Sunday, May 26, 2013

The Truth about the Lies In My World

Time slips through your fingers like melted snow. A cold flush and soon, all you have is wet memories of a day past and knocked off the calendar. It has been a month now, since my last job. I am now beginning to grasp the meaning of jobless in its true terms. Everyday I sit in front of the cruel, unemotional computer and send out resumes begging for an opportunity to work in their company. I have always wanted to work in such a publication, It would be an honor, I add. Lies, indeed, but lies need to be told. In a world, where only the mad men and the drunk speak truth, for an opportunistic job seeker to tell lies is the natural way.

Lies are what we are built out of. Our memories, lost to the ravages of time, are often resurrected upon glorified lies. People, characters whose likeness has been eroded slowly with the passage of years, are now remembered with qualities they never did possess. They are recalled, knowingly or unknowingly, to create examples for a newer generation that never did know them, and hence cannot question the veracity of the recollection. Such a funny world do we live in.

Coming back to the fact of my unemployment, it is quite a quandary. My parents, kind as they are, are willing to suffer a few more years of bonded labour in order to support my odyssey of finding the shores of a career. They live on the dredges of the hope that my mediocre writing qualities have evoked among friends and relatives. Lies again. Of course, these are constructed under the façade of decency. You cannot tell an upcoming writer the truth, that his writing sucks and he should make a living out of something else.

All the while, my parents continue to hope like a candle in the storm, of a future that their successful son shall create for them. I, meanwhile, sit in the centre of this whole depraved drama, watching, weeping and wondering when people will understand the truth. Sometimes I think I should speak the truth. Tell them, this is it, I can’t do no more. There is no brilliance hidden under this mediocrity. No flashes of a bright future. Just darkness. Empty, soulless and chronic. A darkness that needs to be traversed in hardship and soundless company. Then I wonder If I can give them nothing, why take away their hope? That would be crueller than I am capable of. So I lie. I tell them I will do something. I put on faces of ambition and pretend to have a drive for success. I send out resumes and wait for modest replies that mask the rejection hidden between the words. I lie that I did not read the truth between the lines.

Our worlds are constructed out of complex systematic lies. Lies, that uphold our dreams, our hopes, that might otherwise be terminated before they were put down on a blueprint. These lies are the foundation to a future that can never be seen, only felt, made up like broken dreams on the next morning. We need the lies, as much as we need the truth. Perhaps, more so. Now, I am realizing the difference between them. Or I am lying to myself that I am. 

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Page 3 of the Travels in Bangalore: The True Identity

The sun that shines on the asbestos roofs is the same as the one seen from the balcony of my cousin’s spacious Raheja Residency apartment in Kormangala. It just feels different. It is a matter of perspective. Everything is as we perceive it to be. As humans, we are members of several groups. Each distinct in its own way. We adapt and carry on with multiple identities through our lives. The success of an individual is often determined by their ability to adapt to the changing definitions of their groups.

In view of this fact, it would be practically impossible to find a definite identity for a city filled with a million such individuals. The city will change its sounds, flavors, colors and nature with every street and neighborhood. Banashankari is not the same as Jayanagar is not the same as Malleswaram or 
Kormangala. Each a separate element, that is part of a whole.

This holiday began as a break from my practiced routine, in order to discover my identity, my one cause that drives my life. Instead, I have come to the realization of a new existence. For the last two weeks, my sojourns through the highs and lows of this young city in India, have made me realize several things. So, forgive me if I get philosophical in this blog.

The family is now preparing for the third marriage in my generation. I am slowly realizing the fact that my whole world is going to change permanently. I am now on the cusp of the realization, yet like many people I, somewhat, resent this changing environment. My brother was pointing out how our definitions of ‘the family’ changes drastically once we get married. We go from being single adults with time for beer and movies, to responsible men with chores, and financial liabilities. Marriage is not just accepting someone else in your life, but opening the door to a whole new truck full of people with a different surname. But, we still have to try to be part of this changing 

So I put on the faces to meet the faces I meet. With elders, I am the impish rogue. With cousins, I am the smartass from Bombay (Yes, they still pronounce it that way). With kids, I am the storyteller. I am young. I am old. I am many things, and one thing at once.

There is something admirable in the way a city accepts change. Unlike us, it does not let the change affect its inherent quality. There might be a surplus of malls and KFC’s filled with low jean wearing youngsters. There might be automatic cars racing down newly paved concrete corridors; but the city of Bangalore has retained some of its orthodox qualities. Somewhere deep down inside, it is still the same. Like the city of my dreams, Mumbai.

‘Of the Unreal there is no existence; Of the real there is no non existence”

The Vedic philosophy defines reality as something that remains constant, in the face of eternal change. In an ever changing world, where we shift our relationship dynamics according to the need of the moment, such philosophy might seem redundant. Our relationships change, our profiles change, our nature changes, our status messages change constantly. Yet, there is something within that does not change, but remains constant.

It is this constant value that defines our identity more than anything else. We might be drunk yuppies at a stinking bar, or a lecherous crowd whistling at the item girl on screen in a theater, but we will close our eyes and pray when crossing a temple on the street. We might hate mindless rituals, but will accede to be a part of it, just so our parents enjoy a little comeback on the nosy neighbors. Values do not exist in the activity, but in the thought that goes into it.

As I sit and write this, I am outside the Vidyarthi Bhavan hotel in Gandhi Market area of Bangalore city. Established in 1943, the small hotel has served generations of Bangaloreans. My uncle, all of 78 years, has been eating here for the last 70 years of his life. He tells me that the streets around the hotel have changed. Traffic has increased. Political climes have changed. Superstars have moved on to other galaxies. Sportsmen and musicians and litterateurs have vanished from the face of the earth. But the masala in the dosa remains unchanged.

The constant. The reality. The true identity. 

Friday, May 10, 2013

Page 2 of the Travels in Bangalore: It Rains in May

The advantage of being on a vacation is that you can lose all count of time. You are cocooned in a bubble of lethargy and comfort that exists only in fairytales. The world huffs and puffs and runs after buses to work, while you sit down with your kaapi and pongal and enjoy the rush hour from the balcony.

Nothing quite defines a Bangalorean like the morning tiffin. This is the first ritual of the day, and the continuing tradition that, I hope, will never be broken. It is the standard set to measure the hospitality of a host and the generosity of their guest. From the more recognised idli, dosa and the elaborate pongal, adai to the hastily organised lemon rice, each dish is a ritual that the ardent Bangalorean worth his salt will adhere to. If you seek proof of the respect this tradition holds, visit the MTR (Mavalli Tiffin Room) or Vidhyarthi Bhavan for a morning. You will know it first hand.

The MTR, located at a 10 minutes walk from Lalbag Botanical Gardens(No relation to the Ganpati mandal at Dadar) is an institution in the cuisinal tradition that carries on till today. It is a place the elders in my family swear by and the youngsters feign indifference to. The menus might have changed. The quiet orthodoxy of people may have given way to liberal values. The humble bungalows might have been dwarfed by multi storeyed skyscrapers. Roads have widened. Languages and apparels have changed. But the practice of having tiffin at 10 am with a cup of hot filter kaapi continues. The nouveau bangalorean might opt for the occasional cup of tea, but kaapi is for truebloods.

This is a city of contradictions, of oppositions and change. Virat Kohli and Chris Gayle might lead RCB in the IPL, but their aggression is a fairly new emotion. You can be as aggressive as you want, but slur Rahul Dravid or Anil Kumble at your own risk. The curses you will endure are only comparable to the passion of a Maharashtrian defending Sachin Tendulkar. Youngsters might wear Gucci and Levis, but will still close their eyes in prayer as they cross a Vinayakar temple on 4th cross. This is India. A traditional ancient civilisation coming to terms with the sudden change in its atmosphere and culture.

The architecture of a city is often a representative of the tastes of its residents. From the Gothic structures in Mumbai, to the Victorian elegance of Kolkata, Indian cities are dotted with structural beauties that jut out of the other modern structures that have occupied space. The Vidhan Soudha, the Mysore Bank, Nataraja theatre are some structures that turn back time as you glance at the ages that have washed off their façade.

My memory of the 80's constructs a Bangalore city dotted with comfortable individual houses, surrounded by sparse streets; each lande geometrically dissected and named confusingly as 4th main 2nd Cross, or 6th sector 3rd main 4th cross. My recent visits have crowded the same city of my memories with large monolithic buildings and a sudden spurt of KFCs and McDonald's that have rooted out traditional bakeries.

The yuppie invasion armed with Mac books  Digit magazines and Chetan Bhagat novels has redefined the city. Kaapi powder is no longer made at home. Iyengar bakeries are not the only source of bread. Tinkle, Amar Chitra Katha and Vikatan are replaced by Chip, AutoIndia and ET. Of course, not everything changes and not completely. Bangaloreans are still conservative wolves in the clothing of liberals. The religion of an individual and their caste is a determiner of their social circle. and Akki roti still takes spot over the pizza.

I came here in search of the Bangalore of my memories. A city that is fast disappearing in the concrete jungle, crowded by the mish mash of cultures and brands that have seeped in. I am in search of a Bangalore that exists in the taste of an Akki roti at a roadside stall. A taste that washes over you like a thunderous downpour on a May evening, only to disappear without a trace the next morning. Except for the faint longing in the air.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Ban-Galored. A Diary From Chris Gayle's Summer Home.

Before you enter a city, any city, the first thing you sense is an urgency of movement. People, animals, vehicles move with an intention, with a purpose of getting somewhere. Modern life has, in many ways, killed the art of sauntering. There is no form of leisurely stroll known anymore to the species, urbano sapiensis, or the city man. This is a species preoccupied with jobs, chores, money, problems and driven by ambition, needs, desires and a constant drive for achieving the improbable. Bangalore, or Bengaluru, is a city that is home to several creatures of this species.

The bus journey began on a noisy, cacophonous Sunday night, which was like many other nights in Mumbai. It was filled with a nervous, edgy tension that has come to define the city of my constant residence. The decision to make this trip, a break from my daily life, had already caused a couple of fights and several bouts of acidity. Yet, I had to make this journey. To get away from the routine and a stagnancy that had crept into my life, my thoughts and my ideas. I needed a new crowded confine to structure my view. This, was the only option where I could avail of food, clothing and shelter for free, while enjoying the sights. So, I climbed into a cold, blacked out, plushly equipped bus at Chembur to begin with. The journey was uneventful, to the best.

The arrival at Bangalore was the first sense of languor that I experienced. The city migt lack the suffocating terseness of Mumbai, and the crowds, for that matter; but the intent is ripe. This is a growing cosmopolis. If the Indian team were symbolic of the nation, Bengaluru would be Rohit Sharma - blessed with a fluid, languorous style that often outshines the grit, sweat and determined orthodoxy hidden deep beneath.

Do not be mistaken. People here work just as hard, as in any other metropolis. But theirs is not the juggernaut frenzy of Mumbai, that would crush you without a second thought. There is a certain soporific air that embalms the city. Or maybe, I am just taking in the holiday air. In either case, it was hard not to experience it.

The Majestic bus terminal is a place tha belies its name. Unlike the grandiose Gothic architecture at CST, that I have come to love, this terminal was not half as majestic. It is well planned, organised and practical. The buses arrive and depart at planned terminals, located in a semi circular formation, and numbered according to their buses. For someone from Mumbai, it is surprising to see no one showing their hands to stop buses, but you'll get over it. Once the structural bias for Mumbaiiya things give way, you tend to surmise the marvellous practicality of the plan.

People are constantly milling about, even at 2pm in the hot May afternoon. As a regular traveller of the 7.30 Karjat local, and having visited the Lalbag Ganpati mandal and on Virar locals, my definition of a crowd can be...subjective. Majestic is a place for college kids, policemen, vendors, salesmen, and everybody coming and going to various destinations in the city. Each individual awaiting a commute to the next stop. Much like in life. A terminal patience fills you with every sight of the stop. Inspite of the teeming sweat that might stifle you. But, I digress.

The people in Bengaluru require a paragraph unto themselves. And I am gonna give it to them. They are well versed in Hindi and English. This is what makes it an easier place to move about alone, than any other city in South India. A question in any language, will be answered directly, in a strictly no nonsense manner. Nobody here likes repeated questions. Ask them more than once, thou shalt diss them. For someone habituated to the patronising candour and overt friendliness of Mumbai, this might be a refreshing change.

My repeated visits to this city have always rejuvenated my love for their buses. Sleek, vast, spacious, turbo charged and sometimes, equipped with dolby speakers playing the hits of the day in the loudest manner. They cannot be missed. The Volvo city buses will drop the jaws of Mumbaikars who are used to crowded paan spittled footboards and cussing when climbing into someone's armpit. The moment the door of the Volvo bus opened with a 'psssssh', I was impressed. Of course, there are other 'ordinary' buses that ply the routes, more crowded, teeming with the workforce and cussing ladies that make me feel right at home. But for any newcomer to the city, the experience of sitting in a bus with French windows and watching it pass down the flyover across Race Course, through Cubbon Park, and out through the Silk Board Road is like a comfortable drive through the rabbit hole.

Now, for the rest of the travelogue to unfold as it does. Do stay tuned.

(Being updated according to the writing speed of the author. Complaints will not be entertained, so don't bother.)