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 fa├žade.

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.

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