Bangalore: Trail and Beyond II

The first post that I decided to write on Bangalore was going to be titled ‘4 Weeks and 4 Houses’. Because my first four weeks in Bangalore were in four different houses. The first house was the service apartment that the company offered me. It was a 2 BHK furnished apartment and made for a gloomy welcome to Bangalore. Why, you may wonder. Because I have realized that vacant spaces accentuate the feeling of loneliness. I was just coming out of my home to this colossal space entirely at my disposal. Everything felt strange and confusing. I even deliberated on the room I should sleep in because choice my friend. In retrospect, that room was a good decision because as I realized much to my horror later that week, the other room had a balcony, the door to which had no bolt. Now imagine how peacefully I must have slept, constantly imagining all possible ways for an uninvited person to enter the apartment. Add to that, the experience of going to breakfast buffet the next morning and realizing that you are the only woman without a hijab in the room. By the time the waiter brought the coffee to my table, I noticed that everyone’s staring at me, so I rolled the pancake and sipped my coffee on the way out.

The second house was my cousin’s who opened the doors for me with home cooked food, good coffee, television and affection in aplenty- all things that I hold dear. It was a Friday night when I moved to her place. I remember how my manager had advised me to not travel late evening and wait till the next morning to move. But I had gone back to the apartment with open curtains in the living room and a switched on geyser- two things I would never do before leaving for work. Before my paranoia over the safety of the apartment could resurface in full, I booked an Uber, packed everything and left. Even Uber endorsed my decision because of all the cabs that I had taken in that week, this one was unbelievably on time and devoid of any arguments with the driver. Maybe I yearned to be rid of the apartment, maybe I yearned to see a familiar face, maybe I yearned to talk to someone in Hindi, or maybe it was what the driver who drove me from the airport told me, you should visit family the first time you are in a city, it is comforting and I cannot agree more to that.

The third house was my school friend’s. I had to look for a house. Before I moved to Bangalore, on a friend’s friend’s recommendation, I had a look at this website called ‘Colive 247‘. If you have heard of Nestaway, Colive parallels their model but seems more reasonable and has single accommodation options. So, I shortlisted two flats which according to their website were fully furnished flats in a gated society. Now when I actually visited one of them what I saw was a big room divided into spaces  to make it look like a flat, in a society which had a gate, a deserted foosball table in the middle of nowhere, a guy in the elevator telling me that the WiFi just doesn’t work and a worked up prospective flatmate (worked up because I walked in on her when she was spending some quality time with her boyfriend). The flat had a bed and a mattress in the name of furniture and felt like an over stuffed carton with no room for ventilation. From there I began the quest for a house in Bangalore again. In order to visit the flats during the week, I moved to my friend’s house. Of our six nights together, I think we slept on two. Because we talked, mostly involuntarily, as if talking was something as natural and inevitable as blinking. I discovered Truffles because of her, I discovered the ubiquitous ‘V-335E‘ route because of her, I discovered samosa kachori breakfast in Whitefield because of her, I discovered shared cabs because of her, I discovered that the touted ‘F.R.I.E.N.D.S.’ life can exist in real life too but importantly I discovered her again and that people can bestow warmth on you even if you have done very little for them.

The fourth house was my permanent address in Bangalore- if 9 months qualify as permanent. I remember a sentence from my English textbook, ‘Television sets are selling like hot cakes these days’. If I were to use that idiom in Bangalore’s context, I would say, ‘rented flats in Bangalore sell like hot cakes’. I lost two flats because I needed sometime for consideration. Almost every flat that goes on sale during the week is sold out on the weekend. So in a desperate bid, I paid the token amount of 5000 rupees on a flat. Because the house hunting began looking like a race to me and I had to come first at the end of this week. But somehow I didn’t like the flat much, something about it didn’t fall right with my gut. Partly out of instinct and partly out of newly acquired habit I kept scrounging through ‘Flats and Flatmates Bangalore‘ in a bid to stumble upon something that I was missing all along. Magically, I found this old ad saved in my bookmarks. It was a completely new flat and magically, it was still vacant. I visited the flat on Friday and it looked perfect to me.  It was a completely new property, the balcony overlooked a pool, the block overlooked a lake, it was accessible from my office, there was a departmental store opposite the apartment, the deposit was 15,000 less than the earlier flat, it felt breezy and calm and it just seemed perfect. Endangering the token (which I recovered a couple of days and Whatsapp conversations later) that I had paid on the previous flat, I moved in to the latter on Monday and strangely, the house still seems perfect to me.

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I have a lot of memories of ‘breaking in’ in the house and Bangalore. One of the first decisions that I made after moving here were to make a choice between a bed and a bonded mattress because I had the money for only one. I went to a furniture store right next to my apartment and booked a mattress which was going to be delivered the next evening. However, my parents made me revisit the decision citing my OCD for cleanliness and by next morning I found a second hand bed with mattress. I visited the mattress store in the evening to cancel the order and the sermons that shopkeeper made me hear on negligence sent me on a guilt trip for days until a baniya friend explained to me that his sermon was only a sales tactic employed to make me sway from the cancellation. I remember convincing someone- passionate about the craftsmanship of making a mirror- to make me a wall mirror for 800. I remember going to the departmental store to stock up on essentials and coming home with new found respect for my parents because maintaining supplies is such a tedious task. I remember going out for food with a friend, always overeating, always laughing at our quirky college stories and quirky flat stories and always finding new scoop on our best friend.

In January, another cousin of mine moved to Bangalore for six months. Most of the ‘breaking in’ in Bangalore happened after she moved in with me. I am one of those fortunate kids to have experienced those fascinating old school summer vacations at nana-nani ke ghar (house of my maternal grandparents). She has been an essential part of those vacations and when she moved in here, she brought that charm of garmi ki chhuttiyan to this house and my life. We finished our dinners with mangoes, we took detours for ice cream and chips, we teased each other by eating our Maggi Chings slow so that the other person finishes first, we played Antakshari on nights and realized that even after a decade we still recall songs from 1990s and early 2000s only during Antakshari, we watched old cheesy Hindi movies on Friday nights, we spent Sundays sleeping till afternoons, we went to a Baadshah concert and bragged our Punjabi by singing along every word to ‘Wakhra Swag‘, we queued for 90 minutes to take a roller coaster ride at an amusement park, we went on a scavenger hunt 18 kilometres away at 7 a.m., we did ‘I don’t know how many’ pizza nights, we made bad restaurant choices and good chaat choices together, we walked to the bus stop from our offices with chips and muffins in hand, chattering all along without any care in the world as if we are still little kids and as if this is nothing but that coveted summer vacation. We even tried doing the ‘sagan ka lifafa’ act (exchange of envelopes of money between relatives typically seen at the end of a visit to a relative’s house or auspicious gathering) and we cried the day she flew from Bangalore, just like old times. I remember how we used to text each other in October last year hoping that we’d up end up in Bangalore together. However I never believed it would happen because when do you get this lucky that you get what you wish for. But I got lucky, in fact luckier than I ever imagined.

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I have never felt comfortable at any place other than my home in Gwalior. I have never warmed up to the idea of having an address away from my actual permanent address. I have been in Delhi for three years and ended up disliking a city that I was always fascinated with as a kid. I have always cringed at the idea of change, in fact I recall shuddering at the idea of Bangalore as I packed my belongings. However, as I was telling my best friend last week, I like Bangalore. Bangalore has been the home to the many ‘firsts’ in my life, including the first of warming up to a new city. At the end of sixty days, I might not be here and it will feel odd to not go through the Herculean task of finding a cab for office and flinching over the surge pricing, it will feel odd to not wander aimlessly in departmental stores, it will feel odd to not mentally evaluate distance in terms of kilometers but in terms of time and traffic, it will feel odd to not cook dinner and sending pictures of it to my mother because both of us believed that I cannot amount to much in the kitchen, it will feel odd to go back to weather that demands fans on full speed and air conditioning and to a June that doesn’t have blankets, it will seem odd to not have your North Indian perceptions of South Indian food being challenged as you are presented with idlis that melt in your mouth, vada that produces a crunch sound as you bite into it, sambhar that is sweet, coconut chutney that has mint in it and dosa that’s fluffy and thick on the inside but ghee roasted from the outside. I think I cannot explain it well, but overall, it will be odd to not be in Bangalore anymore.


This is the second part of the post that I started writing on Bangalore two days ago. You can find the first part here.

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Bangalore: Trail and Beyond

I have wanted to write about Bangalore for a long time now. But the handful of people who read my posts, know how little I write; often once a month and twice in a few lucky months. Once every two months, my best friend complains how spaced out are the chapters in the story I started writing in April 2016– which I was meant to complete in that month but still remains incomplete. I am not going make any excuses here, I am lazy, undisciplined and I allow life and people to affect me. That’s how, the post that I wanted to write on the Christmas weekend is being written right now.

Bangalore happened in my life at a time when things were not only not looking up lately but in fact were looking grimmer and grimmer by the day. My mother often remarks that I complain a lot. Partly, I agree; I had seen better days at a time when I barely valued them. But this time in early 2016, when I decided that I had to move, move anywhere on the map, I had a solid ground and more solid sense of desperation. In 2015, I worked on an assignment that required me to move in and out of the many plants of a pharmaceutical manufacturing unit in 45 degree Celsius when the person I was reporting to constantly reminded me that somehow my gender makes me unfit for the assignment. I ended up having a knee injury, a doctor ringing a threat of an approaching arthritis and branded inefficient for denying doing something that did not fall within the purview of the engagement. I walked with a swollen knee for 6 months and resentment that I have carried far beyond those 6 months.

For the latter part of 2015, I worked on a lot of things that required me to manipulate, the kind of manipulation that challenged the value education lessons I had imbibed deeply. The more I worked, the more I felt that the concept of ‘choice’ is being forfeited from my life. No matter what work was assigned to me, I was expected to do that without any qualms. I was expected to travel 50 kms a day for a month even when I complained of motion sickness, I was expected to work for 11 hours a day for August and September including Sundays for 1500 rupees a month, I was expected to sit through midnight on the last date of every return filing in a year, I was expected to put up that farce of sitting in office for 7-8 hours even when there was no work and ultimately I was expected to fold my hands and ‘beg’ for a small termination letter- essential to make the move official- and put up with a couple of malicious remarks. Now you see why I hate my career so much? My work took a lot of my confidence and a lot of my zeal away. In case you are regular a here, you can see why I sing no praises about my choice of career. I was desperate for change. I was desperate to make a move out of that place. So I moved to Bangalore, for professional reasons and in search of ‘mann ki shanti’ (mental peace) that an astrologer once told me I will never find. So I moved to Bangalore violating a strongly held notion that I cannot function anywhere beyond 300 kms from my family. Surprisingly, I did and so here I am putting pen to paper about my little adventure in Bangalore.


Since the story so far have stretched beyond the original estimated number of words, I have split this post into two parts. The second part which I will be posting tomorrow details on my stay in Bangalore.

Take me to the hills or not

I don’t know how many of you remember those yellow boxes in our NCERT books. Yellow boxes perched in corner of the pages of our social science text books. Yellow boxes that housed interesting trivia revolving around the subject body of a chapter. Yellow boxes that every teacher emphasized on reading because they made a good opportunity for High Order Thinking Skills question.
I enjoyed reading them because often they were real life insights on topics like colonization, universal suffrage movement and industrialization; sometimes in symphony with the text and sometimes in conflict. Like there was a woman’s speech about right to vote highlighting that when we talk about suffrage it is only for half the human population that is men. There was a letter from a Marathi woman to Mahatama Gandhi explaining that she wants to endorse the Swadesi movement but culture calls for her to wear a sari that measures 9 yards and she does not have the resources to afford 9 yards of Khadi. There was a story in chapter on industrialization of Mumbai and London where the gods come to visit Mumbai and Lord Vishnu ends up being dwindled by a shoe seller. In the same chapter, a yellow box talked about the planned beautification of Paris. It included a remark from a poet that the city looks like ‘a tree, a bench, a kiosk, a tree, a bench, a kiosk and so on’. This line has stayed with me through the years.

I have been in Bangalore for 7 months now. My typical Wednesday looks like googling for a weekend getaway, the modes of reaching that place, the options on the accommodation, the popular haunts, activities in that area and at least one blog documenting the comprehensive travel experience. The catch here is that I don’t go to any of these places. Sometimes I am lazy, sometimes I am confused, sometimes I am scared, sometimes I have another plan and mostly I am not able to understand what I am looking for in terms of travel. But the first weekend of June was an exception because I went to Coorg.
Out of all the weekend getaways from Bangalore, Coorg is the most accessible in terms of the number of night buses that ply to and fro from Coorg and the distance. I was torn between Ooty and Coorg. However, that week I had two people tell me that Coorg is extremely beautiful and I read an article which called Coorg the Scotland of India. So I decided that I will go to Coorg. Amidst the boarding point shifting to 20 kms away, cancellation of my homestay booking, contracting a very inconvenient common cold and a couple of panic attacks later, I reached Coorg at 4:30 am.

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With no bed in the foreseeable future, a head riddled with Cetrizine and surrounded by a ubiquitous smell of cinnamon, I settled down on a bench and started making an itinerary in my head. I decided to walk towards Raja’s seat to catch the sunrise which was still an hour away. From where I was standing, the road turned into three different ways ahead. I followed the one that seemed closest to the directions on Google Maps. I continued on the circular path, reaching a point that offered a peripheral view of Madikeri. Behind me was the Madikeri fort and whether or not this was Raja’s seat remained open to debate because the navigation stopped working.
From the make believe Raja’s seat I walked in one of the other two directions. I walked and saw hills and houses, I walked and saw trees and arched ways, I walked and saw temples and churches, I walked and saw ‘Scotland of India’ before me. I looked at the view and remembered the hills I have been to and the landscapes that we find in our drawing books. I walked up to a modest looking eatery cum grocery store and helped myself to filter coffee. It was a small shop housed next to Ganesh Coffee House near the bus stand. It was a good cup of coffee, neither too strong nor too sweet, just the right proportion of everything. The vanilla sponge cake, which I tried later in the day, made for a good accompaniment to the coffee. I paid for the coffee and headed to the Omkareshwara temple.
The Omkareshwara Temple is situated in the centre of a water tank. It was built by a king who could not sleep peacefully after having killed a Brahmin. He was advised by his religious counsel to build a Shiva temple. So the king built the Omkareshwara temple. Barring a woman who was there for her morning walk I could not find anybody else. I wandered there for a little while, offered a small prayer and then found myself a deserted spot uphill that overlooked the hills and the temple.

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I stood there and thought about a number of things. I thought about that line on renovation of Paris. That line holds good for the Coorg that you see in pictures. We may not rework the places that we visit but we do recondition them in our pictures. In our pictures, we take the good bits of a place, the good trees, the good hills, the good roads and the good houses. But from where I stood, the air had a waft of cinnamon and a faint hint of dampness, the paints on the houses peeled because of the rain, the roads were muddy and there were open sewer lines. All of which evidence the existence of a community there, all of which form part of the narrative of Coorg. Then why do we use our fancy filters and tweak our pictures? Then why do we omit the less picturesque facets from our travel chronicles? Then why are we so obsessed with our travel destinations conforming to a certain standard of scenic beauty?

Standing there what I understood was that you never see what a place is in entirety until you visit it. No website, no travelogue can promise you the perfect landscape and the perfect vacation. It’s mostly individual. It’s mostly trial and error. That’s why I would like to travel again, for that little thrill of discovery, for that chance of stumbling upon what remains unspoken.


So that was my travel epiphany. What about you? What have you learnt from travelling so far?