Friday, July 08, 2005

Vignettes, zimbly.

Bangalore is cloudy, with a grey mist hiding the sun even at 6:00 p.m., when it's annoyingly hot and sunny in Mumbai. In another city, this would be gloomy. Here, it just is, and you bask in it.

Big yellow sign-boards of concrete, resting on two columns and with a temple-architecture top and black squiggly kannada script, stand at the corners of well-ploughed streets.

A prominent hoarding tells reckless young bikers, sternly, "You have only one head. Wear a helmet. Courtesy Bangalore Police." Sage advice. The roads here are twisted with traffic, badly maintained ruts of red mud and dust over which helmet-less boys play a modern-day version of hopscotch with their bikes, swerving in and out through the overwhelming, crawling, stinking traffic, play-acting at being characters in a video game.

Last weekend, I went to Koramangala - to an area that is less than a 5-minute walk from where I used to live a few years ago. And it's unrecognisable. All the open grounds have been taken out, and apartments and banks of concrete and steel and glass put in. I'm appalled, but had Forum been around when I was staying there, at least going to the movies would have been easier.

The surge in population and traffic have an inverse relationship to the road surface area. Going anywhere inspires sheer dread. The bus to work bumps and grinds down roads that could second as a Himalayan-biking track. No question of sleeping on the way there, but the body adapts and dozes, and wakes up just as we take the last right turn, just as I would always wake up just as the train approached Churchgate in the morning. Mercurial.

Through the grey, smoky, impenetrable haze of a mal-nutritioned city shooting up without being able to balance its growth, its hard to find positives to focus on. Perhaps because the positives I seek in coming "back" somewhere are so tied up with my own past... "This is where I used to live and look what they've done to it."

What they've done is this: They've removed the trees and mown down the houses; injected tall buildings and covered up the fields; removed my friends and brought in strangers. And in the process, razed my memories to dust.

Viva la progress, viva la change.

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