I recently watched one of those Soap dramas disguised as news stories on TV 9. This time it had to do with good old Shivajinagar. However, the channel thought otherwise and engaged in one full hour of ‘area-bashing’ where they hurled insult after insult aimed at this quaint locality. The energetic hustle and bustle was ‘suffocating dirt’; the hundred-year old streets were ‘pathetic’ and the age-old landmarks were ‘ugly’. Yes, I agree the place is a little messy, but these guys went about the whole thing as if they were associates from the London School of Aesthetics!
Anyways, this post has to do with a totally different experience set in the busy streets of Shivajinagar. A bizarre experience that somehow seemed to undo all the ‘un-sophistication’ about the place that that inane channel purported -
I was in a hurry, as usual, to get where I wanted to go; head down, determined and with a firm stride, criss-crossing all those roadside stalls on Shivajinagar. Then suddenly this guy came in my way and I ran into him. To quickly get away with the embarrassment I mouthed a sullen sorry as I quickly glanced at him – very old grey T-shirt and jeans that were torn and dirty, unkempt hair and grubby hands and feet. Looked like a middle-aged man who could probably look smart if clean. No shoes. I expected him to throw sour kannada slang at me and I mentally prepared myself with my own set of half-baked kannada sentences and words. I was pleasantly surprised as he said in perfect English – (Ok we’ll name him Grubs for convenience)
Grubs (smiling) – “Would you please show me the way to Bellary Road?”
Me –“Well…um… I don’t know exactly, why don’t you ask these other people?”
I point to a bunch of guys who were smoking beedis and chatting away animatedly in kannada.
Grubs – “Oh I did. They don’t seem to know. I’m Alan by the way. What’s your name?”
Ok where exactly is this heading to? I begin to form a vague outline of the whole scenario in my head. I know what he’s going to head towards…
Me – “Well I’m Jacob…”
Grubs – “Good, good. Where do you stay Jacob?”
Ok that’s it, stop it right there. What if this dude’s part of an underworld gang that deals in selling kidneys of young men! Don’t tell him where you stay dude! But…
Me – “I stay in Fraser Town”
Grubs – “I beg your pardon?”
Grubs – “I stay in the Railway Station. I had a fight with my dad and he threw me out.”
I thought it too inappropriate to ask ‘City or Cantonment?’ so I decided against it.
Me – “Oh”
Grubs – “Can you spare me some money Jacob? Just…”
Ah ha! I knew it all along! There it came finally, in chaste, Anglo-Indian English!
Me – “No, no, no… I’m broke, and I’m going home for food and drink”
That’s exactly what I said! Word to word… Ha ha, ‘going home for food and drink’!
Grubs – “Just six rupees, I can buy a samosa. I’m very hungry you see”
Me – “I told you I’m broke…”
Well of course I had SIX RUPEES on me! But I wasn’t going to give in to this man. Unbeknownst to us, both of us were getting into a bargain for charity…
Grubs – “Ok two rupees. I can buy a cup of chai. Living in Bangalore has become so expensive…”
Ok now I had to relent or it would mean a sharp jab to my ego, and freshly fermented guilt; all on account of a paltry sum of two rupees.
Me – “Ok here”
Grubs (taking the money) – “Thank you, thank you so much. Pray for me”
There, he HAD to say that in the end. Well all I could do was hope the guy had his cup of hot chai (or who knows what he wished to do with it. Not that it matters what you do with two rupees anyways), as I walked on wondering which station I’d pick if dad threw ME out…