Friday, September 30, 2005


The city is the same and not quite.
I'm renegotiating the roads with all the improvised one-way routes. I've felt like an idiot boxed up in my car, counting down with the sadistic traffic signal timers. 149 seconds of watching pedestrians glide across zebra stripes on tarmac.

I've noticed that young conclusions have suddenly disappeared. All the teenyboppers in Blr seem to be wearing their backpacks ridiculously low. Bottompacks they should now be called.

I've watched cigarette stall owners strike matches for women without flinching. This sort of behaviour is the kind I now make note of after life in a non-metropolitan.

There are more women bus conductors now. They shout at men who slip into ladies' seats. They throw back their long braid as they make mysterious ticketing notes. They push one off the bus when one has missed the right stop because the bus routes have changed because of all the one-ways.

People are the same and not quite.
They've grown. I've grown. And a forked path has made me take a diversion.
Reunions here are more exasperating than the traffic.

Monday, September 19, 2005


Sunday, September 18, 2005


Friday, September 09, 2005


I love that I can walk a long, meandering path and chance upon a mosque, a church and a gurudwara with a dozen temples strewn along the way.

Even the severed chicken heads floating in roadside drains didn't stop me from smiling.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Cross-culture travels

After much deliberation, B has finally decided to make the trip to Orissa.
I’m rather touched by his sudden enthusiasm. With a couple of days left until his arrival, he’s been downloading maps and reading up on Kalinga and Kolkata history.

And now I’m feeling a little guilty that I hadn’t taken the trouble to read about his place of birth when I visited over a year ago. Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that Coorg is a district of coffee estates and little else. Perhaps I felt no need for history when I knew I’d only be looking at trees and streams during my time there.
Talacauvery was beautiful and the wild honey was delectable. But I was a little bored by then end of the second day. If it were up to me, I’d choose a little more chaos. A little more noise, more people, more colour. I’m strange, but I’m still young. I can handle chaos.

B seems genuinely interested in seeing the sights in Kolkata. He remembers visiting as a child and recalls that it’s ‘very big and very dirty’. Of course, I take offense at the ‘very dirty’ recollection. And then we start arguing.
The usual North vs South comments. Sweeping generalisations. Broad insults.

I start with Kodava men and how they’re chauvinistic.
He calls Bengalis big-mouthed and unwilling to work with their hands.
I comment on the unflattering way Coorg women wear their saris. (With the pleats at the back and draped around themselves with no aanchal.)
He makes fun of the topor that Bengali grooms wear, calling it a dunce cap.
I say atleast our wedding ceremony doesn’t require the bride to stand with a pot on her head for hours, while she’s taunted by the groom’s side as they dance around her.
And so on.

And then we laugh about ethnocentricity.

So B’s chalked up an itinerary which is impossible given our time frame. An itinerary that covers Bbsr, Chilika, Puri, Konarak and Kolkata in seven days.
And I like the thought of days bursting at the seams with things that must be done.

I’ve recently been promised patient answers to genuine questions about the Kodavas.
I’ve also been promised a trekking expedition in Kodagu when I get home.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Diesel fry

My Saturday night unwind involves copious quantities of roadside food, an empty room above a garage and neglected reading.

Most of the time it’s rolls from Unit I. Three share autos and a bit of a walk, but that’s where the action is and I can safely sit on a broken plastic chair and people-watch until my plastic-wrapped dinner is ready.
When changing ricks doesn’t seem appealing, I stick to the stalls on the national highway. These are shadier joints, so no sitting. But the samosas make my standing around worthwhile.

When I first came here, I’d pass by the sidewalk shacks breathing in deeply the piquant aroma of batter and spiced potatoes. I’d fiddle with my backpack, check my toe ring, just to stand there for a little while longer, debating whether the time had come. Not confident enough to elbow my way through the crowd and shout my order to the cook; it was a while before I started my Saturday night ritual take-aways.

The first time I asked for a roll, one man looked at me and said aloud in Oriya, ‘She must be living alone. She’s come by herself.’

An obvious and harmless enough a statement, but I was disturbed for some reason. So I ordered more rolls. Three more. Of the same thing. Just to prove I might have company and we all had the same craving.
That night I ate four double egg rolls.
And six samosas.
Till two in the morning.

By now most of the tin-shed caterers know my order. (Not so many rolls and small portions of everything on offer that evening.) And I don’t have to shout anymore. I wave to the guy behind the coracle-sized kadai and a warm polythene bag is handed over to me a couple of minutes later.

And I hop in and out of autos and walk the long walk with my backpack a little heavier.
But my steps a little lighter.

Roadside fried anything.