Vomit. And bucketfuls of it.
Strangely enough, the earliest memory of the city I love so dearly is inexplicably entwined with retrograde bowel movements and a tired sphincter.
I have not lived all my life in Bangalore; it's been more of an acquired taste. Until 1998, I lived in a small town not too far from Bangalore. But we trekked to old 'Lore very religiously every week, for the city was home to 3000 of our relatives and it was routine that somebody got engaged/married/(and hence) knocked up/gave birth/died/bought really orange carrot that we HAD to see/killed a baby cockroach and needed us for moral support. So, we invariably huffed and puffed our way into what was then an idyllic sleepy town, in red KSRTC buses which invariably also had a myriad of vomit streaks (which were invariably yellow in color, thus establishing itself as Kannadiga vomitus, you know red-yellow-Sirigannadam-Gelge) and reeked of a smell I couldn't quite describe earlier, but have now come to place as a cross between the smell of the room of a hosteler friend (who I believe is hydrallergic what with his steadfast refusal to get self/his clothes anywhere near water) and the Alcohol Dependent patients' room in the Psychiatry ward. Suffice to say it didn't quite work up an appetite. Or successfully destroyed one when you watched a particularly sulky child (invariably dressed in blue chaddies) showed his mummy, right on her lap, that he did eat the good vegetables. Vicious cycle it used to set up, this vomiting.
Especially during the season of the Flat Beans.
Now that's a fancy name for what is otherwise a Kannadiga obsession called Avarekaai. During this season housewives across Karnataka, an otherwise staid state, go into a MAD frenzy.
"Next door Lalitamma has already bought three kilos of avarekaai and has sent Bujji and Babu (it was a predominantly Telugu town) avarekaai uppitt and avarekaai chakli for lunch. Ree, I also want. I WANT. I want thirty kilos of the Good Stuff. I want to make huLi, saaru, payasa, uppittu, roTTi, dosa, idli, chakli, palya, kosambari, pasta, lasagna, pizza, rice, water...everything. If you don't bring tomorrow me-e-eans...", wives would threaten their husbands. It was an ego issue, see.
So, amma got into Bean Crazy mode too, and cooked a meal that redeemed the existence of species Vicia faba. But then, so had every mother aboard the bus we had taken to complete our weekly rite of passage, which is the whole point of bringing up the avarekaai anyway. So, you know, the legumes have a way of metamorphosing themselves into gases of near lethal nature once down the alimentary tract. And that's what did happen to all boys in blue chaddies in that red bus, I assume. (Not me, certainly not. Really, no. Oh god, enough with the third degree). The bus and its Boys in Blue Chaddies (BBC's) worked up a thorough sweat, what with all the combustion, and the olfactory byproduct of it all came and hit my all too unsuspecting nose in a manic flourish thus also tagging itself to my earliest memory of Bangalore.
That of me vomiting many bucketfuls of all things Avarekaai on the platform under the very questioning eyes of the Bangalore populace. (Jeez, can't a kid take a puke without you getting all judgmental?)
I think I passed out soon after due to all the dehydration, or may be amma in a fit of estrogen rush said, "The poor thing, ate too much avarekaai and couldn't handle. He likes it so much means, I must make more". (Yeah, that must be it.)
To avoid the whiff of the netherworld was perhaps why I would always insist on sitting by the window, face thrown to the wind (and sometimes vomit of the Boys in Blue Chaddies sitting in seats in front of mine), hair all aflutter and eyes fixed on a distant hill that would give me the whole to-be-Vivekananda type aura. Only, they would soon shift focus and fall on things that embarrassed amma so much that she still has nightmares about it.
Now what would they be?
As a child I had an eye for details, apparently. Medical education has successfully blinded it, paradoxically enough. Now this eye for detail, and a very loud mouth coupled with an insatiable thirst to read out loud, any and every banner on the street, used to put my parents under sufficient discomfort; enough for them to contemplate slipping a sedative in my Frooti just as we entered the city.
"Liburrty shooos, Gaardunn saareees, Windsurrr Maanurr" etc they handled with practised aplomb, beaming, as a mother of a vomit-faced BBC showered admiring glances on their Little Prodigy, barely five. But I would soon drain the color on their face when I insisted, in masterful enunciation, on expounding the attractions of a certain-
"Mullikk Disss-penn-saaree - Fawr. Awl. Seks. Prawblums"
"Appaaa, seks andre Enu?"
(Appaaa, wot is seks?)
At which point the mother of the BBC would giggle uncontrollably, all passengers would look at us in anticipation of The Answer, appa would start saying the Mantra Pushpam under his breath, amma disowning her Little Prodigy would look 180 degrees away and fix gaze on the vomit-faced BBC, and the vomit-faced BBC would continue to look, well, vomit-faced. (Yeah, some things never change)
"Appaaaa, seks andre ENU?"
("Something you would not have had even when you are 21", he should have said, but my father is a nice man)
"Heyy, all nODu, Alankar Plaza! Joker nOD alli! Aamel hogaNa? Good boy."
(Hey, look there, Alankar Plaza! Look at the Clown there! Let's go there later? Good boy.")
My father has long since perfected the art of anticlimax. Our eager audience would vouch for it too, and then would let out the disgruntled clucks.
Having successfully dodged the Dispensary bomb, the parents would regain their composure and try and wake Brother S (I make him sound Jesuit) who, being the Wise One, found solace in bus journey siestas, as we neared the KSRTC bus stop. But the composure wouldn't last until long, for they always forgot that just around the corner was Sangam theater!
Now, Sangam (which is currently a mall. Thoo) was this cinema that was famous among pimple-faced people for being The Place for "A-Certificate Inglees Phillums". And it used to, like all cinemas do, have large posters. Only they showed women bearing cleavages that bared, and men and women engaged in various erotic postures, which for some reason invoked inexplicable peals of laughter in me. I thought they were funny! Amid all the laughter, I would of course proceed to read the name of the film.
"Kisss thaa misss", which would have made Udayakumari Miss so proud she would have jumped and planted a wet one on me cheek. No, she was no pedophile. Cheh. She'd just be proud of the sing-song intonation (Kisss thaa misss - crescendo, de-crescendo) that Nursery teachers strive for.
"Sek-see Lipsss. Appa, seks-u, sek-see andre mix-u, mixie tharana?"
("Sek-see Lipsss. Appa, are seks and sek-see like mix and mixie?")
"Ayyo, muchcho baai praarabdha. Dharma sankata. Haakree ondu avan baay mElE, naalaayak tandu", Amma would tell Appa expressing sheer disgust.
("Oh, shut your face you sin-of-my-past-life. What moral dilemmas you put us through! Give this useless thing one tight rap on the mouth, ree")
Not all my memories of Bangalore are restricted to embarrassed parents and projectile vomiting. There have been some memories stored in easily accessible recesses of my brain which reek nauseatingly of charmed childhood.
Like, while once traveling in the bus, one village woman (paan-stained splendour, unwashed hair, unwashed anything et al) turned to me and said "Yarecutt maaDskabaarden swami?" (Why don't you get a haircut, dude?). About which Brother S makes fun till date.
Like, discovering that mongooses are arch-enemies of the snakes. We should know, our grandmother's house was in an area called Nagarabhavi (Snakes' Well) and mongooses were actually quite common.
Like, peeing on the terrace rain-water drain holes and coming down to look for puddles and to establish that those pipes were indeed patent.
Like, riding the cousin-brother's swanky new bicycle; giving him "chance" to ride all the uphills and taking "chance" to zip down all the dizzy downhills.
Like, playing Name-Place-Animal-Thing with assortment of cousins and convincing them that Kookaburra was a cricket bat and hence a thing, not an animal.
Like, convincing them that "Shagun, yeh shagoooon, mera jeevan ka yeh shagoon" was in fact a song while playing Antakshari. (And pulling the same on bigger stages many years later)
Like, eating Masala Dosa with SO many cousins in Upaahara Darshini in Gandhi Bazaar on Sunday mornings, or better still in Vidyaarthi Bhawan!
Like, going to the Indian Institute of Science's Chemistry Department with a PhD cousin and being freaked out by the liquid Nitrogen.
Like, going to Lal Bagh and saying, "That's all?"
Like, going to MG Road and wondering if this was what "America looked like!"
Like, going to Ranganatha Theatre for Baby's Day Out and feeling happy for a week because they gave us a free book, a pencil AND a pencilbox.
Like, when in Jayanagar, gorging on fancifully titled Dosas in Dosa Camp and topping it off with a Cold Badam Milk in Arya Bhawan.
Like, watching Hum Aapke Hain Kaun in Santosh theater and falling in love with Madhuri Dixit.
Like, watching it again and falling in love with her all over again.
Like, wailing like an uprooted Mandrake at the thought of having to go back home, to small town, to no Upaahara Darshini, to no mongooses, to no Sangam theater.
(Time out: Have to stifle a cry)
Bangalore, which is what it will always be to me - UR Anantamurthy may go eat excrement, has changed with me and has watched me change.
It has acquired taller buildings and North Indian oye-yaar-vot-ijeet dumbfucks and moon-sized potholes; and I have acquired longer hair and zit and cynicism.
It has lost its sleepy idyllic charm and its MG Road Boulevard; and I, have lost weight and, er, nothing else besides. (DAMN)
But the equation between the two of us shall remain the same, and unquestionably so. That of it tolerating me, and me it, potholes and oye-yaar notwithstanding.
I thought I would end with a pragmatic quote by the likes of a Proust or a Dickens highlighting the tale of my city. But they all cold-shoulder me currently. However this one doesn't.
Here I am, this is me.
There's nowhere else on Earth I'd rather be.
Ah, poetry. Applause, applause.
My dear Bangalore, you may get your Metro (Mattro, for the vot-ijeet crowd) and the Dilli maals and malls; and try and alienate yourself from me.
But always remember, that wherever I may go or choose to live, if there's one place I will always call home, it is you.
Bangalore, Beloved town of Boiled Beans, you will always be special.
(Malik Dispensary included.)