Many businesspersons will travel from India to Paris to seek opportunities for their products in things that fly, at the Paris Air Show. Many will combine business with the pleasure of hiking in Parisian streets. But last week I came upon an article in the Wall Street Journal Magazine (WSJ Magazine), that points down, down below ground, to the tunnels and caverns and catacombs interwoven beneath Paris. Down there is adventure, to the degree of your choosing, and history as far back and as deep as you are willing to go. It is safe to wander there, the places being free even of rats, though an occasional wanderer has been foolish and has died there, but many more have died, of course, on streets above. Will I like it there? I'll find out, beginning safely with the jazz in Caveau de la Huchette.
They have a fine mayor in Paris, they say, and the man is in office since 2001 and his current term lasts until 2014. He is more popular than even the president, but they say that popularity over Mr. Sarkozy isn't much to trumpet to your town. The mayor of Paris brings also to my mind the mayors of New York City, Giuliani specially, and the Daleys of Chicago, and Hazel Williams, the Lord Mayor of Liverpool, whom I saw last year in Liverpool when I went to watch a memorial service for Lennon. When she rose to speak Liverpudlians gave her a genuine applause, and a fond shrill whistle. I'd been walking the town the last two days and I'd seen enough to know that she deserved all praises. But her term isn't long like the terms of Daley of Chicago, or of Bertrand Delanö of Paris. Hers is a short one-year term, like that of the mayor of Bangalore.
Expectations are low of the earthy lady who sits in the mayor's chair in Bangalore. She has been a month on it, and in eleven months, by the time she has read the mayor's job profile, she'd be gone with her term ended. Expectations are low because she hasn't been much to school, and Bangalore, it is argued, is now home to the world's top professionals. The interviews with her are in that tone. Do you know the problems facing Bangalore? She knows, of course. Garbage, street dog menace, water supply, she has said. That has made me happy, but is it very difficult to address the first two at least? Isn't a single diktat and a tough follow-through enough to clean a city and dispatch the dogs? Can it not be expedited in three months or less?
What about the larger issues? Of people pouring into the city daily, and the number of cars daily sold? Should we start building high? Have you considered the population of Bangalore in 2020? 2050? Have you imagined how the concentrations will be regrouped when the metros begin to run and the flyovers are all built? It was unregulated unbridled private enterprise that brought Bangalore to this height and this mess. That spirit hasn't waned and if you don't run in step with the entrepreneurs the gap between the lush private campuses and the systems that interconnect them will be starker still.
In the last week I read in the papers that the Municipal Corporation will not collect garbage from the areas where taxes are not paid. The news brought to mind a term Edward Glaeser uses in his 2011 book, Triumph of the City. He mentions externalities. An externality happens outside your neighborhood but still affects you. Garbage uncollected next door will bring disease also to you. Anyway, at the moment the Corporation isn't collecting garbage from anywhere. I learnt something new when I read the interview. A mafia is in control of the garbage removal business. And I wondered: using muscle is the core competence of our leadership. Can they not break a gnat of a garbage mafia? Then it hit me that I don't know where the mafia operates from. Is it operating from the inside?
We have some work to do before we go beyond merely the size of London or Paris or New York City. And it is work for us, the citizenry. If we want to be a city like those cities, can we be citizens like theirs? Can we throw up great leaders as they have? Shouldn't we start right now?