What do you call those things on a puff? Those light flaky things that you bite into with the softest of crunches. Little crispy flakes that stay on your tongue, and melt into moistness. I’d call them eggwash, but puff droppings sounds more apt. This evening I left a trail of puff droppings across neighbourhoods, in buses and for a brief moment, on a cow. Not that I cared, mind you.
A city must be explored and experienced only by foot. Not by autos, or worse cars, but by buses and trains and all kinds of walks. Slow leisurely ones, fast snappy walks, walks dictated by traffic signals, weary walks at the end of a long day, distracted walks at other times. Whenever I explore a city, I walk. This puts a limitation on the amount of sightseeing I can do, but then travel is one of those pleasures that does unfold slowly. The destination is the journey, travel unravels it. The enjoyment of travel is in merely roaming about taking in the sights of a place, taking it all in until the sights click, whir and fall neatly into a collage of experiences. In the end it is these images that talk of the city, the not so oft seen images of people and places. Roads beckon and buses and trains reach out to far corners, pulling the traveler deeper into an inexplicable maze. Except that this maze never ends; there is no escape. Nor do I seek one.
Walking around Bangalore these past few months; I have finally reached the stage where I must write it all out, for I fear memory will not prove enough to hold everything with accuracy. I have taken crowded buses across the city, walked under the metro lines, walked along bus routes, stood at bus depots observing all the buses come and go. I have walked for miles only to come back to the same place, I have walked mindlessly, getting lost. At times I have walked with the evening sun casting its mellow rays through trees, with the slightest of Bangalore breezes coolly wafting. At other times, I have walked with the moon just within sight, like a low-hanging fruit. And still at other times, I have walked with the certain knowledge, reaching just the road I expected, the locality I wanted to. It is a very different pleasure, this finding of the apt place knowingly, yet unknowingly.
Coming back to those mystery puffs, they were a well deserved treat. Today evening I literally walked into the sunset. Westward bound from my office onto small streets lined with trees and houses. Some houses old, square with trees in the courtyard, old wooden swings lightly creaking in the wind. Some modern ones, with strange angles and frosted glass windows; some monstrosities, pink and orange with several floors, taking up every inch of their allocated plot. This theme seemed to continue almost endlessly only broken occasionally by large roads, where traffic vroomed angrily. Up, up above, the concrete line of the metro kept snaking its way across. I passed small parks, full of screaming children inside. I passed larger parks with weary drivers waiting outside. The new Bangalore must keep up appearances now and this it does by having almost every other road dug up. Underpasses, flyovers and other very modern contraptions clutter the city. Roads rise up and curve gracefully, other roads pass under the leftover space, still others move sedately underneath the chaos. City buses thundered across mindless to my quest, unknown bus numbers honking gloriously, trying to beat rush hour traffic.
Meanwhile I had left behind the stately houses and moved on to smaller plots, narrower streets. The trees miraculously still stood around. But the show stealers were still the houses. From another era. I would bet anything they had red oxide floors and wide, huge bathrooms with lizards scurrying about in them. The whole street seemed to be stolen from some elaborate movie set. The sun shone exactly through the trees onto the front yards, it shone through the gaps in the grilles on the houses, forming patterns on the street. Large groups of old people busied about the streets, kids ran helter-skelter and the only automobiles in view were parked ones. Some more leisurely ambling and I found myself outside “Brahmin Bakery”. It was a typical Indian shop, small and crammed with baked goodies. And it was crowded, probably the best measure of its popularity. Inside, small boys busied about arranging tins of sweet breads, cakes, rusks and pastries. An ancient oven heated ‘today’s special’; “capsicum puff”. Which is how I found myself with two of those capsicum beauties. I also packed a pastry and went off, eating all the while. I walked a lot more but I don’t remember much. I was busy stuffing myself, licking my fingers, licking my lips, brushing off pastry icing and puff dust. I walked right into the midst of a traffic jam caused by a peeing cow, and walked across a park full of old ladies laughing strenuously. Just as darkness was beginning to fall, I finished my treats and my bus came up there billowing smoke, the conductor exhorting people to move quickly. On some days, everything falls into place. On some other days things go notoriously wrong, but the pleasure of travel still lingers in the air. Calling out softly.
PS: This is a true account of a walk, from Jayanagar to Basavanagudi to Gandhi bazaar. The unmentioned parts of the walk are so because I was busy stuffing my face.