! Bengaluru – an Affaire d’Amour on my terms!

SUNSET at UlsoorImage

Can the weather make a town as delightful as it is? Can the swaying canopies windsweep away all the dust that can collect around your ankles, in your nostrils and in your home? I don’t know how this works, but  a love affair, especially one that is renewed, can begin at any time and does leave an indelible mark upon one’s soul…even if it fades away in time. Mine didn’t.

My affaire d’amour with Bangalore began years ago when i visited with our 1 yr old daughter and stayed in a hotel. I recall the cool, crisp air all through the day as we switched from auto-rickshaw to cab to friend’s vehicle. I remember the smells – varying from freshly ground coffee, to sambar, to frying vadas to spices. I do recall with delight the avenues lined with large-canopied trees and marvelled at the shade they cast, their beauteous leaves swaying along with us. I also remember some pollution but largely the impression i carried back to big, busy city of Delhi was of inner delight. Would i ever live here…nah, not possible-i could never get this lucky!  I envied our friend’s luck….However, as a young parent, i imagined life to be rocksteady and dedicated to parenting and wifehood in one single city- and that was some twenty odd years ago. It has been anything but steady, and possibly even rocky. Even so, were life a game and one had to choose from among rock, paper and scissors, we would still choose rock and give it the meaning we have. Within the confines of constant change, we found our rocks…that held our fall. Today, that rock is Bangalore, or with respect to the Kannada language, Bengaluru.

I have lived here not once but twice, and the love affair has sustained, and not of my asking or yearning. Here, I’ve been both lonely and over-indulged, happy and sad, i’ve been sober and deliriously drunk, and have both entertained and been entertained. Bangalore never leaves you alone, not in any simplistic, bachelor kind of way- it wraps itself around you stealthily, it grows on you and finally, you are captive- you bind yourself to it willy nilly . From minor to major, from andante to allegro- the music plays on. One learns how to pronounce some of the most lengthy, unpronounceable Indian names of places and people and roads. The process can be quite delightful really, once you get the hang of it. You end up feeling ecstatic especially if you get the key Kannada phrases thanks to delightfully long rides in your car, with the radio on full blast. “Maja maadi!’, “Sakkath hot”, “Nannu …hogthini” and so on and so forth. Enjoy maadi, as one constantly hears young folk say out loud- meaning, “have a ball!”

For the names- I’ll start with Deve Gowda- Jala Halli – Baanaswadi – Gubbara Halli – Bomanna Halli – try this one: Baya Panaa Halli (tongue-twister eh!), Ramagondana halli and its international airport at Devana Halli..phew! I will not even start with the Pura-s. Halli means village and pura means settlement or township.  Going by the number of Hallis in Bangalore, one can safely deduce that Bangalore has risen from village or small town and has become India’s Silicon valley! Wow! I love it- not so much the growth into a multi-township but the fact that the inherent charm of the city arises from its humble beginnings. I live in Ulsoor, which is Halasuroo as it goes by its original name spied at its Metro station. From Bangalore to Bengaluru- a sketchy backward and bumpy ride, since the politics of Karnataka keep coming into play and pull out their stops to remind its vagrants, that while what meets the eye is a modern, upwardly mobile city- offering all the brands one can bring out of a hat, it is still Karnataka’s stronghold, and they won’t rest till one sits up and notices. When i use the word backward, all i mean is that it’s all in the name : Bengaluru- a call to return to its root, a worthy reminder of whence and whither, no more and no less. For example a few years back, the resto-bars had been categorically told to shut shop by 23 hours. I wince as i remember a police jeep waiting outside the Resto i was at with my friends, with lathis (sticks) lest the manager had refused to comply. We were out at 23 hrs sharp. So notice one does.

I’ve had to wind my way from Whitefield into town on many a hard day- with reference to the above, Bangalore or Bengaluru – its new moniker, has narrow roads reminiscent of its humble, peasant past- and the Silicon Valley needs cars and buses and all the transport represented by the modern world and speed it up! I belong to the latter- so i drive my own car- big or small it wouldn’t matter because a narrow road can take only so many cars, one way or another. I’ve suffered incessant noise, pollution and chaos. I continue to. Yet the place is all mine to own. It is not insignificant, by no means whatsoever , that Bangalore welcomes folk from all over the country- from every direction and more than just its own country. There are people and there is nature, both surviving side by side. Harmoniously? Absolutely. The lake opposite my apartment stands testimony to that- it has been cleaned up- its body shimmering under the sunlight and the kayaks that float by every now and then look mighty pleased to me, as do the army men who adorn them.

Bengaluru …its beauty, stamped upon my heart with its indelible and unique pathways, turns, pot-holes, irreparable roadways and some very interesting areas that need revisiting.   What i cannot resist sharing is that in contrast with any northern town like Delhi, Bangalore’s restos, pubs and innumerable take-aways or Eat-ins offer the most delectable south Indian fare….today it has also done justice to North Indian tandoori food, so one really has it all. Its outlets are willing to, more than ever before, deliver and bring home all sorts of foods to your doorstep if you wish. The body has its needs, and hungers for more than just a plate of edibles. A wise man’s tummy wisdom is measured in his need for gourmet fare, for aperitifs and for aesthetics. And a wise woman, even more so. A lot happened here in our 3 year hiatus.

Bangalore seems more powerful, more empowered, more giving even as it takes from you – your energy and your time, sometimes your dedication. I have a feel for the place. I am visiting more directions, am feeling more of it and wondering where everyone is headed. I observe the cars from my verandah, and listen to the rush in their honks – the restlessness tangible. I watch with equal zeal the motorbikes and scooties- two-wheelies-  countless heads rushing in one or the other direction and continue to believe that there’s a nook for every person in this city. I am also certain that when i get behind the wheel, someone is watching me. Where are we all headed after all? For the moment, loving Bangalore is not a mighty task at hand, and i intend to keep nurturing this affair….flirt with it, keep playing with, and if it won’t listen, i’ll sulk and make it listen to my needs. So far so good.

Name an Indian language, it’s spoken here, so communication is not an obstruction; the buildings keep rising, housing is as upward as you wish it to get. Am i an emigrant, a vagrant or a permanent member of the Bangalore club- only time will tell but for now, i am looking to deepen my knowledge of its history, its current affairs and take a shot at predicting its future, which to me looks brighter every day, even if  in adagio mode.

Will this be an affair for my kids and grand-kids to remember me by?