Bengaluru New Year Celebrations – When Hugging turns to Groping

Social Media and Smartphones cast a harsh glare at Bengaluru Brigade Road festivities

Social Media and Smartphones cast a harsh glare at Bengaluru Brigade Road festivities
SM and Smartphones cast a harsh glare at Bengaluru Brigade Road festivities

[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]I[/dropcap]t has been happening since the 1960’s and has been predictable ever since. Event – New Year’s eve, Venue – Brigade Road of Bengaluru, Time – Between 12:30 AM & 1:30 AM, Law Enforcement – Despite police presence, laws stand suspended. Brigade Road has a notorious reputation for its New Year celebration when some sober women invariably fall victim to groping of drunkard young men.

In the late 1970’s, Cabaret Parlors vanished thanks to the cleanup launched by state government.

From early years, Bengaluru and its neighboring district populace know that the place to be for New Year celebration was the 200 Mts stretch of Brigade Road. Modeled on New York’s Times Square, the stretch was known for its Cabaret Parlors in the 1960’s. Although Parlors are open throughout the year, on the night of New Year guests were provided special entertainment. The lucky ones with sufficient funds got entertained to movie style dances by women. The not so lucky ones and others with insufficient funds partied on Brigade Road. On that day, drinking was permitted on the street and the practice carried on for many decades almost till the turn of the century.

In the late 1970’s, Cabaret Parlors vanished thanks to the cleanup launched by state government. But that did not end the glamour of celebrating New Year on Brigade Road. Cabarets gave way to Pubs and pub culture caught on amongst youngsters who were starved of entertainment. A hi-tech pub called “NASA” at the intersection of Brigade Road and Church Street was its crowning glory. Mimicking the famous United States space center, the pub was everyone’s delight. Over a pitcher of chilled draught beer, one could get an experience of being inside the space shuttle with loud music.

[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]T[/dropcap]he Pub culture of Bengaluru also broke the myth that women cannot drink in public. Many women started frequenting these Pubs. Thus Brigade Road continued to be the place to be on New Year’s night. Leave aside Ball falling, the bustling energy, dazzling lights and anticipation of the crowd made everyone feel on that night that they were in New York City. And the crowds got larger every year. From thousands in the initial years to more than a lakh today try to make their way home out of the narrow stretch after New Year celebrations.

Older generation of Bengalureans always advised younger generation to avoid Brigade Road on New Year night.

Hugging has always been part of Brigade Road New Year celebration culture. Everyone walks out of the bars and restaurants just after the stroke of midnight and friendly hugs are exchanged between strangers on the way home. Young drunkard men always outnumbered women and police in large numbers. And invariably, every year many of these drunkards take advantage of friendly New Year greetings and grope innocent naïve women. And everyone knows that no arrests are ever made on that night. Even duty conscious policeman who witness such incidents, quietly force the drunkard out of the street. Since a large number of women are also drunk these days, state Police force are ever in a dilemma on whether to play spoilsport.

Thus this year’s expose on national media does not come as a surprise to long time residents of the City. Technology has made the hue and cry possible. Cell phones with cameras are able to capture the incidents as it happens. With a large presence of visual media trying the cover the New Year event unsavory events of Brigade Road New Year celebrations were caught on camera. Police personnel and government knowing very well that it happens but were able to hide under the garb of “proof required to file FIR” all these years. But this year, with visuals on camera, it was caught on the wrong foot and took a lot of flak for inaction.

Older generation of Bengalureans always advised younger generation to avoid Brigade Road on New Year night. It is understandable that kids defy those orders while wanting to be at the center of action. The smart ones start leaving just before the clock strikes midnight. And some stay beyond 2 AM when it the street is much less crowded and safe to walk. The ones that get caught in the hapless frenzy of drunkard men are the ones on the street just after the New Year has began. Hence, for youngsters who want to be on Brigade Road next year the order of safety would be – to avoid it or leave early or exit late. But be sure to remember the most important caveat sign at many entertainment centers – you are entering at your own risk.

N V Krishnakumar

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