For all the cribbing that I do about Bangalore and all the many ways that it doesn’t match up to the standard of living I want for myself, I have come to really appreciate some of the things it offers. Cabs, for one. I cannot imagine what driving around to get anywhere and get anything done would be like. It also leads me to balk at how ten years ago, driving around oneself was the only reliable way to get anywhere and get anything done.
The Bangalore I left was woefully lacking on the public transport front, but I’ve returned to a city that seems to at least try to fill the gap. Public transport — we have options! — are one of the few things I actually love, appreciate and feel much gratitude for. We haven’t figured it all out, as I realised the day I took the metro to go from Malleswaram to CMH road. It took 17 minutes flat. Which is all kinds of amazing. If you don’t count the twenty minutes it took to get to the Malleswaram metro station.
I’ve become an ardent user of shared cabs, which means I find myself taking all kinds of circuitous routes on my commutes across the city, sharing cabs with all kinds of people. I am always on the side of the argument that favours leaving a little early in order to get that shared cab and still make it to an engagement in time. Whenever a shared cab gets full, the type A person in me gets an extra thrill at how we have all collectively avoided putting three extra vehicles on the already clogged roads of this city.
I’ve taken to chatting with cab drivers a lot. Everything from how’s your day going to, what’s an average day driving around in Bangalore, to what’s new at Uber. And I’ve learned more about Uber’s capitalistic, exploitative ways and how we’re all just rendered powerless to protest because really, what are our options? I’ve surprised myself how accidentally breaking into Hindi is sometimes met with raised eyebrows whereas taking off confidently in Kannada guarantees that I’ll have a long chat. I’ve had conversations that have surprised me, moved me, pissed me off and some that just downright aggravated me. In turn, I vacillate between feeling admiration and respect for cabbies — because it is such a thankless job to do, with such pathetic work conditions in a city like ours, at the hands of monoliths like Uber — to feeling really angered when I realise how apparent and in-your-face the resistance to accept “outsiders” is. And it usually gets to that part of the conversation pretty quick.
Last week, I found myself caught in traffic at this odd time at sundown, that slice of time right between end of day, and the beginnings of night, sandwiched in a pink-purple-golden mess.
Most places get awfully congested, the city is usually a mess and no amount of planning can really guarantee escaping it.
But sometimes, a moment like this shines through.