Fastforward NEWStalgia

A rain-kissed morning.  As the sun winked over the shoulders of speeding clouds., school  was inescapable and life, therefore,  intolerable  Sailing down Seventh Cross came  “five-star”  tarkari guy on his bicycle,  his lusty hawking of “carrot! beans! alugadde, cabbage , seemay badnekai…………..! announcing the arrival of the only vegetable-shop-on-wheels  who ever came to the street.

Mother always acknowledged this “costly”  vegetable vendor’s arrival with mixed feelings. He charged way too much, and wasn’t past playing tricks with the weighing too. But who wanted to trudge to the Jayanagar Complex, only to argue with  a dozen of his kind  who terrorize ?  Just as well  be fleeced in the comfort of one’s home.

By this time,  a few  Seventh Cross maamis ,  thoughts very similar to mother’s jostling in their minds  (  mobile eyebrows that looked like a pair of tiny  snakes  dancing  off into the vermilion sunset,   can be revealing ) would emerge from their front doors, demanding to be told what outrageous price the fellow was naming for the luscious tomatoes and brinjals.

The tarkari guy, apparently preoccupied with    arranging the already perfect pyramids of  vegetables in his  much-used cane basket,  would then begin his little performance, calling out,  ” Come and get it!  Veggies that  Rajkumar- Bharati eat!    Worth every paisa. Momentarily diverting the women from such mundane matters as vegetable prices

This was the guy Rajkumar-Bharati  bought veggies from ! That was the secret of their success?!

No sooner than the little performance ended, even though there was no ting-tong that comes at end of  Binaca toothpaste ad on Vividhbharathi, the  eyebrows arched in  surprise and amusement would curl back  into  disapproving frowns, and someone would imperiously tell the guy to get on with business.

Little boys and girls who imagined this to be the best time to wangle a day at home  from impervious  moms,  by tugging at their pallus, ( thus proving  multi-tasking is an embedded feature in moms), a maama whose wife  was away at her parents’ to come back with a little bundle of  joy anytime soon,  the retired grandfather out for his morning walk,  often figured in this picture of  old Bangalore idyll.

Realising soon enough that he was not getting too far in trying to win friends and influence people,  when one of the maamis   acidly queried,”why bother to come here?  Rajkumar-Bharati didn’t buy your veggies today? Are these leftovers? “,  he would pretend that the ladies were driving a hard bargain, and bring the transaction to a mutually satisfactory conclusion.

Rajkumar-Bharati  sold vegetables to Seventh Cross maamis for several months, when suddenly,  Bharathi married Vishnuvardhan, who must  have disapproved of his new’s wife’s moonlighting  job. Anyway, the cycling vegetable-man came calling less often before disappearing altogether . Other non-cycling vendors gave the maamis multiple choices and competitive prices, and  the careers of Rajkumar and Vishnuvardhan the rising star were  tracked through more dependable, and literate sources.

The theatres near our home were Nanda and Shanti (Poonam and the Jayangar Complex were still shaping up in blueprint). We watched a few of their movies. Bhakta Kumbara, Kalla-Kulla, Bhootayyana Maga Ayyu. Vishnu and Dwarakeesh clowning around in Kalla-Kulla wasn’t really a great movie, but we had great fun at the time. Mother was teased endless with the song, “Amma endare yeno harushavu……”  which my brothers ( Subri-Bunty,  counted among notable spoof musical directors working in pairs ) rewrote as “Amma endare………yeno thondare!

Nanda and Shanti have been bulldozed off  Bangalore’s map. The dependable and familiar have fallen to the tyranny of change.  We used to cross the road from Usha Periamma’s to catch the night-show at Shanti, but now there is a median,  between the new building where Shanti once stood, and shell of the house where Usha Periamma lived. There are traffic jams, schools and colleges, and giant monuments to Bangalore’s new identity as IT city.  It can even turn into a tinder box that can spark a violent riot.

A bar-  restaurant owner decided to name his brand new venture on South End Road “Kargil”.  Someone didn’t like the idea, and flung one stone and there was a merry riot, and one’s man’s dream lay vandalised in a matter   of a few hours. Its another story that Kargil Bar and Restaurant still stands today ( at least, it did, three months back),  though folks who don’t know about it might miss it altogether. Like Platform Nine and Three Quarters, only those who need it can spot it.

Still, there is a lot to be said for Change. It is diverting for little old ladies (mothers, aunts, Ms-i-L,  grandmoms and their friends excluded, so as not offend them) to have Cable TV, absorbed in the fortunes of  the families that inhabit SoapTown. Keeps them from getting into a tizzy over the real people they live with.

Grandma@dingding.com are very happening these days, and Facebook might soon have to  add some sepia-tinted features.  Harini and Paati are now friends; Sweetex wants to adopt a Grandma. Help Sweetex by donating a Grandma. Sponsor Grandpa’s visit to his lonesome pal in The Old Age Home. The possibilities for Facebook tripling its membership are immense.

The in-between generation’s dilemma will now be: Should I buy my F-I-L  a laptop, or should we go for the third TV?  You could arrive home to anything from a grand fight between the elder and the younger (generations) over  laptops and  playstations.  Once they could have just stepped out into the park for a stroll, and to play, respectively. But today, trying to cross the road in imitation of the chicken  can prove hazardous. Either way, there is every chance that the TV is all yours, if you care to be blown away with blow-by-blow account of some sleazy crime, or worse, minute details of political high drama that ends in a damp squib because the rebels didn’t get  their wish,  or you have a taste for bizzare soaps  in which dead people whose antim sanskar has been performed in a dedicated episode,  return with new faces and fortunes, twisting the story until it is grotesque enough to traumatise you, and you need to go into rehab.

Work from home, and you could have the best of everything-  just buy diapers of both kinds,  and that’s  the senior and junior citizens taken care of.   No pollution, no road rage, no fuming over protest marches that interfere with your plans, and best of all no deadlines to kill you.

Of course, it is  tragic that the kids are never going to have our kind of “Those were the days.”

Ah.

To remember the little uncertainties and unsettling happenings in the age of innocence.  Father’s  little joke that helped to remember the theatres that  we passed while going from Banashankari to Malleswaram in the BTS Route No. 14 (yup ,the same one which had Rajnikanth as conductor) is irrelevant now.  But we can still laugh remembering it, though I must tell you we had no one to visit in Malleswaram , but merely loved riding from terminus to terminus. It was the longest known bus route in Bangalore then, To get back to Father’s  joke, as the conductor( may be it was Rajnikanth in his Shivaji Rao Gaekwad avatar, or may be it wasn’t)  called out “tickets?! tickets?! , one lady  said “Nanda” and got her ticket. Another took one for Shanti, and a third wanted to get off at Uma. The fourth lade, held out the money,  announced, “Alamelu”!

Humour doesn’t do bus any more.  Bus is where an “argument”  between  two  commuters can morph into a fight.  And a rude word suddenly reminds the conductor-driver duo that they can simply  pull over, and launch a “snap strike”. It is the vehicle of choice for those who believe  setting them on fire can bring the Government to its knees,  or mourn the death of  a Rajkumar or Vishnuvardhan.  Ironical that a bus conductor in Bangalore went on to become a Superstar in a neighbouring State, and buses were vandalised because he said something that offended people here.

PS: I wonder if Rajnikanth  ever found out where Alamelu wanted to get off.

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Dream the Change, or Change the Dream?

Barack Obama has just proved  that the Audacity of  Hope can win you the Nobel Peace Prize. Yes It Can. Many of us , including  Mayawati,  L.K.Advani, and the pantheon of Prime Ministerial aspirants of 2009 believed their dream of becoming Prime Minister was The  Change We Believe In. No one thought to revisit   Dreams from My Father Of  The Nation- Is Gandhiji  too old and dated?

At least, one of  the  aspirational PM pantheon has just taken his rightful place  in the Once Upon a Time……… to ponder, one hopes, on how he came to be shortchanged.  He had hoped, and wished, and prayed, and promised and believed. Why didn’t he get his Prize?

Changes are afoot everywhere, all the time. In Bangalore., a  news report says India’s IT hub is all set to reclaim its old glory as the Garden City. The BBMP , yup, the same one that believed it could do flyovers, underpasses, magic boxes, and solve the city’s mind-boggling traffic problems, has changed its dream-  turn lakes, parks and even walls into patches of green cover and art museums!

Change! Again, after all these years of changing into IT City from Garden City /Pensioner’s Paradise?

187 lakes!

In the best of times,  like  when the legendary administrator  N.Lakshman Rau guarded each of them jealously, and made plans to protect them for posterity- (another hopeful optimist who never got a Prize, nor,  his wish)  there were around 260 lakes.  Now Bangalore has expanded beyond imagination, though not beyond nightmares, and to count these 187, we probably have to include tanks in Chennapatna, Kolar, Hoskote, Hosur and Harohalli.Or simply believe the BBMP.

How things change. The BBMP has grand plans to convert these 187 lakes into patches of green foliage and rich blossoms, and recreational zones .  Bangaloreans just stepped out of their front door to run into their own private patch of green, and the walk form Banashankari Temple to Jayanagar Shopping Complex was a picnic .  Once change happens, just hop into the Metro at the place where the N.Lakshman Rau promenade once stretched out like a plump python under a greatgreen canopy and trundle across a concrete jungle (don’t look down, you may go dizzy with the sight of the  grotesque, gnarled remnants of a City (Once) Beautiful, and indulge in the dubious pleasures of  wannabe Disneyland at a place that ought to be left to the birds and fish, so they can do their bit to keep the ecological balance. Can you measure the carbon footprint of your brave attempt to commune with nature?

The Metro is already eating up a good bit of Lalbagh, and  people who want to walk there for free , who ought to walk there for free,  are regularly badgered and stressed out by suggestions that they ought to shell out a fee to enjoy Lalbagh, and stay fit and healthy in their chosen ways.

Is this  change we want to believe in?

Everybody knows that Bangalore’s green worries are like the curry leaves in the sambhaar to policymakers.It enhances the flavour of the sambhar, , but no one actually eats it.  Bangalore’s lakes are a tangled web of  encroachment,  litigation, neglect, and often the victim of some official’s – enthusiasm, if not caught in tug-of-war between various departments and authorities that claim to “own ” the lakes.

Is the BDA any different?  Three years back, the BDA remorselessly destroyed a precious piece of biodiversity because it fell in the way of a road they were building to connect two neighbourhoods off Magadi Road and Mysore Road. The land was taken over by the  BDA, but it housed  a 100 species of bamboo from all over the world, a passionately tended project of retired forest officer A.C.Lakshmana, an internationally recognised scholar on the subject of bamboo.  After the deed was done, about 25 per cent of the bamboo grove was ravaged, at a time when Mr Lakshmana was away, the BDA’s laconic reply was, ” we had to do our job.”

And our job is not looking after trees, they didn’t add. We just take away the lung space near you, and expect you to battle traffic jams, pollution,  a protest march or two, diversion of traffic due to VIP movement,  and if you are still alive, walk around the park on the other side of town, where your alien-ness will stick out like a sore thumb.  No one told us “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” We made up one of our own. Its called, “If  it ain’t broke, break it and don’t fix it.”

Like goal posts in the new millennium,  Lakshmana Rekhas drawn in green can be  controlled, altered, deleted. Or in a single swoop, control+alt+delete(d).

The curry leaf just got flung out again.

In the new year, I shall not dream of change. I shall have a change of dream. Those who (mis)rule in Bangalore shall l not have a green epiphany.  For the more things stay the same, the more things change.