Monday, 26 June 2017
A city, lost.
Published today in Bangalore Mirror as, 'A paradise lost, forever '.
Barely a few yards out of a blissful, tree-canopied avenue with golf greens to my right and heavily guarded colonial buildings to my left, the cacophony of traffic violently shakes me from my happy place, launching me into my aggro-best to combat the arrogance of a dark-tinted monster-vehicle bullying its way into my lane already compromised by a police barricade. Everyone is rushing and not one will spare a second to give way to, well, save time! As for space, it costs an arm and vital organs these days, so, no one spares that either. My paradise city is a paradise no more. It’s a maniacal metro like any other, where ‘twitter’ is but a forty-character virtuality.
I repossess my lane and drive into an underpass cloistered between tall glassy towers jeering through suffocating tree-tops jostling to be seen amidst big name boards and bigger walls. Mindless human avarice has usurped the last stretch of blue skies, and along with it, an inherent calm that set this city apart. The garden city now sprouts but concrete and metal into that horizon which once sported sunrises and retreating birds. Where have all our sparrows gone?!
Bangalore itself is a stifled soul, haunted by its own roguish development and thoughtless scale.
This city kept its denizens free and grounded. It was aspirational in as much as it could dignify and shrugged away what wore it down. Its resilience evoked awe. Bangaloreans read and took time to converse. They revelled in its unique contrasts. They had no point to prove. Our thinkers now retreat in nooks of a graceful past. Or in tech-corridors and lit-fests.
If there ever were a thesaurus of cities, Bangalore’s synonyms would list: calm, composed, sensitive; distinguished, nonchalant; pleasant, welcoming; self-sufficient; culturally astute, emotionally evolved, non-confrontational; aspirational, intellectual, well-read. Colloq: a keeper. We wore it all, like a prestigious brand. Today, Bangalore is a keeper still, but glosses over fine print. Like a common contractor.
Too common. Maybe that’s why, unless suffixed with ‘sense’ and ‘good’, I detest ‘common’. And as this piece is about my long-lost paradise city, I urge you, dear reader, to treat the form, spirit and force that guides ‘common’ with as much contempt as I do because Bangalore was never ‘common’. ‘Common’ has cost us dearly.
I would have stopped here if not for the unmistakable coo of a koel! In the thick of my concrete jungle beside a hell-raising highway of humans in urgent pursuit of daily hell, he calls melodiously. I don’t see him but a rare spectrum of reds glowers in the twilight. He coos again … the light drizzle setting a perfect tone. It’s a miracle.
Along a bare road-side of urbanisation, we had planted some saplings last June. We hoped the trees would detox the air and bring back our butterflies. Many saplings died but, maybe, the city acknowledges our amends.
It’s June again. The mornings are chilly and there is a haze through the day. Every day. Temperatures swing in the twenties and you can ‘smell’ new rains coming in from mountains off South. It’s the monsoons. On time. Like they used to be, once upon a time, a long time ago.
The koel returned. Maybe, Bangalore will too.