“Wish you a wonderful weekend”, screams the RJ through the radio as my car labours through the serpentine traffic. For the happy weekend to begin, I must get first home, and so must the lakhs of office-goers. Friday evenings in Bengaluru are not like any other day.
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I am now at the nerve centre of the city, Majestic, which seems to be bursting at its seams. Throngs of travellers scramble towards the KSRTC bus stand for their weekend trip to their ‘native’ or some holiday destination. Private buses are parked haphazardly along the roadside, and travellers have no other option but to cross the road through the traffic. The city bus station looks just as it did in 1993, when I was in college; but the population seems to have doubled. Did we hear someone say that Bengaluru would be transformed into London or Singapore? Or was it Mumbai?
I drive past Majestic and head towards Malleshwaram, past the ever ongoing Metro construction and hit Sampige road. I’m almost home now. After suffering through another ten minutes of vehicles trying to get the better of each other and tympanum-shattering honking, I am at the pearly gates of the heavenly campus of Institute of Wood Science and Technology. I know that I am fortunate to stay in this forested part of Bengaluru, which does not feel one bit like the rest of the city. So, the best part of my weekend is staying at home, and if push comes to shove, driving or walking within the Malleshwaram ward boundaries.
My children can never be put to bed before 11 pm on Fridays, so they have the liberty to sleep in the next day. The riotous gang of kids is late to raise dust on the cricket pitch and the hapless neighbourhood kitten is allowed to loll freely for a little while more. I am certain that the kitten welcomes Mondays with a sigh a relief, after being pestered all weekend by the kids.
Soon, it is the time for ‘special weekend classes’. Music, abacus, computers, dancing, singing, cricket coaching, painting and what not. We all are in a frenzied hurry to make our children what we are not or could not be. A couple of months back when my son Adithya hounded me to permit him to join a cricket coaching centre, I was not amused. I remembered a Sunday morning from my childhood in the 1980s, when my brother, a cousin and I, along with another friend, the owner of a cricket kit, gathered at the school playground. We reverentially touched and felt the pads, gloves, the leather ball and bat. We then put on the gear and experienced the thrill of playing cricket just like the real cricketers that we saw on TV!
These days, every fourth kid in the neighbourhood carries the hope of his parents to become the next Tendulkar, which is manifest in the overcrowded grounds. It is almost a near stampede-like situation, with small armies of cricket enthusiasts in whites, practising in the limited spaces of shrinking playgrounds. I am not entirely unhappy that Adithya’s interest in cricket is waning fast!
During the weekends, Malleshwaram ground is a sight to behold. I once counted at least 25 cricket matches going on simultaneously which means a total of fifty teams! In such a scenario, it is extremely important for the players to concentrate on their match. You blink a little longer than you have to, and you may end up catching a ball hit by a batsman from another match, inviting angry protests! Many a match has been lost when an excellently executed shot has been stopped short by a third party player, preventing a boundary. Similarly, many runouts have been affected due to an unintentional deflection; when the ball is struck along the ground, it is highly unlikely to reach the boundary, when you have hundreds of pairs of legs moving in all directions!
An evening stroll along Sampige or Margosa road is not without its usual rewards; the benne dosefrom CTR is one, as is the vada from Veena Stores. Now, one can also get an excellent ‘bye two kaafi’ in front of CTR. We walk past Adigas hotel and cross the Sai Baba temple, which typically sees rush hour on Thursdays. Some devotees stop their vehicles almost in the middle of the road to try and get a long-shot darshan. Never mind the pile up of vehicles behind, bhakti comes first!
The Malleshwaram market on 12th cross will transport you to a perfume factory with its array of beautiful and fragrant flowers on display. The market also has a diverse and exotic collection of vegetables, but the prices of greens is a scam here. I have also found that the rates of cauliflower, beans and okra are at least twice that of what we find in Hopcoms. Of course, the vegetables look fresh, clean and shiny green, but I am sure that each piece has at least two percent of its weight in chemicals. I avoid them scrupulously.
Now that the market has been razed to the ground, the sellers have shifted onto the footpath and the road, along with their wares. They say that a multi-storey shopping complex is coming up soon. Maybe in a decade…
Weekends are not really the best time to walk on the footpaths of Sampige road. The crowd is like an army of ants on a candy stick. Between tenth cross and sixth cross, you cannot walk without brushing against others.
Occasionally on my wanderings, I see a drama enacted by the police with sickening regularity. When some officer is about to arrive to inspect the footpaths, there is a mad and desperate rush by the hawkers on the footpath to collect their belongings, and run towards the awning of adjoining buildings, two steps away. There they wait with trepidation for the rage of the policemen to subside. The police scream at them, occasionally landing a couple of blows with their lathis on the merchandise, though rarely on people. Then, it is business as usual for the hawkers.
If you discuss the problem with them, they will reveal that it is all part of a drama. Either way, the maamoolu has to be paid to the police. There are no prizes for guessing the most efficient hafta collection system in the country.
A routine round of vegetable shops and a couple of provision stores, and we are back home. Praneetha tends to her roof-top vegetable orchard (by the way ‘Oota from your Thota’ feels great and is also chemical-free). I occasionally roam around the campus with my camera. Bengaluru has grown so much over the years, and so haphazardly, that it is a punishment to travel from one end of the city to the other to meet friends or relatives. I stay at home and console myself by saying that everybody needs their break to relax after a hectic week.
And then the weekend is over before it even began, or so it feels.