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Shanghai noons and nights

True-blue Bangalorean Shilpa M. Pai thinks we're a vibrant lot, but will we ever be able to do what Shanghai has done for itself?

— Photo: Sampath Kumar G.P.

Shilpa Pai: `Shanghai reminds me of Mumbai. Its quick and efficient, but the human element remains.'

"AFTER LIVING all my life in Bangalore, suddenly moving to Shanghai was huge change. A marked distinction is that in Shanghai, people have a lot more self-respect. Initially, I spoke to people of lower economic strata like I did here. They just tell you to get lost! No "umbrella kodi saar", "bag kodi maydem"... You have two hands, you take care of yourself. People help you out, but it's just man-to-man concern, not because you look like you're from a superior class. My housekeeper, for example, sweeps the house every alternate day. On other days, if she finds something lying around, she will not pick it up. Fair enough. It's not part of her job, right? We office-goers don't usually assume others' responsibilities, so why should she?

"Yes, it was annoying at first, but I was soon put in my place. All are equal, not demarcated by profession. It was the same when I went to the West. I think we in Bangalore should also take responsibility for our country.

So different

"Nothing there is like it is here. Everybody in Shanghai can afford a decent living, and for the day-to-day stuff, the price is never more than two digits. People have access to hypermalls, where anyone can walk in and buy almost everything. The concept of food courts is to provide value for money. As if our city's malls do that...

"All right, so maybe people are ready to spend here, but even in Shanghai, everyone shops like crazy! But shopping never creates a major dent on your budget. Of course, for expatriates like me, there are international malls that stock canned food and imported things. But I don't see the point in buying in a hotshot market that caters to foreigners. The same applies here... if there's a little shop that supplies all your provisions, why visit a supermarket and pay for the brand?

Mumbai-like

"Actually, my Shanghai experience reminds me of Mumbai. It's a quick and efficient city, but the human element remains. Everybody minds his or her own business, but nobody is indifferent to your suffering. If I'm doubling over with pain on the street, someone will definitely come and help me.

Even growth

"The fantastic part is that there is growth in these cities, but it's not a growth one section enjoys. There is space for all sections to have a life of their own. Shanghai has actually boomed over the decade. Earlier, it looked like Kolkata, but it's turned around so fast. It's organised now.

Bangalore's problem is too many opinions. Someone will say he'll build a mall, and 10 groups will oppose and debate. There's a lot of excitement in our city, but little direction. It's all ulta (reverse) here. First, people will build houses, shops will be set up, colonies will form, and then the government will lay tarred roads. But I hope we change, even if slowly in response to the need."

As told to ROHINI MOHAN

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