Hold on, no shaking your booty in Bangalore

(Credit to Mithun for this story)

I am afraid to have to say this, but it is true, the Karnataka state govt. has banned dancing in public places [1,2,3]. Any way you look at it, it does look like the government is trying to curb your personal freedom. Thankfully, we have not gone as far as to actually mimic a pure islamic state yet. But if we were to let them get away with this restriction, who is going to stop the moral police when they curb free speech?

There is of course a rationale, the ban is part of a wider effort to curb the western influence. Truthfully, influences can be bad as well as good. When the west said, “Can you take up these support jobs?” Karnataka was more than glad to do so. Suddenly, BPO’s in Bangalore were training several thousand youngsters on western accents, culture and other mannerisms. But of course, we cannot allow them to dance, that one bit might just tip the scale over? Is that really what the government is thinking?

We must be careful though, lest the western media portray India in the same light as as other policed nations, nations where your rights are worth only as much as the scrap of paper they are written on.

Bangalore was the first place in India to host anything close to a real Pink Floyd concert. Roger Water’s was there in the flesh (2002). I was glad I could make it, happy that Bangalore was the place to step up and host the concert.

Bangalore is also the daddy of the Indian westernized “public watering hole”. Bangalore pubs have offered for a while now the english pub culture, good music and ambience that flipped your mind. Before Bangalore, the local watering-hole only meant the restaurant down the road that got you a chuck for a buck and played old hindi songs from a mono-tape recorder. Of course the upcoming, young, middle-class wanted better. They were working longer hours, had a more global outlook and a paycheck that reflected this wide change. Where else could I hop from the pub dedicated to Marley to another one dedicated to Syd Barrett?

Bangalore is also one of the few cities in India with relaxed restrictions on the sale and distribution of Alcohol. That may have changed in recent times, but in my last visit there in 2004, I had the option to buy some at a california-style grocery store. Besides, they are never going to ban the sale of alcohol at pubs. Well not until and unless they found another source of revenue to replace the taxes they collect.

Am I proud of these influences that have changed India? Not really. Many Indians may have taken up Salsa and ignored Kathak. It’s definitely easier to find a place for aerobics than for Yoga. Tomorrow we might drop Sambar for Kentucky Fried Chicken (I doubt that though)! I respect the fact that people want their kids to grow up to be refined young Indians instead of the lead singer of a rock band or a salsa god.

Why did the government forget, an amalgamation of cultures is inevitable! Why are they fighting it? Please let’s not ban dancing and focus on the real issues that plague Bangalore.

[1] Wall Street Journal
[2] Japan Times
[3] Indian Express