Want a nightlife? Build temples!

First of all, I’m serious. Second of all, this is not the first time I’m writing on Bangalore’s nightlife (or the lack of it). The last time I wrote about this topic, I had argued that most people in Bangalore are fundamentally illiberal and opposed to extended night life, and official response was just an embodiment of this sentiment. This post is more positive.

I think I have hit upon a solution to create a night life in Bangalore. This is based on my experiences at Amritsar and Ajmer. Both of them were extremely spiritual experiences (no, not that spirit. Alcohol is banned in the vicinity of the main shrines in both  these places). Both places offered fantastic food (again, vegetarian food only in the vicinity of the Golden Temple Рbut bloody brilliant; and brilliant mutton biryani near the Dargah of HKGN in Ajmer). And most importantly, both towns had a vibrant night life.

I’m not sure if I’ve touched upon this topic earlier, but the fundamental problem with Bangalore not having a night life is that it has never had one. Half of it was a traditional Indian city, and the other half was a rather sleepy cantonment town – which had its share of bars and discotheques, but most of which closed at eight in the evening (even twenty years ago, most of MG Road and Brigade Road would close at eight in the evening). Consequently, the city never did have a lifestyle. Even if you argue that the cantonment side had one, that the “city” side became more dominant after independence meant that whatever night life was there never really developed.

Fundamentally, a town gets a night life if people have some business being outdoors at night. Bombay had its textile mills that ran round the clock. New York was a busy trading port. Pick any city with a reasonable night life and you will find that sometime in its history there would have been a solid reason for people to remain outdoors late in the night. And yes, I’m talking about a solid business reason, not just partying.

The simple fact of the matter is that Bangalore has never had one (for reasons explained above). The situation is slowly changing of course, with many of Bangalore’s BPO and IT shops open through the night to service customers in the new world. Unfortunately, most such companies have insulated themselves from the rest of the city and built their own facilities for food, transportation, etc. Thanks to this, workers in such establishment (no doubt there are several) do not really contribute to the general nocturnal economy of the city. And so the administration can get away with downing shutters at bars and restaurants at 11 pm.

So what needs to be done? As the title of the post suggests, we need to build temples. We need “udbhava murtis” (idols that have sprung up from the ground) to magically spring up in several places in the city (not in the middle of roads of course). Then we need our religious leaders to declare that such murtis are the greatest to have ever existed, and to create a discourse that visiting one such murti will cure one of all past sins (or any such thing that will bring in crowds in large numbers). This needs to be a concerted effort, such that the demand for “darshan” at these murtis become humongous. The demand to see the murtis will be so humongous that the temples that are likely to spring up around them will need to be open round the clock!

And so we will have people visiting these temples late in the night, in the wee hours of the morning. Lots of people at the temple means an ¬†enterprising chaat wallah will find it profitable to set up shop outside these temples. They will be followed by a chai wallah, and then dosa carts will begin to appear. Police will want to read the rule book to these businessmen, but their removal will lead to incurring the wrath of thousands of hungry pilgrims. The police will quietly extract their commissions and let the establishments stay. Then, people will need to get to the temples at wee hours of the morning, so we will have buses running through the night. More people moving around will mean greater “liquidity” in the auto rickshaw market and they will become more affordable at these times.

It will take a while (no good things come easily). But soon the bustling economies around these 24-hour temples will mean that the city will be alive through the night. Laws will have to change, and soon shops will be open through the night. As will be restaurants, and in the course of time bars (no promise on that one; Till very recently even in London bars had to shut at 11pm). And the city will have a night life!

Of course, the road to this liberal utopia is through a religious process. But then, don’t ends sometimes justify the means? And who is to say that an all-powerful deity does not add value to society at large? It will take concerted effort though (these idols need to magically appear in strategic locations, and we need the support of religious leaders to bless such idols – this is easier said than done), but it can be done.

PS: After writing this I realize that I’d written something similar on the Broad Mind a few months ago. Apologies for re-hashing the same idea. But don’t tell me this is not more positive.