Associations inevitably come into being aided by memories. And years later when the memories have no co-relation to the present the association still sticks, perhaps this is what constitutes nostalgia. Like or dislike for a place can stem in various ways. Some places have a romantic air about them that lend them a quality of Shangri-La. Some have an oppressive and foul name attached to them, like a malignant canker. The former and latter are talked often talked about leading us to attach epithets to those places. Some places are famous because of some natural attraction, or political importance. And there are some places that exist only on maps nestled along treacherous contours or nested unluckily in between page folds or margins; places that are just meaningless dots on a railroad.
For someone who is in the lesser twenties, talking about any earlier era seems redundant, even if the ensuing decades are littered with major changes. Even if I am a child of the new age, googling away to glory and crippled without wikipedia I cannot but look at the nineties with a simple longing. And my memories of the India I saw and experienced then threaten to go away to that wispy place where all memories eventually go to. The more I remember, the more I hazy it seems until the past and present merge into a continuum. So cutting a long thread short, my associations with places date mainly from the nineties. Chennai was the sunrise, temples and strains of MSS’s suprabhatam. Kolkata was a thirty six hour train ride on the Geetanjali and the fervent bleats of a goat before it splotched in blood, Mumbai was Bollywood and gangsters and Bangalore was for retired people.
Today’s Bangalore contrasts with my minds Bangalore with a violent clash amidst honks of incessant traffic. For a wide eyed kid taking in notes furiously ( yes yours truly scribbled in notebooks while travelling, made lists of stations encountered and described landscapes ), Bangalore was confusing even then. Was it a small city? Was it a large town? How could it be a city if it had such gorgeous weather ? I remember standing with my mouth wide open at the Visveswaraiyya technological museum, especially at a display showing a continuum machine with balls running though it. My mouth remained open as I awed at Kids Kemp, and stubbornly refused to close strolling along M G road with its book shops and old fashioned coffee houses and a tree lined pavement, Brigade road with all its ‘modern’ shopping and Ulsoor which suddenly seemed like a suburb of Chennai (I know I’m ruffling feathers here 😛 ). When the train pulled out of Cantt station, I silently prayed we got transferred and could live there. A recent trip to the city also had me agape, at the airport first, then at MG road where trees were furiously being hacked, but as India moves so must old sensibilities.
I wish this wizened twenty something could visit the Bangalore of the nineties again, but don’t we all want to relive the past?
PS: Happy birthday, to a pesky Banglorean.