Bangalore's gated communities

Namas Bhojani - Special to GlobalPost March 27, 2009 07:45 ET

India: Bangalore morphs into Silicon Valley?

Swimming pools, gated communities, and a flood of Americanized Indians.

By Saritha Rai - GlobalPost
Published: March 27, 2009 08:02 ET
Updated: March 27, 2009 08:39 ET
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The flurry of entrepreneurial activity gives Bangalore the same vibe as Silicon Valley in its early days, said Anuradha Parthasarathy, a cross-border executive search specialist based in Menlo Park, Calif. She notes a multi-fold increase each year in the number of Indians looking to trek homeward.

That influx was adding to India’s global branding and competitive advantage, Gurbaxani said.

Added Parthasarathy: “From housing to schools to best work practices, the returnees are setting new benchmarks in India.”

In Bangalore, many returnees flock to the profusion of suburban, gated communities such as Prestige Ozone and Palm Meadows, or to downtown high-rises such as St. John’s Wood or Acropolis, which buffer them from the struggles of transition.

The communities offer California picture postcard-like views and a surfeit of amenities such as heated indoor swimming pools, squash courts, spas and poolside barbecues, not to mention Indian conveniences like the on-call services of gardeners, plumbers and electricians.

The new residential developments, which some Indians criticize as "artificial islands of prosperity," stand out starkly against the general chaos and confusion of India’s urban sprawls, where garbage overflows in street corners, the traffic noise is deafening and residents wear surgical-style face masks to keep from gagging on the pollution-laden air.

Within these developments too, returnees lead a life in which both strands of their cultures — American and Indian — are woven together.

Last year, for example, children went trick-or-treating for Halloween. Just a few days later, during the very traditional Indian karwa chauth festival, married women adorned their hands with mehendi and waited to spot the moon to break the day-long fast as they prayed for the well-being of their spouses.

On a stroll through these communities, you can see homes that have auspicious Indian rangoli decorations at the door front as well as overflowing, American-style garages.

Occasionally, strains of Beethoven or Bach played on the piano waft through the evening air to mingle with voices singing classical Indian music.

Srikrishna himself has watched as returning Indians turned from a steady stream to a near-flood. When the Srikrishnas went to the local school to get their daughters admitted, the head of the school told them she had lots of children join recently from their daughters’ Cupertino school district.

The Srikrishnas choose to live in relatively modest surroundings. Their high-rise complex comes with most of the modern trappings of the west, but without the liberal sprinkling of expatriate residents. Their children often eat at neighborhood restaurants, inexpensive standing-room-only self-service joints that provide wholesome local food.

Srikrishna said his relocation looks even more appealing when he realizes how far money goes in India.

“In the Bay Area, a $200,000 salary is not much, but even half of that is really sweet in India,” he said.

Yet, despite the excitement and the raw promise of his surroundings, there is much to complain about professionally. College graduates are smart and energetic but lack any practical knowledge, he said. Workers have little communication skills and even less real-world experience.

“Technological innovation is not even a tenth of what it is in the United States,” Srikrishna concluded. “Bangalore is no Silicon Valley.

"Yet ...” he added after a pause.

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