exhausted, he stares at the rain trees all around. Eureka, he gets an idea of how to solve the knotty vendor issue.
It is a well-known fact that the brain needs downtime in order to come up with creative ideas. Newton was semi-napping when he discovered gravity. Archimedes was in a bathtub when he came up with his namesake principle. Bangalore’s traffic provides excellent downtime for entrepreneurs and founders to come up with lifechanging ideas.
More than Delhi, more than any other city in India, Bangalore is a city of ideas. I am not the only person saying this. Worthier folks predate me.
Nandan Nilekani is not sure whether he came up with the idea of calling Bangalore a “city of ideas,” but he is pretty sure he is one of the earliest. “Nehru said it before me,” he admits.
Nehru said a lot more during his address at Bangalore’s Vidhana Soudha in July 1962. But essentially, he called Bangalore, the city of the future.
“Now Bangalore, in many ways, is unlike the other great cities of India,” said our late prime minister. Most of the other great Indian cities were mired in the past, present, and future, but mostly the past. “Bangalore however presented India a picture of the future, because of the concentration of science, technology and industries in the public sector here,” said Nehru.
That remains unchanged even after 60 years. In his speech, Nehru goes on to give advice on how to preserve the forward-thinking nature of one of India’s “most beautiful” cities. All this can be read in M. Fazlul Hasan’s excellent book, “Bangalore through the centuries.”
Nehru saw in Bangalore, the existence of the two major incentives of good life: civic sense and aesthetic consciousness. You can question whether the latter still exists, now that metro construction, potholed roads and horrible traffic have changed the aesthetics of this city. But civic action is still strong. Protests remain pervasive and citizens queue up to safeguard lakes, trees and green spaces.
“In the future, Bangalore may acquire such appellations as “Industrial City,” or “Prosperous City,” or “Thriving City,” said our late prime minister.
Clearly, Nehru was speaking to the gallery with respect to his monikers for Bangalore. There are other cities in India that can vie for the title of being industrial, prosperous, or thriving. But with respect to being an idea city, Bangalore, I would argue is peerless. Which is where Nilekani comes in.