What’s changed in Bangalore – Quality of stress not Quality of life

This is very specific to Bangalore and if you have not lived in India or not visited here, most of this may be “interesting” at best for you. Another warning – long post.

That India has changed significantly & dramatically in the last 10+ years is obvious. On the flip side people & attitudes are changing slower (or resisting change) is also very clear. I have this new theory that the Quality of Life (QoL) in Bangalore has not improved, but the Quality of Stress (QoS) has changed a lot.

In Bangalore now, you get a very high Quality of Stress compared to what you got 10-15 years ago (if you dont get the slight irony in this, its me not you – (grin)). Its stressful for the average individual but the quality of stress is very high. I’m not sure many people want this quality of stress, but they are plunging head-first into the global rat-race.

Quality of Life (QoL) to me is not the same as standard of living. Complex material things like telephones & communication, television, automobiles have all dramatically improved here. Simple wants on the other hand, like electricity, water, accessibility of roads, etc. are finding it difficult to keep up with the dramatic growth. The standard of living is improving leaps and bounds for the new industries (like technology) and that rising tide is lifting most other boats. But is increasingly being challenged by the dichotomy of simple wants not being met. The reason is that 50% or more of the population requires simple not complex material things.

QoL on the other hand is “well being” felt by a individual or group of people, according to Wikipedia.
“The first is a physical aspect which includes such things as health,
diet, as well as protection against pain and disease. The second
component is psychological in nature. This aspect includes such things
as stress, worry, pleasure and other positive or negative emotional

So QoL = physical aspects + psychological aspects. I notice that the physical aspects are a net neutral to slightly positive (see the previous paragraph). Within the psychological aspects; pleasure (with material acquisition) is greatly improved, but there’s more stress now and its very high quality stress.

Let me explain my theory with some examples:

1. Buying a home: Homes were a lot cheaper and loans were harder to come by a few years ago. What’s good is that now if you can breathe most banks will give you a loan to buy a home. The price of real estate is much higher, but the quality of basic home construction is better. The challenge is that if you are 2 income earning home, most accountants advice you to keep you “basic pay” small and “perks” large to avoid a large tax burden. Since mortgage interest is the only deduction to offset taxes, many folks buy a much larger home than they ever imagined (this part is not very different from the US).

The trouble is buying a larger home in India has a lot more variable costs. So most people I know who own large homes are more stressed about traffic near their home, water, electricity & maintenance.This may sound like “rich people problems” but its a lot more stressful than before.

Their “standard of living” has no doubt gotten better, but the quality of stress is now higher. Some would argue its MORE stressful now.

2. Buying a car: You had 3-4 choices of car 15 years ago. Now its an amazing variety of local and imports.  Thanks to the financing boom, loans are again a lot easier to get. So you get better cars and they are easier to afford (not cheaper to afford, just easier). But the flip side of the problem is that almost everyone with a salary can afford one, leading to 2 million vehicles in Bangalore, a 10 fold increase in 7 years. Now people are more stressed about the length of their commute, road rage and their car getting “dinged” daily.

Again, the standard of living has been enhanced, but the problems its brings are stress of a higher quality.

3. Kids and school: 20 years go public or private were two choices for schools and the “standard” of instruction were limited to 3 – Central government, State government or British.
Now there are 7 different tiers & tons of choices – Foreign-owned International, Local-owned International, State standard, Central standard, British standard, Charter and home tutoring. Most parents I know work from 8 to about 8 in the evening (if you are in the technology field, you tend to bring work home, since conference calls with the US are during the evenings and nights local time). So parents tend to choose the school based on its relative brand cachet and sign up for the “most school they can afford”. It comes with it a unique Indian variant of “keeping up with the Joneses” – you have to sign up for sports / games / activities that are aligned with the “status” of the school. Years ago I’d play cricket at the corner of my street or the playground a few blocks away. Now horse-riding, roller-blading classes are the norm – which is an alignment with global standards, I agree.

The stress that these come with require a full time nanny who has to shuttle the kids around (since parents are at work) and a car to shuttle the nanny around. Dependability and security of the kids (with the nanny and driver) become more of a stress and whether the kids can get to the activity “on time” thanks to traffic.

Better problems but more high quality of stress. What do you think?