Bangalore - July 2021




Nandini Ganesh

 
Copyright 2023 by Nandini Ganesh




Sunrise at Madiwala Lake. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.
Sunrise at Madiwala Lake. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

I like small round tables. There's a continuity to the conversation and an intimacy to the gathering when the table is circular, unlike the square or rectangular ones which create rigid corners. And what better to have on a table than pizza? We ate our way through an assortment of toppings on fine dough. Smeared cheese with veggies punched into it, pizza is always a happy affair. I enjoyed facing my friends more than facing the whole restaurant or television. Money plant climbed from the baskets opposite me. With no rush of time or any urgency of a place to get to, a slow meal is a delight.

From the chic ambience of onesta, off we went to Madiwala Lake. Wandering through the plantations and relishing komorebi in July, I felt grateful for experiencing an abundance of nature in the heart of a large metropolis. Apart from those that come to parks to lose a couple of kilos or to tone their body, I think most of us subconsciously enjoy the feeling of being humbled by nature. Amidst trees, you gain perspective of your life; you learn endurance. The lake glistened under a rather dull grey sky and canopies crackled in the wind. I watched the silhouettes of friends seated on a bench and reminded myself that we are part of this abundance of nature and we will go back to it, even when time ceases. We took a long walk without an end in sight and infinity seemed to grow. I could walk forever in the woods. Occasionally you will encounter new birds, new trees and new positions of the sun in the sky. No room for the mundane.

Train

Reluctantly we left from the park onwards to SBC Railway station. An anxious ride as time ticked closely on the clock. The sky gave in to a heavy downpour, and through the urban jungle our taxi zipped. Raindrops slapped the window. I was worried if we could make it, however, took a quiet moment to appreciate the ride and enjoy the obstructing road and traffic. For if your mind allows it, even that which seemingly obstructs, allows you to bloom. Indian Railway Stations are a melting pot of diversity. Announcements in a sing song voice, vendors with sweet and savoury, and a family that's always noisy are some of the scenes that are inked into the Indian story of railways. Hurriedly climbing the stairs and crossing the bridge, we finally spotted our train. Soon, we were chugging away from the chaos of the city. I reflected back to a ride almost 13 years ago. It was a school trip, and as excited as I was, my heart also ached at the thought of being away from my parents. Not much has changed all these years in terms of that ache of parting, but this time, there is an understanding of a larger picture. There is always an importance to being away, which can be really hard to see sometimes.

I love the rush of the wind that splatters your hair all over when sitting by the window seat. Some music and a blissful sunset. Of course, the ruminating could wait. We were a group of five about to play cards. The coaches are always brimming with stories and we were a chapter of that whole. Its the little things like a blanket over our knees to provide a surface for the cards, the process of figuring out how to unlock the window and the elderly couple that smiles at us youngsters in our moments of fun, (perhaps memories of their own youth flashing back to them) that are ingredients of a memorable train ride. Unlike western rail journeys, which I found to be awfully dull, Indian journeys are truly alive and so colourful, just like the country herself. Needless to say, it would all be better if maintained much cleaner.

We relished on Amma's idli's for dinner. No matter how much of a vagrant you may be, a simply fluffy white idli can fill you with the warmth of home. Tired friends retreated to berths after dinner, and a couple of us stayed awake, discussing life. In the darkness of the coach, we exchanged our life stories. I could have sat there for hours, if not for the energy to conserve for tomorrow. My rather tired buddy was too kind to keep me company despite his fatigue.

I find it extremely hard to sleep on perceivably moving objects. An essential element of sleep is the stillness. A train ride is anything but still. I shuffled around, sometimes forcing my eyes to shut to get some rest. But even when they were closed, only the long tracks ahead came into focus. Thoughts of coaches plummeting into the silence of a farm or village, peaceful in slumber. Around 4:30, I decided to step down from the berth. Hoping to find some company to stand by the door and watch the sunrise, I sheepishly sat at the foot of the lower berth and looked around. Another of my buddies awakened, and we did what everyone should, at least once in their lifetime, if not over and over again...watch the sunrise.

We watched the charming narrow lanes flanked by large blankets of lush greenery; asphalt glistening in the monsoon shower that had poured deep in the night. The sound of which I had heard while trying to fall asleep. It took a lot out of me to peep from the door, my feet on the edge and peep my head outside. A friend standing behind as guard was the protection and strength I needed, and thankfully, got. The train curved beautifully around, her head swerving towards the next quaint station. The image of the arcing train surrounded by all the vegetation and the smell of rain in the air will forever remain vividly in my memory.

Badami

Badami station was more crowded than I had expected it to be. A small depot with mostly tourists. We stepped out, greeted enthusiastically by share auto drivers and bright bougainvilleas. The air was mildly chilly, and sitting in the middle seat of the auto, reminded me of those early years when I sat between amma and appa, on a cold morning after our train journey.

Mayura hotel felt a funny place. Deserted. Desk officers asleep perhaps. The hanging boughs of the Banyan outside called out to me. I greeted them, caressing their barks and swinging from the roots. Trees are naturally humble creatures, perpetually rooted, yet always striving upwards to the skies. This was my playground, running under the hanging roots. I would have stayed longer, but was summoned to talk to the managers of Mayura about our stay.

Soon we were off to our little room to bathe. I had planned an interesting outfit for the occasion, but had forgotten to pack the top that went over my skirt. It lay peacefully under appa's bed in Bangalore.

Hunger began to brew. We waited over 20 minutes for a single dish. Waiting for food is a true test of patience. My friend suggested perhaps the chef was waiting for butter to be bought from the store as he set up the bread for a sandwich. Humour is powerful, especially in trying times.

It was time to walk to the caves. They rose majestically in the distance, making concrete and the tar below look weak.

Seeing any place dirty is heart-breaking, but even more so when the place is of historic and cultural importance. Through the flock of swine and sweat we marched, only the mighty caves drawing us toward them.

The depth of Ajanta and Ellora is truly unparalled. While they are landscape paintings, Badami felt like a portrait. Sheaths of sandstone shot up, piercing the blue sky. It feels funny to think only a portion of these ginormous rocks paved the way to house a temple, while everything above and below it is packed of solid matter. The vista from the caves is of an urban jungle, although not as pronounced as a city. Sitting by the sandstone, I would rather have been drawn into the world of yesteryears than into the chaos of concrete.

Despite not being a particularly "night" person, I have always appreciated darkness. There is a divinity to darkness. It coalesces many images into a single truth.

From behind a large boulder, Agasthya Theertha Lake shone magnificently. Rocks, sky and water together dialled back time to a thousand years before, as though it was another day in the kingdom.

Through another pig stricken dilapidated road we made our way to the archaeological museum and fort. Much like in other museums, I longed to touch the ancient artefacts. Seeing them through a glass casing can only provide half the experience. Indulging in their texture by running my fingers through them, would definitely feel more wholesome.

The archways of the fort with splendid frames are defined by the rocks searing above them. The contrast of seeing a boulder rise over 50m above your head is somehow more comforting than being shadowed by a skyscraper.

The clouds gathered for a drizzle. Soon, they reinforced into a storm. Under the sandstone we stood....watching the falling rain. A deserted place now, but teeming with the life of water and rock.

Patadakkal

Onwards through the marketplace, we found a place for lunch. A share auto arrangement once again took us through the lanes of Badami towards Patadakkal. Spreads of sunflowers dutifully faced the royalty of the sun, who occasionally peeked from the dark clouds. We paused to spend some time with the sunflowers, their bright faces beaming at us.

The serenity of Patadakkal was a pleasing contrast to the stinking streets of Badami. Although the caves are thankfully unblemished, the pathways are forgettable. Patadakkal group of temples are sculptural, a painting between the lawns. I would have loved to lay on the grass watching the transforming sky, but we spent most of our time inside the temples. Listening to the silence of the dark Virupaksha temple, my eyes welled up. Wind hissed through the finely ornamented little openings. The soot of fire merged into the darkness of the garbagriha. I found myself not praying for anything and only beholding the beauty.

I sat with my buddy on the stone steps, some unspoken truths between us. Most of everything had been said, now there was only silence to be understood. We were two individuals in harmony. At a point in  of your life, you stop worrying about the could have and would have beens and simply revel in the bliss of letting go.

Peace dawned at dusk.

I will forever remember the Peepal tree. Her leaves jostled in and nourished the wind and I absorbed its richness. All that was needed now was a ghazal or keerthanai to garland the evening.

Some ice-cream and chocolate wrapped up our vacation. And just like that.....a day passed.

*****

Nandini Ganesh is an architect with a keen interest in landscape design, photography and writing. She has worked as a content writer for the design platform 'Rethinking the Future'. Nandini's short story, 'Summer' has been awarded first place in the short story competition hosted by 'Beyond the Panorama'.



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