There is a face that a Bangalorean will make when you ask him to do something. It is a contortion, almost comical in its sincerity. It says, “What you are asking for is currently difficult for me but I really want to accommodate and help you. So please help me help you – by downsizing your expectations, if possible to zero. Then we can just get along and have a By2 coffee together.”

As an honorary Bangalorean, I have spotted this face often – in plumbers and mechanics, sales managers and saree-sellers. It comes out when you urgently need something and they need to have their oota, kaapi, or thindi (lunch, coffee or tiffin, respectively). I have made this face when someone asks me for a favour – to buy time, to say no without really saying “no”. It is a face with a hand gesture that seems like you are grasping a lotus by the stem and a look that says, “Swalpa adjust maadi.” Bangaloreans do this often without drama or fuss. We take things in our stride. If you give us jolada rotti (jowar or sorghum roti), we will eat it. Ragi mudde (ragi balls), you say? We will swallow it. Akki rotti (rice roti)? Heck yes. We will enjoy it fully, especially if it has sabsige soppu or dill leaves.

The point is that every Bangalorean savours the moment, is grateful for what is given, doesn’t make a fuss, tries to cultivate humility and lives life to the fullest. You can see it in the way we stand outside tiny roadside hotels, taking small bites of our vadas and chatting quietly with each other as the morning sunshine filters through the gently swaying rain trees. You can see it in Airlines Hotel, where we sit under the young morning sun and take long, slow sips of our coffee from glass tumblers, trying to prolong the beauty of the moment.

Road rage is minimal here even though the traffic snarls. Sure, the Uttara Karnataka or “UK” folks have fire in their veins and are known for their slang and swear words – all of which come out fluently and have exact correlations with their Hindi counterparts. What do you think soole maga or baddi maga mean? But even the firebrands from other regions of Karnataka and other states calm down when they come to Bangalore. Why is that? For a city of some 13 million, Bangaloreans are amongst the most genteel and polite people in India, if not the world. Ours is not the formal politeness of certain cultures. Our gentility comes from within. Why? We don’t know the answer ourselves.

Perhaps, it has to do with the weather. Every day here is like April in Paris, complete with blooming flowers and trees, no matter where you go. The living is easy, and not just “in the summertime”, to quote the popular jazz song. The other reason for the Bangalorean’s ability to adapt and adjust is because Karnataka is perhaps more diverse than most other states. We have practice in getting along with a variety of folks. First, there is coastal Karnataka or Tulu Nadu with its distinctive Tulu language, culture and rituals like bhoota kola, made famous by the movie Kantara. Coastal Karnataka and Mangalore (now Mangaluru) are melting pots of India’s three big faiths. While, Mangalorean Christians seem to have music in their bones, it’s the cuisine of the Konkani Muslims that is distinct and delicious and stands out. As for the Hindus, they too have their quirks and foibles that you can read about in translated books such as Defiance by Na Mogasale. Then there is Coorg, famous for its language and customs, its beauteous landscape, handsome people, its nature worship that reveres the river Kaveri and its famous pandi curry made with pork. Upper Karnataka, with its dry drought-laden landscape, plainspeaking, freely-swearing and earthy people, is the stuff of legend in the state. Ironically, for such a barren land, its people are amongst the most cultured. Hubli–Dharwad is home to Gangubai Hangal, Mallikarjun Mansur, DR Bendre, and Leena Chandavarkar. It is home to the Dharwad pedha, Gokak karadhantu, Ladagi laddu, Belagavi kunda, Tuppada mandige and many other sweets. There is also the Udupi and Kundapur heartland with its own dialect, customs, spice mixes and famous dishes including the Kundapur koli saaru or chicken gravy, Udupi sambhar and other delicacies. The masala dosa was invented in Udupi. The Mysuru–Mandya region brings its own ecosystem with its sugarcane fields, Mysore pak, Mysore masala dosa, Mysore bonda and Mysore Concerns Coffee that is now famous in Mumbai’s Matunga.

Given this mishmash of locals, it is no wonder that the average Bangalorean needs to “adjust”. Add to this, immigrants like me, from states far and near. Everyone somehow jostles through and gets along. Some part of this is the reflexive politeness of the native Kannadiga. The people who keep talking about Lucknow’s tehzeeb have not met the average Kannadiga. Here’s an example. There is this story that goes around in the IAS (Indian Administrative Services) circles of Bangalore, about how a peon shows his new boss around the office. “And here, Sir, is your kind office, your kind chair, and the next room is the kind bathroom and the kind commode,” he says. It sounds better in the bureaucratic Kannada accent mixed with English.

Go to Bangalore Club and get your IAS old-timer friends to down a local beer or two and ask them to recount this story to get the full picture, complete with a deferential posture. It is this gentility that is part of the Bangalorean DNA. No matter where you are from, you will fit in and get along with people here. The autorickshaw driver will speak your language of choice – whether it is Telugu or Tamil. The courier delivery person will offer to speak in Hindi if you look North Indian before realising that you can speak Kannada. The policeman will say a few words in English if he senses that your Kannada is bad.

In which other Indian city can you see this happening?

Excerpted with permission from Namma Bangalore: The Soul of a Metropolis, Shoba Narayan, Rupa Publications.