Sweat The Small Stuff
For one week every month, I become an accidental Bangalorean. I was still a minor when my mother died, and my uncle, a lawyer in Bangalore—a city that I had visited five or six times until then—invested my inheritance in a property in Mattikere. And so, for nearly a decade, to clean this big flat that is said to be mine, to pay its electricity bills and maintenance charges, to shake hands with people who still call me “Mr Holla” (my uncle’s name), I have been coming to Bangalore. I find that this is not such an uncommon experience. The flight from Mumbai—where I spend the other three weeks of the month—is full of real-estate developers, who also become Bangaloreans for a few days each month. One of them, who remembers the city from the days when HAL employees were the only ones buying new flats in Indiranagar, tells me he now hates everything in Bangalore, even its famously cool climate. Mumbai, which makes him sweat out his sinus and tonsilitis troubles, which does not have Bangalore’s pollen problem, is a more salubrious city for him. So why is he flying here so often? “I’m in real estate,” he says, as though that were self-explanatory. Everyone in his business is swooping down on Bangalore to see if there is anything left to seize and sell. He even has a tip for me: the land registration office in Devanahalli is the least corrupt and most efficient one.
Message In A Bottle
An Anglo-Indian mining executive from Calcutta once told me he had never seen any place in the world where people drink like they drink in Bangalore. At eight in the morning, all around Majestic, the city’s main bus-stop, men are sipping rum in bars that have flimsy green curtains for doors. A swear word in Kannada or Tamil—the sound of bone hitting bone—and someone comes spinning through the green curtain. It is the same situation every evening, when I walk along the Outer Ring road, stopping at dirty, crowded little bars called Sampige or Mallige, where men are drinking as I have never seen them drink in Mumbai. Karnataka, which acted with such boldness when confronted by AIDS, is responding with Victorian clumsiness to a greater threat. The city is full of posters of a stern Mahatma Gandhi saying, in giant Kannada letters: “Do not drink.” Other than putting up bullying posters, what is the state government doing to deal with working-class alcoholism, I ask a social worker. Nothing, she says. “These men don’t deserve our sympathy, because they beat their wives.” “All of them?” I ask. “All,” she replies, with complete confidence.
Taxi Cab Confidential
Bangalore, not Mumbai, is cinema city for me. In the morning, I took the bus to Cottonpet to watch an old Sivaji Ganesan film at the all-Tamil theatre there. Now, I am being driven to Marathahalli to see Agent Vinod. Ramesh, my regular taxi-driver, is taking me there with some reluctance, since he wants me to go see Prasad, a new Kannada film, instead. Over the past year, Ramesh and I have been going across the state, as part of my plan to visit all the districts of Karnataka (we have done the entire state up to Shimoga; we’ll be going north later in the year). Either through the gossip he picks up in his taxi-driving job, or through his conscientious reading of the tabloid Hi Bengaluru, Ramesh is a treasury of outrageous information about the city’s famous residents. Today, we are discussing state politics: will Yediyurappa return to the chief minister’s chair, kicking out the incumbent, Sadananda Gowda? I am rooting for Sadananda because he is from South Canara, where I grew up. Ramesh is also rooting for Sadananda, because they are both members of the Vokkaliga caste.
Everything that is wrong with Karnataka is present right here, in this taxi.
I am at my favourite book store in the city, Ankita Pustaka in Basavanagudi, to buy this year’s hottest Kannada novel: Gopalakrishna Pai’s Swapna Saraswat, the story of the migration of the Saraswat community from Goa after the Portuguese invasion. The first few pages are intriguing. Across the road is Vidyarthi Bhavan, the famous tiffin place, where a portrait of my grandfather hangs. I am about to go there with a copy of Pai’s novel (which is being translated into English), when the lady at the counter tells me that U.R. Ananthamurthy is visiting next week to autograph his new book, a collection of critical essays. Why don’t I come back to meet the great writer? I would love to—but by then, I will be an accidental Mumbaikar.
There was a rumour at the Forum mall that Chetan Bhagat was visiting. The women shoppers grew so excited that I knew I had no chance of meeting him, and left.
Former Time journalist Aravind Adiga is the Booker Prize-winning author of The White Tiger
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