My first trip on my own through the tree-lined streets of Bangalore- I’ve travelled the route earlier with a friend, and I’m not nervous about being out alone. My knowledge of Kannada borders on the negative, but languages aren’t barriers, are they? The buildings aren’t remarkable- there is nothing much to distinguish them from those in another Indian city- and as the bus whizzes past the flyover, I look curiously out the window, hoping to find something noteworthy.
The bus drives past small grey booths marked ‘Subway’ in unnecessarily cold letters- flights of steps lead downwards into unknown tunnels. I want to get off and explore- but I haven’t yet mustered enough courage to go traipsing through the streets on foot. New places are tantalising, though, and I wish I could take a bus whose destination I was unaware of and go off into the unknown. Sadly, incidents like the Pune rape serve as a reminder of the ugly reality outside the cosy comfort of your house- or hotel room- and of the lascivious predators lurking around, fangs bared, eagerly waiting to maul unsuspecting young prey. When you’re on the roads, snap out of the world you’ve created for the hours when you might need company in solitude. Books go only this far in teaching you what you need in life- the rest comes through roughing it out.
Temples rise out of the unbroken lines of shop fronts and houses. Masses of people press into the compound of St. Anthony’s Church this Good Friday, heads bowed in contemplation and prayer. Trees relieve the monotony of concrete- look up at the violet, yellow and pink blossomed canopy and at the whitish-blue sky through the netting of the leaves. Rainshowers have breathed life into the air. I remember that night, the roads slick with rain, a thin streak of unnaturally white clouds inching towards the moon, a moist breeze setting the branches into a slow, soft dance of their own.
Cities talk to you. They make conversation with you, absorb you and give you memories. They superimpose on what you’ve left behind and overwhelm you with their presence. Accept and make friends with them, and you live in danger of stagnation. Despise them and turn down their advances, you end up a restless nomad, once again made to go in search of that one perfect place to pitch your tent at. That thin line in between is what you seek- where you’re comfortable with the city, and not overly in love with it. Where you live like this is forever, and can still leave at a moment’s notice.
The city lies outside the walls of my fortress. I’m waiting for it to speak to me.