Bangalore, Bhajjis, Bookstores and Bus-rides: Beginnings

Bengaluru nee Bangalore, my adopted city, a city that adopted me, a city I love, a city I have grown to love, a city I dislike but shall hound you if you ever paint it’s shortcomings in colours that taint Bengaluru, a city that has been ‘home’ for close to a decade, a city where I still seek a home, Bengaluru, my city. If I were to, hypothetically, be plucked out of Bengaluru and placed elsewhere, I would eventually, after weeks and months of complaining, cribbing, pathetically get used to the displacement but why must I, for that matter, imagine this harrowing, unnerving hypothetical situation! What makes this city my city? What cajoles, persuades, attracts me to never leave the city? Definitely not the traffic snarls, definitely not the garbage pileup, not the glitz and glamour, not the hole-burning-pocket experience every time you venture out. Could it be the misty autumn and winter mornings, the Gold Mohar trees, the boulevard of rain trees lining the stretch of Old Airport Road, Blossom Book House, the Sagar eateries, the Portia trees and their orange and yellow flowers? The precise answer seems elusive and perceptively speaking Bengaluru to me is a city synonymous with memories, good, bad, ugly etched in her streets, in her seasons, in the people, in the bus-rides, the bookstores, the bhajjis.

Bengaluru, rather Karnataka, was, in ways more than one, an escapade from the sordid reality of Shillong, of being-bullied school days, of being snared at, the butt of jokes that classmates, tuition mates would find amusingly clever and funny so much so that repeating the same nauseous act each day only made them happier and made me equally melancholic! Karnataka, graduation days, gave me the rostrum to reinvent, to live, to break-free from the chrysalis of prying eyes and babbling mouths and venture out fearless, happier, free. I associate Bengaluru with limitlessness, with growing up as an individual, of new discoveries, of being independent, chance encounters, heartbreaks, ordeals, finding love, friends. And paraphrasing the lines of a movie I love, what must I write about this rapidly growing city? A city that the western world associates with outsourcing, a city that we love to complain about, a city that we the denizens are killing, a city known for its microbreweries and pubs, a city with a weather to kill for? Bengaluru doesn’t have a glorious history of mighty Maharajas and viceroys but it has her own share of kings and customs, she doesn’t have coffee houses wherein history was created but there are coffee houses that take you back in time, she doesn’t have a coastal line or rivers cutting through her bosom or monuments that incite a million memories but we have our fair share of rather dwindling lakes, temples, and disappearing tree lined avenues, we have crumbling and majestic structures dating back to the 1900s, we have stories of how the city was christened, we have tales of how four pillars, now lost within the city, marked the boundaries of Bengaluru.

It was the ides of March, two thousand years after Caesar was assassinated, a decade after the beginning of the new millennium that I, dreamy, timid, hopeful, naïve, found myself in this city. Bengaluru used to be a gateway to Mysore when I was in college but my batch mates and I would be then limited to travelling between the city railway station and Yeswantpur, and waiting therein. And the spring of 2010 was my new beginning, of living in a big city, of imagining gazing upon the city shimmer from the balcony of a tenth floor apartment, of walking amongst denizens from all over the world, and for a small town boy it was simultaneously thrilling and intimidating. Ross had instructed me on how must I reach his place, the bus numbers, the route, the bus bay all in the form of long text messages. (Oh yes, I used to have a Nokia 1202 back then and browsing in a phone was equivalent to setting foot upon Ali Baba’s mysterious cave). The bus traversed through tree lined streets, through shiny, flashy high rises (the towers of UB city, Garuda Mall which I learnt much later). Oh how excited I was and to this day I remember them all. The memories of someone so marvellously fascinated; this must be the Chinnaswamy stadium, I thought (no it wasn’t!), I craned my neck to absorb all that the tinted glass of the bus would allow me to when the conductor announced M. G. Road (I had heard tales about this road from umpteen folks), the old airport, the crowded and swarming with millions Marathahalli and finally Spice Garden, my stop, and there was Ross waiting at the bus stop.

This was my new beginning, the city of Bengaluru, my city!

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