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GIRL IN THE RAIN

It was probably my Hyderabad trip that made me forget the first rule of living in Bangalore, today.

I forgot to carry an umbrella.

This meant that when a pleasant drizzle surprised us this evening, after a short euphoric walk, my friend and I had to duck into a restaurant for cover and some hot kaapi.

By the time we were done, that drizzle had turned into a thunderstorm and a big crowd had taken shelter in the restaurant, wishing and waiting for it to stop.

She suggested a dash to the nearest mall but I didn’t want risk ruining a tome of essays from the library and my newest pair of jeans. So we waited and watched.

After 15 mins of relentless rain, the crowd grew restless.

Mothers scolded and pulled their sulking children and husbands away from the rain. The restaurant staff struggled with the sudden flurry of orders for tea and snacks. Someone stepped on someone’s toes.

Someone else spilt some tea.

A bunch of teenagers made makeshift caps out of plastic bags and ran after a bus while a couple started arguing about dinner options. And an old man suddenly let loose a bunch of abuses when a car splashed past him.

But the rain didn’t stop.

Just then, an autorickshaw squeaked to a halt and a family tumbled out of it. They quickly entered the restaurant except for a little girl in a frilly lavender dress who shrieked loudly and ran in the opposite direction, instead.

Her Mom ran back and tugged at her hand but she was just too excited to be in the rain. She twirled around, her arms outstretched, and laughed loudly.

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Her Dad grinned at her as she started singing and playing an upside-down piano on the raindrops.

In a minute she was joined by her aunt and they both shrieked again and jumped into the big puddle that everybody had been carefully avoiding until then.

The crowd laughed loudly with them as they ran together on the pavement, looking for more puddles to conquer.

In that moment, that little girl not only revealed her spirit, but also reminded me that sometimes when it rains on you,  jumping straight into that big bad puddle maybe the best thing to do!

STREET HEART

This bit of street art gladdens my heart every time I pass by it.

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The first time I spotted it, I nearly jumped with joy.

Joy, because this sort of expression was actually being encouraged in an Indian city – on walls that belong to an educational institution *.

So different from the usual half-hearted attempts across the city which are themed around  dams, temples, and the flora and fauna of the state against a familiar shade of blue.

In Bangalore’s defence, at least they’re making an effort.  Most other places in India – with the exception of New Delhi – don’t even go beyond the ‘Stick No Bills’ warning.

In general, the already rare public installations of art in our cities play it safe. There’s hardly any self-expression or any new ideas. And so, when I occasionally spot graffiti, I chuckle inspite of the spelling errors.

We take ourselves so seriously, our art has to be traditional and stenciled with no evidence of what the artist actually felt while creating the piece. And humour is taboo because we Indians are perpetually scared of offending ourselves.

If only people understood the pleasure of stumbling on to a beautiful and whimsical piece of art in an otherwise crowded and boring street.

It would brighten so many days.

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* P.S. hallidude tells me that the land may actually belong to BBMP. Which makes it even more awesome.

LINGARAJU

He was almost invisible.

People would bump into him as they made their way upstairs and wouldn’t bother apologizing. He wouldn’t look up at them either.

I didn’t notice him for a very long time. But haven’t forgotten him, after I did.

Every Thursday and Friday, he would sit on his haunches, his head down in deep concentration and diligently clean the marble skirting, inch by inch, with a small brush and cloth.

This was no small task, considering the office was a big four-storey building, but he would be completely focused on it, never pausing to look up at us noisy interns or glum managers who walked by.

Nobody ever noticed him or appreciated his work. And he never interacted with anyone like the other staff did. Didn’t fetch anyone any coffee or ask for advice or help.

Our attempts at conversation were always met with an awkward smile.

And still he never let the intensity drop. He cleaned and polished, and cleaned and polished until it was time to go home.

Sometimes on a difficult work day, when my motivation is flagging and I’m wishing I’d chosen an easier or more “fun” career path, I think of Lingaraju.

THE COMFORT OF PATTERNS

Every once in a while, I’ll start knitting a scarf.

A purposeless scarf in a way, because it’s never that cold in Bangalore and I really don’t know what I’ll be ultimately doing with it. Also, I know that I’ll take forever to finish it.

But knitting brings with it a comforting rhythm; the patterns, a familiarity that I desperately seek when my restless mind is struggling with sudden, new ideas at midnight. Plus, there is visible, fractal-like progress and the eventual joy of a finished object.

And an occasional gifting opportunity.

I choose no-brainers. Nothing that needs me to look at the pattern again after my fingers have memorized its repetitiveness.

Click, click, click…it’s like counting prayer beads and sheep at the same time. And within minutes I reach an almost meditative, auto-pilot state while people meltdown on TV.

No, I don’t have a bunch of cats at my feet.

And Ryan Gosling knits, as does Scarlet Johansson, so there!

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CHAMPLAIN MOMENTS

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Breezes, shivers, and scarves.
A lonely lighthouse against a peachy sunset.
An exhilarating 12-mile bike ride.
A crystal lake.
The strangely comforting rustle of leaves.
Frissons.
A brief but lovely chat with a stranger on Winooski Bridge.
Happy, free dogs.
And in the middle of nowhere, strains of a familiar Bee Gees song.
The Farmer’s market.
Fat pumpkins.
And a giggling gang of retired ‘girls’ taking lots of happy pictures.
A sugar-dusted pile of strawberries on a Skinny Pancake.
Gulls.
Togetherness at the Lake House.

Unforgettable, even six months later.

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VISITING STORKS

The storks aren’t visiting me anytime soon, so I thought I’d pay them a visit instead.

Nah, this really started with me whining on twitter about work-induced boredom which made @krtgrphr prescribe the following:

I didn’t end up at Arsikere that day though.

Instead, that weekend, I shook off my inner sloth and succumbed to the promise of a Mysore dosa  at the end of a slow train ride through the countryside.

It had been a while since I travelled just for fun and  I just couldn’t wait for that morning train to start for Srirangapatna. The phone and camera were switched off and I made the most of my window seat at we rolled away.  A soothing blur of green  is all I recall from that morning.

A few hours and a short auto ride later, we were in the lovely company of these goofy birds at the Ranganathittu bird sanctuary.

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There was enough entertainment on these little ‘bird breeding’ islets on the Cauvery.

This fellow here was obviously conducting some avian orchestra that seemed to embarrass his neighbour:

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And this Spoonbill looked sterner than Colonel Sharma pacing outside his house in the evening:

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Oh and this Pelican! Totally Mrs. Wilkinson from Class V. Even the jowls matched!

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There were of course other open-billed storks, egrets, cormorants, herons and a big bunch of yogic bats dangling carelessly from the branches, but the painted storks stole the show.

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And so after the boat rides, a few quiet moments were spent by the riverside before a gang of school-kids ruined the peace.

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On the road back to the bus stand, these winsome winnowing folk happily posed for my camera.

From there, the half-hour bus ride to Mysore was hot and bumpy but fun. And man, that chilled bottle of Coke at the end of it was really the stuff of advertisements.

A short walkabout followed by Mysore dosas and coffee and it was time for the 3 hr train ride back home on the Tuticorin Express.

From my happy perch,  I savoured the sight of hay monsters prostrating to the setting sun, the paddy fields turning into golden mirrors,  little sheep huddling together and bridges clambering over rocky riverbeds.

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If only distracted by the lovely ‘oniony’ aroma of  Maddur Vadas. With coffee they made a bloody good combination!

There were  also chilli-salt guava slices, berries, peanuts, chana and puffed rice on the menu.

And grandmas with brooms, tourists with cameras and babies with their mothers.

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A lovely breeze and a shy moon shining over the slithering train saw us through the rest of the journey.

I really couldn’t have asked for a better getaway.

And @krtgrphr, the storks have promised to name one of theirs after you!

CHITRA SANTHE

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Been a while since I’ve even thought of updating this blog. But today, thanks to persistent friends, I was finally able to really relax and enjoy my time at the annual Chitra Santhe in Bangalore to want to share it online. And like every year, those beautiful watercolours were worth the trip.

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More Pictures here: