Namma Bengaluru: A City of Two Tales

SHASHIKIRAN MULLUR writes: If you are in IT, the corporate club, or if you own a business, then you are in the malls, the pubs, the MG Road areas. Or at the Oberoi, the Leela, or the Windsor Manor.

There, people wear those light clothes with light colours, the settings are pleasant, and what the world says is happening in Bangalore can be seen is true.

For others it is life like on Kaigadi Road, for instance.

Take a walk to that laundry which stands where the road ends at the roundabout on the way to the Mills. These laundries have super-hot irons that give neat presses, neat lines, and will burn faint brown patches onto your white shirt—the dhobi will not accept your protest: he is strong, he is grumpy, and he has the iron.

Begin the walk from any home on any narrow lane, make way among women washing vessels at public taps, the water from the washing flowing down narrow gutters on both sides of the lane, smelling of stale food; walk through children playing noisily and happily in the middle of the lane; come into Kaigadi Road.

The road has few memories of calm and quiet. Those rare days when people and cars stayed away and all shops shut down, everyone remembers: when Raj Kumar died; when Indira Gandhi was gunned down; when they blew up Rajiv Gandhi.

Every step you take, you’ll push against recoil from the stench of urine that surges up from the feet of grimy walls: earth grainy like caviar, grape-red, rust-red, ever moist from decades of constant use.

Try and overcome, look up at the posters everywhere of the city’s illegitimate fathers, and of the movies.

See the large young face with stubble on a clean complexion, but with angry intense eyes set under hooded brows, framed under a sickle held across the forehead by an arching arm, the sickle dripping blood at several points, a lot of blood at the tip.

See in the poster the beautiful women—plump, some might say, but exquisite to the fans who fill the poster-pocked theatre, there behind.

Don’t step on the street, the drivers are from all over Bangalore and beyond, and know not to show mercy—see how schoolchildren dart through the traffic and nobody slows a bit. So stay on the pavement with the crowds and take long steps on the stone slabs—they have come off and lie edge over edge in criss-cross the whole length, grey stones going black.

Take care: some stones dip and rise and throw you off -balance when you step on them. In some places stones are taken away for use elsewhere. Reach the rim at the roundabout, feel your burning nostrils, take a lot of risk and dash across to the laundry.

Now you are settled to the sounds: the clatter of the rickshaws, the groan of the buses, the horns—all bundled and spiced up with strong smells of carbon and lead going into your lungs.

See next to the laundry, the IT City hasn’t shed its past: in the now expensive yard there, folks like villagers sit among high mounds of hay which they bundle or knot into ropes and send them away in ox-drawn carts.

If you walk on, see beyond the yard the temple set high over, on a large rock. Pipes carrying liquid-refuse come down, open for discharge onto the gutter-less road. Reach the Mills—so large and so wide with high walls, more prison than work-place, closed by unions, unused for years.

You are tired. But you haven’t left Bangalore that belongs to its significant-others.

You have miles to go to reach the greener areas, the old Garden City.

I suggest you call a cab.

(Kaigadi Road is my invention. The rest are facts.)