31 October 2016

Askew: Where going forward resembles going backward

While reading about the debate/discussions about proposed SteelFlyover in Bangalore from Chalukya Hotel to Hebbal, I stumbled upon an article in NewsMinute - How Bangalore went from cosy town to an urban nightmare. The article which was actually an excerpt from the book Askew: A Short Biography of Bangalore by T. J. S. George concluded with following the lines.
It used to be a city in peace with itself. It was now a bundle of contradictions, a battleground of competing constituencies, where going forward resembles going backward.
The lines struck the right chord in my mind was very relevant to the ongoing discussions. Without any second thoughts and I bought the kindle version of the book well before the official launch of the hardcover version. The biography weaves multiple amusing stories which have made unique value-system of the city and also led to the deterioration of the same. It discusses city's history, personalities, culture, novel enterprises, IT boom and many more things. The author expresses concern about the new type of virtual plague which is close to inevitable and primarily happening due to the greed of elected representatives and bureaucrats.

Some of the key highlights of the narrative are:
  • Bangalore is following the same pattern of development as other deteriorated cities - which is build and enjoy, overbuild and suffer, collapse and complain, and then become argumentative of what happened. 
  • The city made its mark on the word map thru IT revolution and it changed the name of city from a noun to a verb. This overnight transformation coupled with myopic policies of elected representatives has made the city unbearable. In contrast, Silicon Valley and Boston didn't lose its charm while adopting modern enterprises. 
  • The builders of the city in yesteryears were selfless to the core. Lakshman Rao who had architected Jayanagar, died in 2005 without owning a house or site in Bengaluru. The cost per sqft was only one rupee when the best neighborhood in Asia was laid out in 1948. Just imagine how much assets he could have made just by hoarding parcels of land created by him ?
  • There used to be an orderly development of thru live-where-you-work principle followed by PSUs. IT tore this system apart by building fancy ivory towers without giving a thought on living and commuting needs of employees.
  • Within the boundaries of tradition there's a scope for innovation and enterprise - this has been beautifully narrated thru the story South Indian restaurants (i.e. MTR, Vidhyarthi Bhavan etc) set-up by Udupi Brahmins.
  • Amusing story of R Prabhakar, a consumer activist and guide/mentor behind the Darshini model low-brow eat-outs starting from Cafe Darshinis to latest being Bye-two coffee set-up by Raghvendra Padukone.
  • There's a big question mark on the scope for fresh enterprises in the city. The heirs of billionaires Rohan Murthy, Siddharth Mallya have managed find their green pasture elsewhere. 
There are more such interesting things which make the book an engrossing read ! Do order your copy at Amazon.


  1. Looks to be a thought provoking book. Thanks for the review Sandeep!

  2. Just started reading - a nice, introspective read so far :)