Young People in the City of the Future

A young student in Bangalore.

With 70 percent of its population under 35 and 8 percent population growth per year, India is bound to reach China in population by 2050. Bangalore, the city of the future, is no exception in the subcontinent. The capital of the Silicon Valley concentrates a percentage of its inhabitants in the IT sector, which is still expanding. We interviewed the youngsters of the city, the ones who represent its future, and asked them about their dreams and their thoughts about their city.

Ibrahim just turned 20, and even though his mother would like to start looking for a bride for him, he's still single. He works in a souvenir shop owned by his father, who is also a local politician. Ibrahim is a Sunni Muslim, and his shop employs men and women of various religions. He stopped studying before getting his diploma to work in the shop.

In his 20 years, Ibrahim has seen many changes in Bangalore. What was once an interreligious city made of many villages outside the center of the city, now it is the house of 7 million people. But the economical growth has brought its problems as well. "It was greener before," says Ibrahim. "The population is growing and traffic is crazy." One of the best achievements of the BJP, the right wing party currently in power, is the construction of the subway that will probably put out of service the hundreds of rickshaw drivers that are the biggest contributors to the city's smog.

Their Ape Piaggio vehicles are old and produce traffic jams along with the smog. Vinod, 28, has been doing this job for eight years. He's a Hindu, and the biggest difference in the city, according to him, is the presence of foreigners, many of whom take his rickshaw to go from home to the office.

Ahmed, 23, uses his motorbike, without wearing a helmet, like most people in India, even those who bring their whole families on the saddle. "I live in Whitefield. Three to four years ago it became one city with Bangalore. It started changing five to six years ago. Many houses were demolished. They're building everything new. There's too much traffic now; my commute of 30 kilometers takes 90 minutes by car."

Whitefield is one of the newest additions to the city, known as Electronics City. IT companies have their office here, as has Infosys, one of the first software firms founded in India, with its office of 20,000 people, who never need to go out except to go directly home at night.

Infosys is a symbol of Bangalore's development, having been founded here in 1981. The campus is a work in progress. The construction began in 1994 with the "heritage building" and went on with many more buildings added, swimming pools, golf courses, and a pyramid that became one of the symbols of Bangalore. Inside, employees have any kind of facility, from six areas where they can eat in a variety of restaurants to a gym that opens after working hours. In the campus, bigger than 81 acres, one can go around by bike or with a golf cart.

One of the best features of the city, which has helped it flourish, is the tolerance towards the different groups and religions. "My future is here; it is a good place to live. It's peaceful; we have temples, churches and mosques. There is more friendship than in the rest of India," says Ibrahim.

The young generations have only heard about the fights between Muslims and Hindus in 1993, after the destruction of the Ayodhya mosque, but everybody was still tense after the verdict at the end of September, when the lot where the mosque stood was divided between the two main religions. Before the Babri Masjid, Hindus believe that the site was dedicated to a Rama temple. This brought many conflicts, especially in Mumbai. "This September we closed our shop for a few days," says Ibrahim "Everybody stayed at home. There was fear. Business was slow."

One of the most multicultural areas is Shivaji Nagar, in the historic area of Cantonment. Swetha, Sneha and Gauthami, three cousins between 15 and 16 years of age, live here. They are Christians. Their neighbors are Muslims or Hindus, but everybody lives closely together. All families know each other; doors are open for friends and even for the foreigners. Nobody can go away without trying a lime juice.

The three girls play in the courtyard and can't be kept away from each other. They all say they would like to live in Bangalore for their whole life. "You must love your homeland," says Swetha, who has probably learned this at school. "I was born here; it's my motherland," adds Sneha. "I want to stay in Bangalore and help the children."