Vantage point

Friday, November 18, 2005

Small Towns Etc

Writing this after reading Rashmi's post Impressions of Indore.

I have a very special connection with Indore. I was born there after all. And my family is from Indore. I still have a lot of relatives, on my father's as well as my mother's side, who live in Indore.

Indore is classified as a "chhota sheher" by Rashmi. I would agree with this classification, but offer a different definition. Beyond a certain level, population, infrastructure etc don't really matter. What really matters is the attitude of the citizens towards their own city. A 'chhota sheher' would be 'chhota' if a significant proportion of its young population would be looking to move out from it to a bigger city, for reasons which are not solely employment-related.

Of the places I have been to, I will identify Lucknow and Indore as chhota shehers because of that reason. In both these places, there are many youngsters who want to move out, and settle down in places like Delhi, Bangalore, Pune or Bombay, with the reasons not being restricted to just employment.

Conversely, a big city is one in which, if employment is not a factor, the population would stay on. Which is why Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, Chennai, Pune and Calcutta are equals in the big city league. Most people from these cities would never move if they got the jobs they like. Even when their jobs force them to move, they keep making efforts to go back to their beloved home towns. I know dozens and dozens of software employees in Bangalore who are pestering their HR departments for a transfer to the Mumbai or Pune offices.

What factors other than employment would make someone shift their base? Social life, safety, entertainment options, schools and colleges for kids, family, and the ertain "x factor" where you just love a city.

In a nutshell, a big city is a place where people aspire to settle down, buy houses, bring up their kids and maybe grow old, all the while, letting their career flourish.

By that definition Indore is not a big city. None of my relatives who moved out of Indore and settled in places like Bombay, Pune, Bangalore etc, are really actively seeking ways to get back to Indore and settle there.

A disclaimer though. The way Rashmi's experience was largely Marwari-centric, my experiences are largely Maharashtrian-centric. There is a significanmt Maharashtrian population in Indore, and most of them do look to settle down in Mumbai or Pune, or even Nagpur. There might be the Marathi-pull at play there as well, not just the big-city-small-town funda.