Changing Landscapes: In Memory of a City

I have often described myself as a Bangalorean at heart. Having been born and brought up in here, it has certainly become an integral part of my identity as has the fact that I am a kannadiga. Born in and spending nearly 11 years in the waft of pristine Malleshwaram air with green parks and beautiful spacious roads, moving to Banashankari 3rd Stage (about 20 years ago), was a quantum shift.  It was so because, for as far as my eyes could scale, I found only green fields, hills, small hillocks on top of which adored temples – some as small as just a roof over the idol.  It seemed as though I was cutoff from the city, and even a trip to Jayanagar was like a journey from nowhere to a dazzling town!  Our high school treks with my classmates were a nice cycle ride on deserted roads to the Hanumagiri hill (which I always believed was the border between Bangalore and Andhra! This again is a testimony on how geographically challenged I was!).  Even an evening stroll to the hillock right across my house was an adventure, for everyday by evening hordes of mongooses could be seen running along the pathway.  Amazing discoveries were to be made – some snakes, weird reptiles that I had never seen in the locales of Rajajinagar or Malleshwaram, and once, a 5 foot long snake skin.  I considered myself a character right out of Enid Blyton, or even better, one of the Hardy Boys. Countless evenings were spent, sitting on the rocks of the hillock, alongside a small temple of Lord Krishna and gazing at the setting sun.  The acres of green fields and coconut groves in the distance that my eyes surveyed seemed to be there to please my eyes. Getting my first cycle – Hercules MTB, was the most momentous thing to happen as a teenager. As I cruised on it to my early morning classes at Vijaya High School, barely avoiding running into early morning walkers, as I tried various stunts on it – my fav being singing “Pehla Nasha.. Pehla Khumar” while letting my hands off the handle! By 8:30, the 100 Ft Ring road wore a deserted look, and we were safely perched in our houses, warmly tucked into bed, and a cool breeze wafting through the windows.

The full moon nights have always been a part of my fond memories in Rajajinagar.  About 4 families living in our streets, would gather on our terrace – food was prepared from all the houses and all of us would feast under the cool rays of the full moon.  Mommy dearies would discuss the household affairs, while father-figures – politics. We kids would be busy gobbling up the home made ice cream and custards, while gossiping about the latest movies of Dr. Rajkumar.  The favorite pastime between the members of our group was to figure out who recited the most number of dialogues from the latest Dr. Rajkumar movie, and not to mention sing the songs accurately.  Needless to say, the biggest contenders were me and my elder brother. 😉 The theatres in Bangalore were a few in number – the movies were a pleasure to watch. The melodious songs, that were diligently committed to memory, still linger there even after decades!

It has been barely a decade now and already everything seems so foggy.  There are angry frustrated faces that stream out of the houses every morning. Horns blaring, and abuses flying around.  After nearly 8 years, I spotted sparrows at the Bangalore International Airport!  These sparrows that were our early morning wake up calls.  The cycle was sold years ago, and now I fear to even drive our car on the streets of Bangalore – let alone ride a bike.  There is affluence that is pouring out of the city’s glamorous malls and hotels that are churning out Rs. 1000 worth Masala Dosa, that is covered with a 24 carat gold foil!  And there is also apathy vested in the heart of people, who did not even get up to offer seats to 2 blind students, traveling in the Volvo 500C bus the other day.  Pubs, Multiplexes, roads growing wider, trees that have been chopped down… the hill in front of my house has one of its portion cut off to make way for a school, where children will learn of the importance of environment.  The wild growth in the other portion has been cleared off to make way for a park, where people will stroll to breathe in clean air, next to the busy 100 Ft Ring road clogged with vehicles.  The sunset view is now masked by the high rises, and the mongooses no longer stroll on the steps of the temple.

Change is constant – be it a city or life in general.  I shared my identity with the city I was born in, and I’ve known the change my identity has also undergone – much like Bangalore.  This is a city that is groping to find the Bengaluru within it’s Bangalore identity.  Probably there are questions that the city would ask of itself? Would it indeed?  I don’t know! But I do know that there are questions am asking of myself.  But I have no answers to them right now.  Just questions…. tormenting and pouring down like a catacylsmic rain, that wants to sweep everything in its way.  Alas! This monsoon, my city has been cheated of its share of rainfall too!  Afterall, it took years for the greenery of Bangalore to be nourished.  It took years for me to understand my identity…and just when I got around to it… everything is changing… I do not recognize myself.. nor do I recognize this city.  So here’s a Good night.. from a stranger… to an unknown city..

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