Bengaluru traffic plays a joke on Trevor Noah
Trevor Noah's show in Bengaluru faced numerous obstacles and was ultimately cancelled, disappointing fans and critics of the city's conditions
Trevor Noah’s Bengaluru Bash came a cropper, to the full-throated dismay of fans, habitual lamenters about the state of the city’s roads, and those who long nostalgically for the time of undisturbed pleasures. Who can blame those among our 13.5 million denizens, who forked out a cool two-month’s grocery bill (between 6 and 8K) on tickets for demanding their money’s worth? In this city, which many describe as “India’s Dubai”, the streets are paved with …er…craters, crawling traffic, foul-mouthed drivers, and other obstacles to the well-earned pleasures of the rich.
But wait, Trevor Noah did not fall foul of the roving vigilantes who scrutinise every stand-up comic’s words and pasts for possible bruises to the vulnerable majority religion. They make mincemeat of all those, especially of a “particular” community who might act, dance, talk, read, write or joke about anything that falls short of praise of All That is Ancient and Noble in (Hindu) Bharat that is India. These humourless, metaphor- and other figures of speech-deprived, but surprisingly well-armed and well-connected men have ensured, as one of them said while stopping a women’s night out at Shimoga, that all parts of Karnataka will not turn into “Manipal”. (For the uninitiated, this refers to the thick forest of pubs, shops, and restaurants that cater to the well-heeled student population of that university town.) Everybody loves the working woman, but woe betide the one that wishes to indulge her pleasures in some unsanskritic way.
Trevor Noah might have had one or two sharp anti-colonial jokes up his sleeve, who knows, but he was not given a chance to air his “ignorance” of Bharat. Trevor Noah should thank the goddess he narrowly missed being banished from the subcontinent. Before he banished us from his programme, that is.
Trevor Noah did experience the terrors of the Great Indian Middle Class on the move on the long weekend enabled in part by the Cauvery Warriors, who conveniently sandwiched their bandh between two other holidays. This is a bit like those who go on hunger strike between breakfast and lunch. The result was that those who migrate to the city for the good weather feel obliged to curse. The clash and roar of OTHER cars on the Outer Ring Road is the “ground reality” that cancels out the atmospherics, and some. The Outer Ring Road is a city of its own, a dystopic “Santa Clara” in India. At one time, it was even suggested that this Santa Clara have its own mayor. Seated in each car which will make a 6km ride in about 90 minutes is a fuming techie, some of whom, like our patriotic vigilantes who have freed themselves of all attachment (to reason and logic that is), will blame “The Other” for their predicament. They will also blame their employers for insisting that they NOT work from home anymore. But being stuck in that logjam allowed them, on that fateful evening of Trevor Noah’s show, to put up their tickets for sale, to other suckers who had walked in from Nagavara and other villages around Manyata Tech Park. No, these are not your local egg sellers, or vegetable growers; I meant other upright middle-class denizens who have chickenless “farmhouses” or “villaments” in the area.
Trevor Noah made it to the venue, albeit more than half an hour late. There, he was given quite a number of choice picks to cancel his programme: A venue unsuited to a show of this kind, and, of course, the clinching question of acoustics. Don’t blame the organisers; all Bengalureans have been deafened by the cacotopia through which they travel to get to work or simply get around, so aural sensitivity is not exactly their forte, or even their fifty. Besides, most good sound systems were probably being deployed at far more worthy venues at the time — as in a political rally against the aforementioned sharing of precious Cauvery waters. And of late, echoing halls, or chambers, are the default option, not the distortion.
Meanwhile, we can dream about Building Back a Better Bengaluru, a job that — judging from the continuous construction that covers more than half the city on any given day — is well underway. And the techies will dream up a day when they will “work-from-car”, and not worry too much about how things go at the office or at home. It’s a long and winding road that can be fruitfully disengaged from the idea of mobility altogether. This may be Bengaluru’s moment, and no thanks to Trevor Noah.
Janaki Nair, author of The Promise of Metropolis: Bangalore’s Twentieth Century, taught history at JNU. The views expressed are personal