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S Ramaswamy, a 60-something autowallah, is preparing to return to Chennai. After 35 years of doing odd jobs -- he was a clerk at a newspaper company and a salesman at a milk parlour -- in Bangalore, the retired Tamil wants to return to his roots. Why, I ask him, as he drives me from Ulsoor Lake to MG Road. "Because Bangalore is not the same anymore," he says, in flawless, if accented, English.
Born in Trichy and married to a girl from Chennai, Ramaswamy, like many of his generation, moved to Bangalore in search of a job. He could not become the restaurant manager he wanted to, but he made sure his children did well. "I read the papers. I do yoga. I watch Tamil serials on TV. And I drive my auto for not more than three or four hours a day. But my son doesn't like it. He is a software engineer with Wipro," he says with pride. His engineer son is now planning to move to the US, while his younger son, an employee at Tesco in Whitefield -- the Gurgaon of Karnataka -- is headed to Poland for training. "Finally, I can move on," Ramaswamy says.
Bangalore, with its smoking vehicles and expensive housing, is hardly a pensioner's paradise. In fact, many senior citizens are now leaving the city for smaller towns. Take Geeta Rao, a former architect and a divorcee, who is all set to move to Shimoga. "I bought a farm three years ago. Now that my children are well-settled, I am free to live where I want to," she says. Rao remembers a time when the city was so laid back that shopkeepers would spend two hours chatting with you while you checked out the stuff on sale. "For those of us who love the Bangalore of old, the new city is a foreign place where people no longer greet each other or invite their neighbours home for coffee. I'd rather not live here anymore," she says.