In recent decades Bengaluru has experienced a seismic societal shift, predominantly due to the endless job opportunities presented by computer software and back-office services. The population grew by nearly forty percent to 5.7 million in the decade ending in 2001, and is now approaching eight and a half million. By late 2007 every fifth city resident hailed from a different state and Bengaluru‘s software industry had become a US$8 billion behemoth.
Many locals blame IT professionals for skyrocketing living costs, choking pollution and the rise of a liberal, West-leaning bar and disco culture, not to mention traffic jams, regular power failures and crippling seasonal water shortages. In addition, due to higher salaries and bright futures, IT professionals are favoured in the competitive marriage market, creating further tension.
Yet hope springs eternal. After more than two decades of hand-wringing and debate, the first section of a much-needed subway system – known locally as the metrorail – has opened and started to alleviate the city’s infamous traffic jams. The international airport, opened in 2008, facilitates the smooth passage of tourists and business visitors alike. Longtime residents may never regain their urban idyll, but with compromise and elbow grease Bengaluru may yet inspire civic pride.