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Archive for March, 2008

Memories, experience, the city and change

March 12th, 2008

It was an interesting ride across most parts of the city on that Sunday. Actually, there were multiple rides …

We first traveled from Shanthinagar towards Malleshwaram, that serene part of Bangalore where vegetarians and Kiran Rao’s parents abound. The work for the new airport at Devanahalli is proceeding at a quicker pace. Along our way, we noticed roads being done up, preparations for installing more magic boxes, traffic lights being taken off and the roads being widened – all of this for a smooth transition to the new airport. We noticed that at some places, the widening of the roads was appearing to transform the entire landscape of the area. The boundaries of the golf course were being altered. It seemed like the trees would go in the process of road widening. It is at moments like these when most of feel lament about the city being lost and gone.

Then, that evening, we went to Cubbon Park and it was choc-a-bloc full! All kinds of people were there, with parents, children and family. Cubbon Park somehow seemed to be that experience which I would enjoy in the hanging gardens in Bombay. The park was rife with activity – joyrides, eats, drinks, noise, festivity, play, laughter, cackling, you name it! The atmosphere in Cubbon Park seemed like Bangalore was not gone anywhere, that the city was still very much there!

The two very opposite experiences in a day forces me to think about change and the city. What is it about the city that changes? How does change impact city? What are the details of this change? How do we understand the changes that are taking place in cities? How do we adapt to these changes?

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Some random thoughts. (Some not so random …)

March 8th, 2008

Heaviness.

Weighs down.

Sigh.

Burdensome.

Weighs down.

But I bear,

Bear it all,

Willingly,

Trying to un-will.

Comfort.

I bear it all.

Distance,

From a stranger close by.

Distance,

From a known person who is close, yet far away.

Distance,

I bear it all.

Burdensome.

Heaviness.

On the same bed.

Within a distance of few inches.

Yet, distance.

Distancing.

Burdening.

Distanciated.

Liberating.

Distance,

Heaviness.

Burdensome.

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Strangers. Cacophony. Crowds. Making sense. Making space. Making place …

March 7th, 2008

Today started off as a mediocre day. But I have to post and therefore, here is the attempt (while listening to Art Company’s Suzanna, I’m crazy lovin’ you!).

So we were all waiting at the K. H. Road bus stop, waiting for our respective buses to arrive, so that we could reach our respective destinations. The 360 series buses were plenty. Two women at the bus stop were speaking in Kannada. Seemed like working women, belonging to middle working classes. I was watching them and assessing my own condition of immobility. These days, I have been largely at home, trying hopelessly to get somewhere with the Ph.D. The feeling of immobility strikes in these times when even with the desire of wanting to go out somewhere, I am unable to get myself to move. So here are these women, who are mobile everyday, who get out into the city to reach their places of work. Are they also immobile despite their ability and compulsion to move every single day? Are they mobile and simultaneously immobile, both conditions produced by routine? What kind of comforts does routine provide us? What securities does routine grant us? I found it interesting that I encounter these random strangers on the bus stop, for a few minutes, in that moment of all of us waiting for buses, and then I start trying to understand my situation vis-a-vis their situation. How often does that happen to all of us?

So here are these two women, waiting at the bus, for buses to arrive. They seem middle-class, workingwomen. Perhaps Bangloreans for a long time. And the buses that arrive are of the 360 series. All these buses are bound for Electronic City. One of the two of the women complains, “what is this? all these buses going to Electronics City? It is holiday season. Therefore there are fewer buses for our destination in the evenings.” Her irritation appeared as a matter of fact, as a matter of acceptance that work patterns and therefore routines in Bangalore have changed and some crowds will be serviced more than others owing to the economic changes in this city. I am entirely unsure if she was complaining of the distinction between IT and non-IT crowds, that distinction which is being emphasized off late in order to comprehend the pathologies of this city. Would it make a difference to our cognition of the city and its conditions if we view IT as just another economy? What is this IT imaginary? Why does it have to feature in our attempt to make sense of this city, its cacophony, its, spatiality and the place?

So here we are, the two workingwomen and myself (in addition to the others), waiting for our buses to arrive. Mine comes and I wonder if it is their’s too. But I could not bother to see. I got into number 13. I don’t know what became of those two women. But for that moment of waiting for the bus, I ended up entering their lives and achieving that moment of solidarity with them, sharing the same irritations (including the idiocy of a bus driver honking to glory at the bus before him, knowing fully well that there are passengers getting into that bus and there is no space on the road to maneuver).

Inside the bus was another world, another space. A woman conductor keen to ensure that all passengers had purchased tickets. The bus was jam packed. Two Muslim women were sitting in the absolute front seat. A blind man got into the bus and stood near the absolute front seat. The Muslim women were being persuaded to give up one of their seats for the blind man. The Muslim women fought back stating that the blind man should not have gotten into the ladies section. The blind man was blind to all this cacophony. He managed to make place to stand in a manner where he would face least hindrance and disturbance. The others continued the for and against argument for him. He had made his place.

After a point, I had also managed to make my place in the crowd. The bus got more crowded and then it became emptier. Women continued to stand at the door, out of a sense of insecurity that moving inside would mean locking themselves up with each other into a crowd and then making it impossible for themselves to get out when their stop arrives. That insecurity was also compelling me to stand near the door. But I could not afford to hold on there.

At Siddhapura, a woman entered the bus with her baby boy in one arm and her daughter by her side. The daughter must have been about 4 years old. The woman was trying to make her place. I felt very sorry for her, given the baby in her arms, the crowd in the bus and how was she managing to hold on despite all this madness? Her little girl stood in the middle. My stop was arriving. The conductor was right there. I asked the conductor to move so that I could get off. The conductor kept telling everyone, “swalpa jaaga kodi” but that was not making any difference. The crowds continued to stick there. I had to get off! I tried hard to manage my way without harming the little girl. Eventually, I had no choice but to crush her to make my way out. And then I had to shout at the women at the door to get off the bus so that I could get off.

I did not feel bad about crushing the girl after a point. This is not a survival in the city kind of narrative. It is just acknowledgment of the conditions that we live in from time to time. At some times, we enter into the lives of absolute strangers to feel some ground in the city. We enter their lives without their permission, through our minds and imaginations. And then, at some times, we navigate in aggressive and violent ways in order to make our own spaces. Sometimes we just end up making space, unknowingly

(And there is no end to this post)

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Stock taking …

March 4th, 2008

So I cannot recollect what triggered this, but as the auto was passing below the double road flyover, I suddenly felt that I had accomplished a good deal in my life.

Yes, I have not written the book that I was supposed to write.

I have not touched my guitar in years inspite of promising myself that I will be a sexy rock singer.

Yes, I have not even started working towards the restaurant that I was supposed to open.

I have not become the dancer that I have always imagined myself to be.

I have not written those stories of films that I thought I would produce.

I have not been drawing from the right side of my brain.

But come to think of it,

I have loved the people I have wanted to.

I have loved those people who I thought I would not.

Some troubled relationships have been worked out (mostly by themselves).

I know how to play chords A, G and D on the guitar and can sing happy birthday!

I can write to please myself.

I can write to please others.

I can cook.

I can be happy.

I have traveled through places, to people, away from people, towards myself, away from myself.

I have managed to retain friendships.

I have started giving up friendships.

I have moved away from home and by doing this, I have moved closer to home.

I have taught,

I have learnt.

I have created memories.

I have lost memories.

I have immemorialized myself.

I  have hoped.

I have given hope.

Now what?

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Of the adventures of the adventure called Life!

March 3rd, 2008

So it was just Saturday.

One of those Saturdays, when there was to be a party in the evening.

And it also happened to be one of those Saturdays when I peeked back into my past.

To come alive in the present …

M had come down from Bangladesh. Those times that I spent in Bangladesh, nearly 4 years ago, were the happiest times of my life. It was a life of risk, of fun, of cheap living, of enjoying each day that passed through as mundane an activity as cleaning the house!

I was living in Khulna, a small student town in Bangladesh, close to the Indian border. It was a time of my life when I was beginning to make some firm decisions and life was also leading me in that kind of flow. It was also a moment of learning, of learning by making severe errors. And it was a time when words just flowed by me, as if they were me, as if I was them.

M was known as Captain because he was the captain of the university. He was Big Brother. His cockroach eyes would want to peer at everyone, through everyone. And he was an absolutely voracious eater. And he would make me laugh to the extent that onlookers would wonder if something were wrong with me! For M, I was an out of the world creature, different from other girls in the university, one adventure freak! I had been to the Bangladesh road border with a visa by air only to be returned back to India and condemned to flying the next day on a 20 minute flight from Kolkatta to Dhaka!

Those were the days of my life, my life which was rife with adventure. Each moment was beautifully, painfully and anxiously unsettling. Today, I find myself relatively settled, but this settlement is itself unsettling. Even when I am moving from home to other places, it is an unsettling feeling because a certain adventure, a certain joy, is missing. It seems that having become professional, I have lost the adventure of life. But then, have I? …

M also seems settled. I wonder whether he feels unsettled in his settled state. Or perhaps, he has no time to think about this. Sitting in the hotel lobby, we were inquiring about each other’s friends, where they were, how they were. M tells me, “why is it that all of did not keep in touch once we left university? Detachment … psychology of detachment! You should study it!” But then, whoever said that I was detached? I am still very attached with those memories, with those times. I loved them and I still love them. They give me hope, the hope that the adventure of life has not gone, that this is one more phase, one more adventure. So what if it does not appear thrilling, it is still an adventure. It is still a state that I have never experienced before and I will not experience the same things again.

I am ready to be unsettled …

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