I used to think I lived in a wonderful part of Bangalore: in Malleshwaram, and not just in Malleshwaram but in a gated apartment complex with great access to greenery and lots of eateries, safe walking areas, recreational spaces, and a balcony on the fourth floor that offered a lovely view of the city on rainy evenings.
But of late the wealthy residents of this complex – most of them Hindus – have become markedly louder in their celebrations of religious and traditional occasions, installing giant speakers in the common areas to blare Bollywood music, undertaking processions along the perimeter to the accompaniment of drums and other instruments, even going door to door to angrily demand residents attend a flag-hoisting ceremony on Independence Day.
Each occasion only seems to be louder than the last, with more ‘attractions’ thrown in. The complex’s sole notice board is located in the basement and the owners’ association isn’t in the habit of asking for permission before organising loud celebrations. Everyone is simply expected to have a good time (much like the obnoxious presumption among many Hindi-speakers that everyone speaks Hindi).
A few minutes ago, I had to shout to have my father hear me over the din of a procession downstairs marking Karnataka Rajyotsava Day. A small group of decked-up men and women were swaying to the rhythms of a dhol-playing band in the anterior plaza whose inner edge ends right up against houses on the ground floor, with little thought for the people within. Its outer edge, on the other hand, extends to a few score meters before ending behind a 20-ft high metal gate guarded by four or five security personnel.
These aren’t just dutiful assertions of one’s religious identity but altogether a ridiculous display of elitism that – even in its most sensational avatar – would much rather stay indoors and away from the hoi polloi.