Wednesday, November 02, 2005
Have you ever known a city the way you know your own backyard? Have you roamed her streets and by-lanes endlessly until you merged into the flow of life in her veins? Have you dissolved into a city's soul – taking her colors, speaking her tongues, emanating her odors? And at the end of it all, has she brushed you aside with a sweep of her left hand, as her march unto the future meticulously dismantled all that you have known and loved in her? Last week in Bangalore, I met such a man – a man eternally in love with a city that will never exist again!I stepped out of Mississippi when I was ten years old
It started with a long auto-rickshaw ride from Infantry Road to Bannerghatta Road – a nerve-wracking crawl through Bangalore's infamous evening traffic made worse by the stops I had to make on the way. I am a pathetic bargainer when it comes to auto-rickshaws and pavement vendors. First, I never seem to remember the right auto fare or know the right price (The former predicament comes from having spent two years in Chennai where there is no such thing as "the right auto-fare"). Secondly, I feel a wee bit guilty about bargaining for "exact meter fare only" while wearing an MRP-1200/- jean that probably cost the inheritors of old Mr. Levi Strauss' estate around Rs.300/-. So, I try to look for the "worthiest" recipient of my foolish benevolence – a pretty subjective evaluation in which driver's age, demeanor and aversion to tobacco play important roles. This way, my silly bourgeoisie head manages to convince itself that every ride that I am taken for is a quasi-noble act.
Quite a prelude but that's how I decided to take Mr.R's auto-rickshaw. He was the oldest guy in the stand and he nodded silently when I told he about the stops midway. Given that a ride through Bangalore's heart involves more waiting than driving, it wasn't long before we struck a conversation. R has been riding an auto through the city's roads and alleys for all of forty-five years! Forty-five years!!! Why, when he got started, Big Bad Bill Gates was a mere twelve-year old. He spoke a lot. He spoke in a voice choking with emotion and the strain of having to earn his own living at seventy. He told me how he knew the city so well – its gardens, its easy pace of life and its balmy weather. He told me how a round-trip around the then city-center used to take a mere thirty minutes and how he used to be a regular at the home of a certain politician who preferred autos to cars. And then he talked about how everything changed.
Now, the city is changing way too fast for him. He doesn't know the popular landmarks that I used to give directions – the towering new apartment complexes and shopping malls. He is quick to explain - it's not like he doesn't know them, just that he knows them a bit differently. He is relieved when I agree that we can figure out our way as we go. He tells me most others don't wait to explain if he is a bit doubtful. He says, "I would take them home safe and sound if only they would trust me." He says it without bitterness – almost with the fond yearning of a grandfather wishing his grandchildren would spend more time with him to learn his kite-flying and top-spinning tricks. But no, today the games have changed as much as the players. The landmarks that marked his Bangalore are being quickly effaced by the flag-bearers of the city's recent construction boom. While he still manages to gracefully negotiate traffic and make sense of the myriad one-ways, he is an outsider in the city defined by young, new Bangaloreans.
I wonder how things could have turned out so different for him. How he could have retired as the proud controller of his turf – someone to whom young drivers looked up - someone who knew it all. But now, here he was – struggling to cope with all the learning and unlearning that is indispensable in his profession in a fast-changing city like Bangalore. May be, it's just the inherent romantic in me… May be, it is a hangover from "Remains of the Day" which I read recently… Somehow, on that rain-fresh evening, he reminds me of a number of strange historic precedents… Of ancient conquests of one kingdom by another still continuing in subtler forms... Of Mughal emperors dying by lonely windows, gazing sadly into their glorious past… Of the Spanish Moor and how he "cried like a woman for what he couldn't defend like a man." And then I think of how some kings and moors fight on… How they defend their kingdoms and fight till the very last… How they live and die as kings no matter how the forces that be distort and shrink their dominions.
I get off near Shopper's Stop and tip him liberally. I tell him it had been a privilege to have ridden with him. And I indeed feel proud – somewhere inside that seventy-year old man struggling to stay afloat in the madness was a proud monarch who just wouldn't let go. As Eric Clapton & BB King would put it, I was riding with the king…!
With a suit cut sharp as a razor and a heart made of gold
I had a guitar hanging just about waist high
And I'm gonna play this thing until the day I die
Don't you know we're ridin' with king
Don't you know we're ridin' with king
March 3, 2008 11:02 PM PST
hey, lovely post.
That really is the sad part - the old time auto drivers who really care about the city and its people too get slandered these days, when the bad behaviour of auto drivers has become a norm :(
November 25, 2005 09:24 AM PST
Thanx da :)
November 24, 2005 09:24 PM PST
The writing is amazing.Beautiful.
November 24, 2005 04:51 PM PST
WOW!!!! Welcome back bud... :) :D :)
November 24, 2005 04:49 PM PST
Am sorely out of touch with most good things in life...More than work, it is the hotel stay that is getting to me...
Will write soon... :)
November 24, 2005 04:47 PM PST
Haikus... hmmm .... gotta search coz I don't have my PCs here... Will send as soon as I can
November 23, 2005 02:44 PM PST
we seem to be miserably out of touch :) how about writing to me sometime at firstname.lastname@example.org?
November 20, 2005 06:59 AM PST
hey ol' man atticus
time passes way too fast out here in the backwaters. and as i wait impatiently for your new post, the realisation keeps growing on me that i too shall be on the other side of the corporate fence in a time not too far in the future.
u know me enough to realise how depressing that realisation can be. send over a few haikus, i'll be waiting at adityab2006@...
and while you are at it, post something new.
November 17, 2005 06:39 PM PST
Welcome to this space bud!!!
And yeah, Mumbai rocks in many ways... Not the least coz I stay 112 seconds away from Marine Drive :D
November 17, 2005 03:27 PM PST
hey Pal ! B'lore sure has changed in the 5 years i have been here. Mumbai is much better planned as Uwill find out. At least U can rely on teh local transport there. Any dont worry no bargaining wiht teh Auto and Taxi buggers - just call Pandu havaldar is he does not put teh meter.
November 15, 2005 09:42 AM PST
C'mon now mate... Things can't be that robotic when you are selling chocolates... Waise bhi, you were always technologically inclined :p ;)
PS: Number remains the same... Might have been traveling... In Mumbai now
November 15, 2005 09:41 AM PST
@U no Hu :
Hmmm.... in another week :)
November 14, 2005 11:42 AM PST
Nice to find there still exist humans amongst this maddening population of robots......
Where are you thesedays? Tried calling you, but couldn't get through..
|You know who |
November 12, 2005 07:22 PM PST
Posttttttttttttttttt plzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz plzzzzzzzzzzz
Bear asking :P
November 11, 2005 05:44 PM PST
Thanx buddy :)
Sadly, I have shifted from Bangalore to Mumbai... But then, there's always this e-medium for friendship :)
Keep dropping by
November 11, 2005 04:53 PM PST
Nice blog and interested story. I just moved in bangalore, maybe we can be friends...cheers..
November 10, 2005 06:14 PM PST
Thanxalot buddy :)
November 10, 2005 02:26 PM PST
Reading your blog was like surfing the edge of a wave, smooth and sublime. You have used the language very well to make it do what you wanted it to. Keep writing.
November 9, 2005 10:04 AM PST
Thanx buddy :)
November 9, 2005 10:03 AM PST
Been travelling a lot in the past month... Must have been unreachable... Will call this weekend :)
November 9, 2005 08:48 AM PST
beautifully written atticus..
November 8, 2005 08:04 PM PST
really nice post...enjoyed it a lot...keep writing whenever you find time
tried calling you several times last months.could you give me a call when you are free.
November 8, 2005 10:19 AM PST
Hullo! How are things?
Hmmm... I indeed must write more often :):) Sadly, my hotel room is too impersonal and depressing to write in :(
PS: Wow, that's a NEW excuse ;)
November 8, 2005 10:16 AM PST
And it is indeed touching to see a old man earn his living... But it does have an element of dignity in it.
November 8, 2005 10:06 AM PST
All bookmarks messed up after my move to Mumbai.... Noted URL... Will drop by today
November 7, 2005 12:11 PM PST
Beautifully written, Atticus! You must write more often! :)
November 5, 2005 02:42 AM PST
have you seen old car drivers?It moves my heart everytime I see an old man earn for his living.
November 4, 2005 08:28 PM PST
nope, not stopped :) leaving the url over here. au revoir~
November 4, 2005 12:43 PM PST
Guess the world's becoming an increasingly small and similar place... Even Mumbai's usually ethical taxiwallas seem to have taken lessons from down south :(
November 4, 2005 12:42 PM PST
Hmmm.... Even I miss the Bangalore I used to visit a mere 6 to 7 years back... 25 years... a lot must have changed....
November 4, 2005 12:40 PM PST
Thanx buddy... and welcome to this space
November 4, 2005 12:33 PM PST
November 4, 2005 12:30 PM PST
Thanx... Have you stopped blogging? Do send the new URL if you have shifted...
November 4, 2005 12:13 PM PST
And Salaam to him and his like :)
November 4, 2005 12:10 PM PST
@You Know Who:
:) Will refer to comment every day and try to follow instructions
|The Bat |
November 3, 2005 05:20 PM PST
Autos? In B'lore? As bad as they are in chennai.. the meters are as badly doctored as the mouths of the chennai auto drivers..
But then again, old b'lore-ans are just adorable.. for that matter any guy who likes his city.. for his city is him and he's the city..
the banagalore walla? check him out on the net
November 3, 2005 09:33 AM PST
Beautifully written! I can feel it through and through, being a Bangalorean having lived here all my life (25 + years).... I can feel the sorrow of the auto driver.
November 2, 2005 09:18 PM PST
November 2, 2005 08:29 PM PST
u r a virtuoso where words are concerned :) needless to say, beautiful :) thanks for the mail and the wishes. i hope the world is treating u well. au revoir!
November 2, 2005 08:16 PM PST
This is a beautiful post - so well written...
November 2, 2005 08:15 PM PST
This is a beautiful post - so well written and such passion! Salaam to the auto-driver sa'ab.
|You know who... |
November 2, 2005 04:17 PM PST
Now you know why ...:):):)
Tata...Go home early