Urban Livability in India

Image of an Indian city

So it turns out that Bangalore is considered as one of the most livable cities in India. This recent news article depressed me. I have been living in Bangalore for 8 years now in two phases and I am not particularly happy with the quality of living in this city. Horrendous traffic, lack of efficient public transport, poor urban planning, very few places to visit – what does it say about the state of cities in India if this one if considered as one of the most livable?

Unfortunately, the headline was definitely click-baity. The study only considered 6 cities in India; there are 40 other cities with a population of over 1 million. Maybe the quality if life in these ‘smaller’ cities is better than the larger urban agglomerations? I have been pleasantly surprised by visits to cities such as Bhopal, Nagpur, Thiruvananthapuram. They all felt more ‘livable’ than the bigger cities. But I have not lived in any of them for an extended period of time to form a more informed opinion.

So what ails big Indian cities? I am sure there are enough experts who have studied this in detail. This is my layman’s analysis:

  • Pace of Growth – Cities have grown too big too fast for the administrative bodies to manage.
  • Corruption – need I say more?
  • Capabilities – Many of the fastest growing cities lack, in my opinion, administrative expertise and know-how in understanding what makes a big city ‘tick’?

So what are the elements that help make big cities livable?

A quick search online throws up many websites that have listed the key factors that make a city a ‘world’ city. Here are my personal comments:

  • A powerful association that is easy to appreciate – London has the arts and history, Paris has architecture and food, New York has finance and action. Closer home, Mumbai has architecture and food, Delhi has power and history, Kolkata has heritage and Chennai has culture.
  • Willingness to engage with the wider world – These cities are open to people and inspiration from all over. Yes, the language you speak is important, but possibly less so than in other cities.
  • Public spaces – Areas where the diverse population can get together and enjoy the sights and sounds. Places where residents can enjoy a pleasant day out with friends or family.
  • Accessibility – easy to use, reliable (and cheap) modes of transport where people do not have to rely primarily on private means of transport.
  • Entertainment – Enough options to cater to a diverse range of tastes.

I am biased, but all things considered, I would rank Mumbai as the closest to a ‘world’ city that India has. If only there was a way to solve the dire housing problem in the city…

Image courtesy Yash Bharadwaj on Unsplash

Bird-watching at Doddakallasandra (Konakunte) Lake

I visited Doddakallasandra Lake in South Bangalore (off Kanakapura Road) for a session of bird-watching with the long standing Bngbirds group. For a change, the location was easily accessible via public transport (thanks Deepak Jois!).

It was a pleasant, early winter morning as the group of around twenty (plus one dog) assembled at the entrance to Sri Kumaran’s Children’s Academy. The lake is not very large and we were able to cover most of the accessible parts in a couple of hours.

The list of birds observed (nomenclature as per Dr. Salim Ali’s ‘The Book of Indian Birds’):

  1. Little Grebe (breeding plumage)
  2. Indian Cormorant
  3. Darter
  4. Grey Heron
  5. Indian Pond-Heron
  6. Cattle Egret
  7. Median Egret
  8. Little Egret
  9. Oriental White Ibis (Black Headed Ibis)
  10. Glossy Ibis
  11. Spot-Billed Duck
  12. Black Kite
  13. Brahminy Kite
  14. Shikra
  15. White-Breasted Waterhen
  16. Common Moorhen
  17. Feral Pigeon
  18. Spotted Dove
  19. Rose-Ringed Parakeet
  20. Asian Koel
  21. Greater Coucal
  22. White-Breasted Kingfisher
  23. Coppersmith Barbet
  24. White-Cheeked Barbet
  25. Red-Rumped Swallow
  26. Eurasian (Indian) Golden Oriole
  27. Jungle Crow
  28. Red-Whiskered Bulbul
  29. Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher
  30. Ashy Prinia
  31. Common Tailorbird
  32. Oriental Magpie-Robin
  33. Purple-Rumped Sunbird

Monday Morning Reads – 18/11

A new social network, the secret of success and more in this week’s reads.

My new co-working space

Common Area - WeWork
The spacious and bright common area at WeWork

This is the end of Week 2 at my newest co-working space. Following on from stints at CoWrks and 91Springboard, I moved into a WeWork space located close to my residence. The prime motivator for the move was definitely the location; this is the first time in my nearly 20 years of professional life that I can walk to office!

Not only am I new to this space, but this is a new space for WeWork itself. It is claimed as the largest WeWork space in India and definitely feels like it. Some of my thoughts from my first few days here:

  • The spacious, bright and cheery common area on the ground floor sends out good vibes!
  • The decor is typical new age start-up – exposed concrete and brickwork with a Scandinavian theme to the furniture
  • Excellent collection of books at the common area. Wonder how often these are refreshed…
  • And, I must mention, one of the best coffees I have had in India so far. Shout out to the special blend from Blue Tokai coffees!
  • One of the things I was concerned about before moving to WeWork was whether the constantly playing background music might be a disturbance. I must say that it has not been so thus far.

Healthy Cooking

Vegetables on a table

I can distinctly remember when my attitude to food underwent a radical overhaul. It was at a team dinner at Bern, Switzerland when I had a dish of pineapple rice. Nothing fancy, just rice served with a pineapple sauce, but the overall experience – flavour, plating – completely blew my mind. That was the day when I shifted away from being the person who solely ‘ate to live‘ to being a person who ‘enjoys a good culinary experience‘.

The second major shift happened when I went to live abroad. While I had learned to cook basic stuff while in India, it was the necessity of having to cook to survive that led me to the realisation that I actually like cooking!

And this love of cooking has continued since, even though, these days, I do not cook as often as I would like. However, circumstances last week dictated that I had to don the role of home cook again. And I relished (pun intended) the experience.

It was a little over a year ago that I learnt about ‘Whole Food Plant Based‘ diet. The core philosophy of this diet is that the lesser the amount of processing in the food you eat, the better for you. The fundamental belief is that “You are what you eat” and, therefore, the cause of illnesses is primarily poor diet. I have been applying some of these principles in my diet over the past 18 months and do believe that it works.

Anyway, so when I went back into the kitchen last week, I decided to apply, as far as possible, these principles in my cooking. I ended up making a few traditional Indian dishes – Rajma masala, Chana masala, Aloo Baingan sabzi, etc. All without using any oil and judicious use of salt and spices. I found the results tasty, not to mention, healthy! But I will have to test it with guests to get some unbiased opinions!