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Posted by: Mehul Srivastava on May 20, 2009
In Bangalore tonight, the party is on. Just not till really late, and not really wild.
Today’s newspapers carried the happy news that restaurants and bars can once again stay open until midnight, although drinks have to be off the table by 11 PM.
It sounds really sad, but for Bangalore’s young and trying-to-party IT engineers and call center engineers, it’s a one hour reprieve to the hugely unpopular Cinderella rule that has played party pooper since September 2008.
Back then, a new police commissioner, Shankar Bidari, took over. From his colonial-era, almost pastoral headquarters in the center of town, where a twice-daily bugle call greets the morning sun and bids goodbye to it at sunset, he took stock of this bustling, modern city, and decided that things had gotten out of hand. Discos stayed open all night, bars were crowded till the wee hours and to his horror – and, surprisingly, illegally – women were dancing in bars.
A 1965 law says all this is verboten. His predecessor didn’t mind and never enforced that rule, but Bidari did – in one fell swoop, the pub city of India was tamed. Discos and bars were closed at 11:30 PM, restaurants at 11 PM. Drinks were off the table by 11. Partyers wailed, but to no effect. Some partying moved underground – others just bribed the local police to stay open a little longer.
The decision was a particular hardship on the city’s IT and call center workers. Forced to work late night shifts so that they are in the office at the same time as their western European and American clients, most get off work really late. By then, there was no place to go – restaurants shut, movie theaters shuttered and not a drink to be had. No live music at places with alcohol, and no dancing unless the place had a discotheque license.
But it also revealed a town-gown divide – some older Bangaloreans cheered the news. For them, their bucolic pensioner’s paradise, with its perfect weather and cheap living, had been converted into a nightmare. Never-ending traffic jams, ugly, glass-fronted shopping malls full of non-Kannadiga speaking outsiders and zooming prices made them resentful of the decade-long IT revolution that has turned Bangalore, as the famous catchphrase goes, into the back-office of the world.
Then, on May 16, national election results were announced, and the state government of Karnataka, the Bharatiya Janata Party, saw its national leaders lose seats all around the country. Four days after the results came out, Bidari loosened his hardline stance - which he had drawn a lot of flak for, even complaints that he was “talibanising” Bangalore (or Bengaluru, as the language nationalists of Karnataka have insisted on renaming the city).
Starting today, the Times of India’s Bangalore edition reports, not only can restaurants stay open, but movie theaters can screen films that end at 11 PM. “Working class people were put to a hardship, and we took a decision to extend the deadline of closing the restaurants,” Bidari told the Times.
And the bars? The discos? Patience, partyers. One step at a time.
BusinessWeek’s team of Asia reporters brings you the latest insights on business, politics, technology and culture from some of the world’s biggest and fastest-growing economies. Eye on Asia’s bloggers include Asia regional editor Bruce Einhorn, Tokyo reporter Ian Rowley, Korea bureau chief Moon Ihlwan, Asia News Editor and China Bureau Chief. Dexter Roberts, and Hong Kong-based Asia correspondent Frederik Balfour.