When I decided to move back to Bangalore from Mumbai in 2004, my editor berated me saying I wasn’t fit for the city; I was destined for the village. To him, Bangalore was that.
It’s not far from the truth, although I did return to a Bangalore that, to my dismay, was becoming rapidly overbuilt. In the late 1990s, the expanse of land they now call HSR Layout was a large bare field where we went to enjoy some solitude, some company or a little of both. And riding a bike through Bangalore’s ghettos, so full of character, was where I encountered the many villages that make up the web of the city. Today those villages exist, but they are now angry places full of resentment for the city that has swallowed them and shortchanged them; they are bereft of the insouciance and innocence that once made them warm and hospitable and simple.
Last Saturday, I drove to Chikka Begur to drop off a stack of old clothes at Goonj, an NGO that accepts these contributions. My business done, I returned to my car to see that my trusty (and somewhat rusty) Alto had become a chick magnet. A hen and her harlequin brood sheltered under the bonnet. It was noon on one of our warmer winter days and the sun was rather harsh. But the warmth I felt at this sight was quite incomparable — even to a summer’s day. It was a pastoral warmth and it came from the knowledge that some of Bangalore’s village innocence still survives.
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