Bengaluru, circa 2013
Long journeys have seldom failed to excite me, whether it was a 24-hour journey by train from Nagpur to Bangalore and back or the bus trips to and from Mumbai. This time, though, the excitement was upped a couple of notches as I was visiting home after more than a year – easily the longest contiguous block of time I was away from Bangalore.
Students are a major source of revenue for many airlines that fly into India, and Emirates seemed to have hit a jackpot by starting services from D.C. recently. Almost everyone I know flew Emirates this season. I’m not a great fan of in-flight food, but this was a different experience. The dal makhni served on one of the (four) flights easily ranked among the best I have ever had. The Moroccan lamb curry served on another flight was THE best, simply because I had not tasted it before. The one thing I would have liked different on all flights was the number of children on board. I still haven’t figured out who is more irritating, the crying child or the overbearing parent. While I can understand the tantrums of an infant, what really gets under my skin is a five-year-old shouting, “Dada, I want TV.” The sudden urge to use the restroom whenever we hit turbulence and the captain announced for us to fasten our seatbelts, and the need to travel with the maximum amount of baggage allowed by the airline were some of the other idiosyncrasies of fellow travellers I noticed. An amusing thing was the number of people watching English Vinglish – that movie must have had a large number of viewers on Emirates’ flights alone!
Dubai airport, for all the things I had heard about it, was a bit of a disappointment. Terminals are far apart – it takes almost an hour to walk from end to end. There were a lot of people, which meant that there was little place to sit and stretch one’s legs. For those who travel by train regularly in India, there was some soothing music to the ears – the sound that preceded every announcement was similar to what one hears at railway stations across India.
Immigration formalities at Bangalore were done in a flash. In fact, while returning, from entering the airport to being ready to board the flight, all that was over in less than twenty minutes. Food tip – the Kingfisher Sports Bar at the International Terminal serves tasty, non-oily dosas. It’s a bit pricey (Rs.111 for a plain dosa), but if you’re paying in dollars, it’s totally worth it.
A major addition to the Bangalore landscape in the last one year has been the start of a small stretch of the Metro. I took a ride on it the day after I landed. While it was nice to see it functioning after having witnessed the construction phase for an eternity, it was just alright. A major selling point is that travel time between M.G. Road and Baiyyapanahalli has now been reduced to a mere fifteen minutes. Some of the procedures, especially those involving buying a ticket for the return journey, were ‘counter-intuitive’.
I made a surprise visit to Chennai for a couple of days to meet my grandfather. During the trip, I realized that Bangalore was so much a better place! To be fair, however, the weather in Bangalore this time also was not very pleasant – it was almost like the city had ‘descended’ into the Southern hemisphere.
My cousins from Mumbai and Chennai came over during the Pongal/ Sankaranti weekend. I made so many trips to the airport that week that the chai-wallah recognized me after the second or third time! With seventeen people at home during that weekend, it was a riot. The main beneficiary of the crowd at home was the couple down the road who make idlis and dosas for breakfast – that we ordered food from them on all three days was also testament to how good it was.
No visit to Bangalore is complete without meeting friends from school. This time we met up more than once. The first time, we went for lunch to a place on 12th Main called Viva Arriba. It was slightly overpriced but at least it wasn’t one of those restaurants that turned off half its lights in the name of ‘ambience’. We also made grand plans of watching a ‘crappy movie’, but only about half of those who said they would come showed up. To add insult to injury, we saw Table No.21, which was not so bad. Two weeks later, we met over lunch at The Grill House at Ulsoor. The food was slightly disappointing, but the company (and beer) more than made up for it. One of my classmates runs a bakery – on both occasions, we raided her place for dessert. Madhav and I also visited school one afternoon.
The last two days were spent in making phone calls to all those I could not meet during the three weeks. While the people I know have not changed much, the landscape of the city has changed vastly. Five years back, I knew of just two malls – Forum (Koramangla) and Garuda (M.G. Road). Now there are tons of them – Mantri, Orion, Forum Value, Central, Gopalan, Total, Inorbit were some of the names I heard people talking about. There are many more, I’m sure! The number of vehicles on the roads has increased exponentially. Some things, however, are the same – Corner House, not having tasted the main course at Barbeque Nation, Blossoms….