Reporting what is Important in Bengaluru

My time in Bengaluru is at its end. I could have never imagined how these ten weeks panned out the way they did. The fact that during this time frame I have ridden on the back of both a scooter and a motorcycle, played in a 63-year-old football tournament, and feel totally fine eating with my hands—although not as efficiently as others—is wild to me.
Even more wild are the things that I considered impossible or strange—like crossing the street without being hit, or the fact that cows are frequently a traffic obstacle. But they are all things that I will miss because they’ll remind me of my time in Bengaluru.

How will I ever find a chicken roll as good as the ones that I always got on the way back from football? Where else is it totally normal to have a chai guy come to the office every morning and afternoon to serve you tea? When is the next time I’ll get to play football on a dirt field in front of a packed stadium?

I think that the best part of travel is the same thing that causes people to stay at home rather than see the world—fear. The fear of discomfort, the fear that you may get lost, the fear that something bad might happen, the fear you might get sick; they’re all valid, but they hide the simple truth that if you face this fear head-on you’ll, more times than not, be on the receiving end of the travel’s greatest gift—new perspectives and a better ability to empathize and understand.

The two big projects I got to work on during my internship were making a podcast series about different issues facing the city, and writing a series of articles about women’s football. My time spent talking to people for these projects has changed the way I understand citizen activism; how I see the privilege of getting to play football in the States, and the fact that coming from the Pacific Northwest, grass fields are abundant, and water from the mountains is something we take for granted and don’t think about.
I think more importantly, at least journalistically speaking, my time here has taught me the importance of the stories that fly under the radar, and just how much telling them can mean to the people who have been passed over.

Having majored in journalism this shouldn’t come as a surprise—giving a voice to the voiceless is one of the basic purposes of the craft—but to see this firsthand was important; neither project involved uncovering some political scandal or harrowing account of a disaster; these stories aren’t the ones that are going to make headlines of the city’s major papers, let alone international ones, but they’re just as important.

We talk about it often when you’re in journalism school: how the industry is dying, or at least changing drastically, every year. We also talk about the importance of local journalism, the small guys who are providing the everyday news we take for granted.

This wasn’t the first time I’ve written or worked with a paper like Citizen Matters, but it was the first time that I felt like I truly understood what community journalism means: you work for an organization like Citizen Matters because you care, and I think that’s part of why my experience working here has been so positive. To be surrounded by people who are so motivated to push for change in their city has been a great privilege. And for them to allow me to pursue the stories of the women and girls playing football, and the citizen activists taking part in initiatives to improve their city, was a great privilege.

There’s no other way to put it except—thank you, Bengaluru for everything. Thank you for teaching me what proper chai tastes like, what passion looks like on the football pitch, and the power an individual can have on an issue as large as a city of over 12 million.

I have a feeling that, one way or another, I’ll find my way back to this city. For now, I’ll say “so long.”

By Grace Li Dong Madigan