02 05 2005
The Other Information City
by Lawrence Liang (IN)
Bangalore's almost mythical status as India's Silicon Valley is not the only face of this city, now aspiring to become the "Singapore of India". But under the surface of changing slogans, Bangalore's streets and markets, cybercafés and shops tell an intriguing story of life in the "other information city". Lawrence Liang, member of the Alternative Law Forum, offers an inside view in this photo essay written for World-Information.Org
Not too many cities have the distinction of becoming words that are a part of language, and more often than not when this distinction is given to cities, it is generally as a pejorative. Thus, to be ‘sent to Coventry’ was an honour given only to criminals. The latest entry to the list of City words is Bangalore, and in the unofficial dictionary of the global information order, ‘to be Bangalored’ signifies the loss of one’s job in the first world, through the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) process to India or any other developing country.
Not content with its recent sobriquet, Bangalore however intends to transcend its Bangaloreness, and instead aspires to be Singapore. Thus all the official self-representation of Bangalore positions itself as the Singapore of India, and this metaphor is not only at the level of the symbolic, but also through the various joint ventures between the government of Singapore and the Government of Karnataka, as well as between a number of large private companies in Singapore and Bangalore. It is also not surprising that the Master Plan for the proposed IT corridor (of which I will say more later), a massive plan to create a corridor covering 7,500 hectares of land has been prepared by a Singaporean company Jurong.
This schizophrenic desire be another city is of course not limited to Bangalore, and it seems to be like a Post Globalization anxiety that afflicts a number of Indian cities. As cities like Mumbai, Hyderabad, Delhi, Bangalore, Kolkata and Chennai rapidly move into this new network of the global economy, large sections of their middle classes begin to live in a present that is far removed from a majority of the people who live and work these cities. There is in many ways a disjuncture of temporal experience within the national space. Big cities and metropolises are being reconfigured, dislocated from their national location and inserted into the grid of the global economy. Every major city in the contemporary seems to have a not very hidden schizophrenic desire. For every city there is a mythical other that it will one day transform into, and in many ways is destined towards. Bangalore aspires to be Singapore; Mumbai violently desires Shanghai and Delhi slouches towards London. In each of these cities the master planners and the corporate elite are hard at work transforming the architecture, the built up form and the design of the city to overcome their messy temporal now ness.
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