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.

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?

Presently from inside my head III

  • In one of the few interviews that I have appeared for, I was asked about my weaknesses. I had very confidently spoken about my introversion, on how I take some time in mingling with people. At that time, I would always imagine what a nightmare would it be for people to work with me. But lately I have realized I may not be that bad a colleague. Yes, I may not flash a smile at you as you begin at my office or swarm my way through your lunch table conversations. But I might come of help on that day that you are struggling, crack a joke or two in crunch hour and be a continued source of information ranging from office politics to Pokemon Go. Or maybe I am a nightmare – not the kind that haunts you for days but the one that you eventually make peace with.

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  • I am not fond of my immediate superior at work, the woman that I have been reporting to for a year now. Our mindsets don’t match and our approach to work does not form a peaceful parallel. Naturally, I have never given her a thought beyond that office space and working hours. Last year, I had discovered a dear friend at work who left a month after we started talking. In the days that followed, I had felt a void. Like you have a joke to share but you cannot see the person who’d laugh the most with you or you are confused on a point but the person that you were least hesitant to approach is not sitting next to you. I would still reach my friend through a text or a call. But come to think of it, my superior has been working here for 5 years. She has seen many people come and leave, some of whom she must have enjoyed working with or conversing to. She talks lesser than she used you to last year and hers may not be a very pleasant situation at work.
  • I was one of the many unfortunate people who tried participating in Xiaomi’s 2nd anniversary flash sale yesterday. I managed to press the buy now button which led me to the Xiaomi Mi5 product page. I selected the model and the page continued to load for over ten minutes before I hit refresh. The app displayed the usual product page with a discounted price of 22,999. A friend told me that his app displayed out of stock the second it was 2 pm and that the browser’s timing was 2 second behind. On reaching the internet, I found many such stories where people with as fast as a 50 mbps connection failed to grab the coveted Rupee one deals. Some people verified the MIUI ids displayed in the winner’s list and as it turns out quite a many do not exist. Out of the hundreds of comments that I had read only two people claimed that they were successful in buying a power bank. The admin of Mi India’s facebook page continued stating that the stocks flew off in .01 second and there were other promising discounts that people should have a look at. But my point is, if that is what was meant to be the USP of the 2nd anniversary celebrations then why not be upfront about it. Why not publicize the discounts in the first place rather than putting up a farce in the face of a flash sale and tricking people. I know, rupee 1 is far too good to be true but that is how naive I am, I believe in good things and giveaways. I would have liked my belief to be upheld, even if it was for someone else.

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  • As a child, I may not have foreseen what I was going to become when I grow up but I had foreseen myself to be financially independent. I have always enjoyed saving whatever came to me as pocket money and then spending a part of that savings into a thing I sought to own. I am 23 and I am not earning. I am studying. I believe it takes a different brand of patience to be 23 and to not be earning. To be doing what I am not very confident about and to be believing every day, that this will fulfill at least one of my childhood dreams- being financially independent. I look at all the things that I can do, the places that I can be to, the products I could buy and how little have I earned in these years. I have not been raised in deprivation, my parents will happily buy me anything that I desire, I have a good amount of savings but right now I desire to freewheel with money and freewheeling with my parents’ money  will tantamount to one thing- guilt.

P.S. I think I am coming to enjoy writing in an unrestricted fashion because this lets me put whatever’s going on in my head to paper howsoever varied the thoughts may be individually. What do you enjoy more, writing with a sense of direction or carefree rants like this one?

Presently from inside my head- II

  • Have you been on Pinterest, seen all the DIY crafts and been excited to try them? I feel that, however I had never been remotely inclined towards anything that my crafts teacher made me do in school. It always seemed an inconvenience to me. Perhaps because she would ask me to get a poplin cloth or a matty cloth or some other cloth, and try embroidering a flower on that and then a leaf and then a climber. But did she ever ponder, what use would that cloth be of to me. Nothing. However, I can make use of a lot of things from Pinterest, flowers and fairy lights in upcycled bulbs, centrepieces from wine bottles, photo monogram or any of the mason jar crafts. Even if they may not qualify as being useful at least they will look stunning in the living room and that supersedes all.

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  • Don’t you think that they should just stop telecasting Friends? I love friends, I have my favorites too, ‘The one where no one’s ready‘, ‘The one without the skiing trip‘, ‘The one where Ross got high‘, ‘The one where everybody finds out‘ and most episodes from the first six seasons. However, from Zee Studio to Star World to Warner Bros. and now to Romedy Now, television has compulsively fed us with images from the lives of twenty somethings trying to survive in New York to the point that I am no longer fascinated to see them. I don’t laugh at certain jokes, the laughter track irks me now and I have analysed it to an extent that their world appears unreal, unattainable, something about it that cannot be reproduced given our economy and hostility.
  • When we are young, we constantly repeat to ourselves and others that we will not change. But I have changed and my perceptions have changed. I used to read a blog on Tumblr. Any post that I would read felt as it was my own life, my understanding of reality presented in better poetic words. I read the blog after some three months today and every thing seemed alien. I could no longer feel the resounding appeal of her work, I could no longer sympathize with her agony. So I say, I have changed. And this is simply one example of the many stances that have shifted lately.
  • Often when someone approaches us and bares their raw emotions to us, they don’t demand from us to make sense of the chaos. They simply want us to listen. I am not denying that some people appreciate being led to the solution, likewise some people want to clear their head so that they can unearth the solutions themselves. So, the next time someone wants to talk, do not draw out a pros and cons analysis of their situation, just listen, they’ll figure out the rest themselves.