Castles in the air - they are so easy to take refuge in. And so easy to build, too.

आम्हां घरी धन शब्दांचीच रत्नें | शब्दांचीच शस्त्रें यत्न करुं ||
शब्द चि आमुच्या जीवांचे जीवन | शब्दें वांटूं धन जनलोकां ||
तुका म्हणे पाहा शब्द चि हा देव | शब्द चि गौरव पूजा करुं ||
- abhang of Tukaram Wolhoba Ambile of Dehu

There's No Freedom Like That of a Child's Imagination

கடலுக்கு உண்டு கற்பனைக்கு இல்லை கட்டுப்பாடு

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Rambling to Bangalore

I've reached Bangalore. Safe and in one piece, after a journey in a private Volvo. How was the journey like? Could have been boring, but then I have a way of making things interest me.

There is the scenery outside the window. The Mumbai-Pune expressway, and then the great Golden Quadrilateral road to Bangalore. The scenery of the landscape improves going down south, from the industrial wasteland outside Mumbai to the greener and greener Deccan, with its very South Indian palms, ricefields and buffaloes. You know you're in south India when the main road is a smooth polished highway, the towns are spread out with low-rise well-spaced housing, and the town roads are nothing more than sand.


Red pillars in white compound walls; pigs, goats, donkeys and cattle grazing on the occasional patches of bramble and grass; temple towers; men in mundus; tea-shops selling filter coffee and idlis - welcome to the South.

Comment #1. As the landscape improves going south, the faces get decidedly ugly. Undoubtedly, South Indian men are the most terrible to look at, with dark, pouchy faces, luxuriant moustaches, thick hair and a menacing glance. Add a cigarette, and a moped, and you get a dangerous looking (but really harmless) fellow. Compare these to the facial scenes in Mumbai, all with four-pack abs, designer wear, the works. Ah, but they've got money. South Indian women are of course, a different matter.

So that's with the scenery. Next thing in a journey is food. Well, Private tour operators stop at their favourite dhabas - in the middle of nowhere, at unearthly hours. If you're adventurous by stomach, by all means eat the masala dosa, idli, wada, puri and whatnot they serve. Dubious, but delicious. If you're not, stick to what I did. There is a good Mafco stall near Crawford Market, Mumbai, where the buses depart from. You get good sandwiches there, so stock up, and you'll be happy. Water is as variable as anything in India, so the same advice as above applies.


Now, people go in Volvo buses becuase of two things - the A/C, which the junta likes, and the video, which the bus operator thinks that the junta likes. Well, we'd like those movies if they didn't hurt your eardrums (which they do), and if they didn't go on and on into the middle of the middle of the night (which also they do). What I didn't tell you was the main reason people travel by Volvo bus - it is a genuinely bump-free ride. Perhaps the credit should go to our deposed prime minister for building bump-free highways in the first place, but that is now history. People do not do right things anymore. They do them left.

So on to the movies. Aashiq Banaya Aapne from Mumbai to Pune. Cute hero. Sonu Sood that is. Carried off the dangerous loser bit quite well. You can forget the rest. Our desi Brad Pitt isn't getting anywhere. Wonder why it got an 'adult' tag in the first place. Perhaps because of our Brad Pitt wannabe.

After Pune, No Entry. (This is the only way you'll get me to such movies - put me on a Volvo to Bangalore, which I foresee rather frequently in the future). It sucks big time. Anil Kapoor plays a role which should come naturally to him - the awkward regular guy, but the rest is, er, shall we turn the page? The suicide-for-Champa bit was good too, but imagine it in better hands. And then it gets late, and they shut the TV, so that's another in my long (and unwanted) list of movies incomplete. Morning time, James. Cute Jat - Mohit Ahlawat. Anyway, this too is incomplete.

Comment #2. They should catch these fellows and send them as ambassadors of our country abroad. Not some superannuated bureaucrats and minor politicians. Show a handsome face, seduce some women that count (like White House interns), and get our National Interest served. Why waste these men in movies where they cannot and do not act?

Breakfast. Somewhere in Karnataka. Wada that is good (Kannadigas know to make good wada), coffee that is also good (I had two cups), and riot idlis. When an idli is bad, and hard, it is called that name because it can be used to break bus windows in a South Indian riot. Keep some ready if your favourite superstar's picture is releasing, and if you want your university exams postponed to watch it first day first show (and the next ninety-nine days afterwards).

Comment #3. Speak to the guy in rich earthy Kannada, and he'll bring you the best stock of food that he has, otherwise stored away for personal consumption. Else prepared to eat whatever he puts in front of, along with a turbid glass of hard water, chipped crockery and spoons that are visibly unwashed.

Reach Bangalore. Rickshaw-fight (that's mandatory in the south). Rest and digest. Begin a new story.

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