Urban India has given up. By “urban India”, I don’t mean every Indian who lives in a city: I mean those people, numbering in the few millions, who are aware of literature, music, cinema, fashion and food from around the world and are proud of it, who attend gigs and read blogs like mine, whose views, when averaged, typically converge upon something broadly forward-thinking, who – one would think – have travelled widely enough to know when they’ve been traded a horse’s arse for good money. And yet, Bangalore – recently voted in as India’s most liveable city, and therefore as good an example as any – is a civic calamity: only the wilfully blinded could see this treeless, waterless, birdless hell, mired in disorder and disease, as some sort of “paradise”.
And therein lies a paradox: India’s most internationally presentable face, stylish and educated and liberal, has proven itself to be chronically unable to control its surroundings. Instead, it has bundled itself off to live in the safety and comfort of gated communities and upmarket restaurants, buying for itself a second time the space that their taxes should have earned them the first.
Let’s be clear: this urban India of global affiliations isn’t in a majority by any means, and it shows. Neither can it be clearly defined, except in that it holds broadly modern views and tastes and has enough money to follow up on them. And yet, they shouldn’t be the powerless minority that they are in so many affairs. Even their most innocuous entertainments – pubs, art shows, concerts, literature festivals – are routinely hounded, raided, shut down and banned: you may not realise it from seeing city-bred lads and lasses playing it cool at music festivals, but if ever an entire population lived on sufferance, this is it. Urban India exists only at the mercy of a more hostile nation and a more hostile politics.
Now, obviously, not every urban Indian is a goof-off who has abandoned reality in favour of an insular lifestyle: many fight, at the expense of time and peace of mind, the archaic and oppressive system of morals and values coupled with plain thuggery which is death to all forward movement. Many others are simply rich enough or well-connected enough that none of the rules of survival apply.
Still, for the benefit of those who do hurt from the state of things, here’s the future as I see it:
1. There will be no more gigs. Harried by goons for being “against culture” and taxed to death for the booze license, venues will simply become too expensive and unsafe. You wouldn’t want your girlfriend trapped in one.
2. Bands will have no more fans. People will listen to their music of the internet and, as listening to music whilst doing the laundry isn’t as compelling an experience as being drunk silly at a show, “like” and forget.
3. The time-honoured reason for going to gigs, namely hitting on all the pretty girls, will be replaced by endless video-chatting. This will become madly popular with both sexes, since the lasses won’t have to dress down for public transport and the lads won’t have to worry about BO. Harsh physical reality to be taken care of off camera with a roll of tissue on hand.
4. Eventually, as the administration slowly comes abreast of the idea that even having friends over to watch YouTube videos of your favourite bands is an “immoral” activity and should be (a) stopped or (b) taxed, you’ll also lose any friends you had. Listening to music will then become a constant reminder to you on how you have failed in life.
5. You’ll be healthier for not breathing what passes for air in the cities. With phone-in dinners and phone-in groceries, you’ll never need to step out again. Until…
6. It transpires that the mad experimentalism and free-thinking brought about via an unfettered internet has come to the notice of the fringe loonies, and virtual vandals come around chucking virtual stones through your virtual windows. Still, we’ve some time until it happens, and I’d never be pessimistic about a thing like that.
Great, eh? It’s the beginning of a new age. The Arse Bandits have poked you. Wouldn’t you like to poke back?