At home, in Bangalore

11 Jan

So let’s see. I began the year with a trip back home. I whisked myself off to Bangalore, as usual, for just a little more than a couple of days. As usual, I started off by telling myself once again that I will stick to doing just the things I really want to. Because, you know, my time in the city is limited yadayada. As usual.

Of course, I failed. I was torn between two homes. I struggled to find time to see people I thought I should and finally decided to just cut back, stop trying to make time for it all. And just chill.

As usual I realised how my equation with the city I once called home has changed. Bangalore no longer feels like my home. But my home, the little space within the walls of the apartment that I grew up in, the on that houses all the years of my life until I moved out, has come to encapsulate Bangalore to me.

Growing up, surrounded by layers and layers of family, with relatives and friends strewn all across the city, it was easy to feel at home. Like I was one of them. It was natural to thrive in their presence, to enjoy the company of many. I might have never imagined there would be a day when my whole world could essentially be wrapped up into a bundle of five people. Six including myself. And today, every trip back home reminds me that my sense of family has shrunk. As the years roll on, the layers within which I insulate the core of my family, peel back. What remains, and what I hold close are my folks, my grandmother, my sister and the husband. It pretty much begins and ends there.

The trip was expressly planned so I could visit ammama, who was in Bangalore at the time. Our relationship has done the whole 9 yards, from chatter-y nights spent with her spinning endless stories to get me to sleep, sandwiched between ajju and her — to a silent kind of love and adoration today.

ammama

I can breathe in her presence, and feel whole again. She exudes a silent positive, enthusiastic energy that few people in their 80s can. And because it had been over a year since I had seen her last, I wanted me some of that.

The sister flew in to surprise amma, and it was wonderful to melt into one giant mattress again, the four of us, spilling out from either side.

4inabed

My home is still the home my father built, with all the little signs that refuse to go away. The garden, the blue glass vases, the kitchen with the doubly deep sink that I now envy, the dinette where I had every breakfast of my life in that home — all so very unmistakably anna.

garden

Going back home almost always means going back to the music. Whether listening to the background music that is ammas lessons, or anna’s apt pick of every day, there is no escaping it.

studio

And amma, being amma cooked me meals, stocked up on goodies, ensured I cleaned out that suitcase of old CDs and that I carried my saris back as planned. In between all the guests and the hectic entertaining, continuing to take her lessons, she made us a massive batch of halwa the old school way. No condensed milk, no khoya. Full fat milk, sugar and carrots, stewed till they meld into a giant mess of deliciousness. I’ve been meaning to make a batch myself for the last few years, and somehow I never have. the kind of thing only ammas can do.

halwa

Family is no longer the gigantic tree that it was, with its spidery branches spread wide. It is sparse, skeletal, brief. My family, though nuclear at the centre, has always held the larger ranks of extended family close. We’ve grown up with a generous amount of familial togetherness whether it was travelling distances to be at weddings and other family get togethers, or just stopping by a relatives and camping out there for no apparent reason.

The younger me was fairly used to the sense of the sprawling family, meeting multiple sets of cousins, and the fond memories of visiting their homes, spending days and nights together, never wanting to leave. Something about being younger, made me want to surround myself with the abundance that is the Indian family, complete with doting grandparents, fawning aunties and gregarious uncles, without which no family seemed complete.

This trip back home gave me the opportunity to meet extensions of the family I didn’t expect to. A significant part of my mothers family had gathered at home, and I landed bang in the midst of a tea party, watching cousins who seem to have had a growth spurt since we last met. Over the next few days I met a couple of cousins I hadn’t seen in over 5 years, some who have relocated back from a different continent, another who was on holiday in Bangalore. An aunt who I usually meet in transit in Bombay, stayed with us for a couple of days. And all I wanted was to get out. To was sieve out the chaos and spend the time with my folks.

My time in Bangalore has come to mean just family. The new kind. My time has become beyond precious to me. I treat it with utmost care and usually feel like doing nothing but stay home with my folks. More and more, I feel fiercely protective about this, even though I am useless at taking a stand and showing it. I realised too late that I have no time to fritter away in snaking traffic jams to get somewhere I don’t really want to be. I don’t need to endure five different aunties who make no conversation with me beyond enquiring about the happenings in my ladyparts. I have even less patience for those who make it their prerogative to tell me how and when I ought to procreate, and even worse — why.

I have a a fair number of friends I could meet, even more new blogdosts. It’s hard to do it all, and most times I try and meet a few. This time, I only made time for the Tin Man. Because I didn’t have the energy to do much else and because he makes it worth it. And most of all because he is the kind of friend that has become family. I enjoy our no frills Koshys sessions and it says a lot that after all these years, that’s pretty much all it takes to get the crazy going in me.

koko

What is it about growing up that changes such fundamental things? For someone who enjoyed every family gathering, though sometimes as a silent spectator, this need to shut out the chaos and just be with mine and my own, is a new and gradually cultivated one. Perhaps it has everything to do with living so far away (not in terms of distance, but in context) from what was once home base. It facilitates a spawning of new thought, brings perspective of a different kind — from afar, re-shapes the very idea of kinship, shows you what matters most, and ultimately, whether you like it or not renews your sense of self and what makes you who you are. It has a way of smoothing the rough edges, filtering out the fluff and bringing to the fore only that which matters the most.

No matter how hard I fight the Bangalore-moonlight, it draws me back sooner than I expect it to. Like most trips back home, this too was a hectic, rushed one. As always, squeezing in time at both homes, meeting a friend or two, getting some essential shopping done, spending a bonus few days with my folks and sister, and doing all in a maze of traffic, city noises and general chaos, I felt like the last week was a dream that zipped by when I was asleep.

beergate

Like most trips back home, this too left me with many a mixed emotion. The city continues to leave me in despair. On one hand I yearn for the old signs, the little things, all our loved haunts that made my home city my own and I want to cling to what’s left of them like an unreasonable child that refuses to grow up. Yet, on the other hand I feel rage and increasing distress and hopelessness when I realise that this phenomenon of moving forwards and backwards all at once, is peculiar to Indian cities. Where there is the glitzy growth of things like the Metro, a gazillion shiny new malls and the ballooning traffic and population; there is also the undeniable sense of chaos disorder as if most things are diverging in too many directions, each at their own pace, rather than a in a systematic, orderly fashion towards a common point. I see in Panjim today, the beginnings of the growth spurt I saw in Bangalore about 8 years ago, and with every trip back, I return to shudder when I think of things to come.

I am completely aware of the fact that I sound like a stuck record everytime I go back to Bangalore. What with all the same cribs and rants, and the gushing about all the same things I love. Without trying to hard though, I seem to have subconsciously found a way to deal with this inevitable trauma I feel. I minimise getting out into the city completely, paring it down to only what is absolutely essential. A trip or two to see the in laws, a couple of dates with some friends and I’m usually bushed. So I have to choose wisely. Hopefully next time, I’ll be wiser still and avoid the probing aunties and uncles completely.

This time, I realised I don’t love going to Bangalore, as much as I love going home. To my home, to the places and the people that make it homely for me. While the sprawling city around morphs into an unrecognizable beast I no longer have the time for, every trip brings the resounding affirmation of the fact that literally the only thing that draws me back time and again is family and friends. That, and the weather.

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24 Responses to “At home, in Bangalore”

  1. Proactive Indian January 11, 2014 at 5:18 pm #

    In most such trips (to home city, alma mater, etc.), there’s a long list of to-dos, to-meets, etc.. Finally, only the top few get done, leaving one with a sense of the trip being incomplete. Of course, there are a few highly organised people who manage to complete almost all the activities they had planned for the trip.

    When will relatives who dole out advice realise that their advice may be free, but it is unwelcome?

    • hAAthi January 11, 2014 at 5:43 pm #

      I am usually highly organised, but Ive realised that with trips to Bangalore, I dont want to do the whole shebang anymore. I have already pared down the to-dos to the minimum, and I feel theres still some more scope to cut the crap :P case in point: meeting certain aunties and uncles because they are a package deal with certain family members. The doling out of free gyaan I can totally do without, so I have decided to put my foot down the next time I am back home.

      • Proactive Indian January 11, 2014 at 5:49 pm #

        Putting your foot down may be easier said than done, especially if the persons are thick-skinned, which they usually are! You may not get affected by their ‘well-meaning’ gyaan, but time is wasted sitting with them. All the best!!

        BTW, is that a Sudoku or a Crossword that your grandmother’s doing in the photo? Love her businesslike look!

        • hAAthi January 11, 2014 at 5:56 pm #

          Sudoku! its an everyday ritual with her :)
          And by put my foot down, I meant not meet them at all, hopefully that will remove the reason for free gyaan itself!

  2. Tin Man January 11, 2014 at 5:53 pm #

    what a start to the year mach :) its going to be a brilliant year for us all da! heres to more and more and lots more faffs boss! hello!

    • hAAthi January 11, 2014 at 5:54 pm #

      I think I like how its going for you already.. They say what you do at the start of the year sets the tone for the rest, so maybe its a good thing we met!

  3. mostlymisfit January 11, 2014 at 8:00 pm #

    Beautiful post. Something I identify with myself. I moved to Bangalore a couple months back. So I probably don’t see the things/changes you do in and about the city. But I feel the very same thing every time I visit my my hometown. Oh! I used to be able to call it a town until a few years back. It no longer is. It’s become a humongous,ugly city with too many colleges, too many malls. Unfortunately, it still doesn’t have what it would take for me to be able to permanently settle there. I don’t think I would feel the kind of longing I do had it not been for my parents’ house there. Plus most of my family members stay either in the house right in front of us or just a couple of houses away. So I realise that hometown to me simply signified this limited space with a couple of houses. Once back home I don’t want to go out. I have people asking me to visit some random new restaurant or some cake shop. But all I want to do is stock up on home: home memories, the distinct home sounds, the home smells. Every time I am home, I come back with a restless feeling of not having spent time with what matters the most: parents and little sis. We have started going to a beautiful place nearby coz all the family members can meet up there without having to go to a hundred different houses, plus the husband’s family loves it there too. But I think I’ve ODed on that too. All I want when I go home is to be physically present at my home.

    • hAAthi January 11, 2014 at 8:03 pm #

      Aaah. Ditto ditto ditto!

  4. Santulan January 12, 2014 at 11:31 am #

    that street looks lit up like it is waiting for a baarat to pass through.. Or was it for the new year’s?

    The halwa looks so yum! mum makes it along with some khus khus .. and the wonderful aroma.. it is just so tempting to wait for it to get ready..

    I am guessing ammamma means amma’s amma , so granny..

    Cheers to time with friends and family!

    • hAAthi January 12, 2014 at 11:52 am #

      Thys brigade road and it gets lit up like that for diwali, christmas and new years. I remember it being that way since i was a child. Was happy to see some things dont change :)

      Ammama is granny, yes.

  5. mincat January 12, 2014 at 2:32 pm #

    haha. these days when i go home i might sat the very most if there is much persuasion and many bribes, go out of immediate neighbourhood once. in a whole week. last time i was home i didnt leave the house for four days! ok no appa dragged me on walks, but otherwise. the thing is, when i did go out i found i had many friends still around and enthu, AND i met at least one new awesome person. but i will still burrow into the house and refuse to leave on my next visit. hee. it is our RIGHT.

    • hAAthi January 13, 2014 at 8:48 am #

      Having in laws in the same city makes it much harder to just be holed up at home, which is what Id be doing if I had it my way.. Id even try and get the few friends I actually *want* to meet, to come over. But the monster that is Bangalore, with its bitching traffic makes that slightly inconvenient. I felt like I needed to go into town, mid way to meet said friends who were getting out of their homes and braving traffic to come see me.. yeah #bigcityissues
      I wish I could meet one awesome new person, but that hasnt happened to me in YEARS, in Bangalore. Not even when I lived there. Maybe I just hang out in all the wrong circles?

      • mincat January 13, 2014 at 4:00 pm #

        i was going to sputter in indignation but then i saw that in bangalore caveat. heh. this was serendipity but i think it also has to do with my hyd friends and how open they are. anyone can come and can bring anyone and with those statistics you end up meeting a LOT of people.

        • hAAthi January 13, 2014 at 8:56 pm #

          Yes, in Bangalore. complete madness it is at the mo. All my friends seem to be too tired to do anything. Id blame it on them entirely if ALL of them werent feeling the same thing, ALL the time..which leads me to believe theyre not the problem hehehe

      • mincat January 13, 2014 at 4:00 pm #

        oh oh oh also i made puff pastry! at home! from scratch! it is amazeballs!

        • hAAthi January 13, 2014 at 8:56 pm #

          Yes it is, na! Though I dont see myself making it anytime soon again..all those layers of butter scare me.

          • mincat January 14, 2014 at 1:34 pm #

            no man my forearms will go on hartal if i try again heh. its actually not that much butter once you break it down and use it.

  6. egeedee January 13, 2014 at 6:04 pm #

    Lovely photos Rev! I totally get what you mean..this whole redefining home thing. It can be so exasperating sometimes. I can’t believe I used to call Bombay home at one time. I was actually in love with it too but that’s because I had such a close group of friends. Home is completely about the people.

    • hAAthi January 13, 2014 at 8:57 pm #

      It totally is. Its probably why I feel more at home in Goa than in Bangalore. This is where I became and continue to become me..and that has everything to do with the people and the environment that has allowed it. Bangalore = home now. And not the other way round.

  7. vishalbheeroo January 14, 2014 at 2:22 am #

    I nurture the same feeling when I visit Pune, how the city has changed, from being so peaceful and green to irritating noisy. I sink deep into abject sadness and get so nostalgic. Mumbai, not so much, coz I know how the city is with decibel of noise rising every second but I got a culture shock last time I visited Pune. Didn’t know you from Bangalore, always thought you are a Mumbai girl. But, interesting perspective! Haha! about relatives..I have quite a few like that who reminds me that I am in my 30s and that I need to get married, so I normally avoid such conversations. Loved the post:)
    Cheerz n have a great week:)

  8. arundati January 15, 2014 at 5:30 pm #

    since everyone has fawned over this post already, i’ll just say – well put down :)

    • hAAthi January 15, 2014 at 5:32 pm #

      Why thanks Ms ABN!

      • arundati January 16, 2014 at 9:13 pm #

        uff, where is my sash and crown now?

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