Watching 2 Kannada movies (Pallavi Anupallavi and Nodi Swamy Naavirodu Heege) over the past few weeks got me thinking. I liked the movies. More than the story, for where they were shot and also when they were shot. Both were made around 1983-1985 and shot in the Bangalore of those days. Somehow more than entertained I felt slightly homesick.
I am not sure it can be called homesick. Homesick is when you yearn for home and the cure is home. In this case I was yearning for a Bangalore that I knew as a child. With red buses, tree-lined streets, black autos, stone pavements with grass growing between the stone slabs, people living in vataaras, struggling for water and standing near community water taps chatting about family problems and cursing the Hegde Government.
After being on and off abroad for the last 5 years, I sometimes wonder what is it that I yearn for. The Bangalore I knew and grew up in is no longer there. The places are still there – the dosas at Vidyarthi bhavan, the coffees at UD, pani puris at roadside stalls. But then there are no friends left in the city to recreate the same old life, the same old fun and memories with. Do we feel really homesick when we think of our city or do we just yearn for a by-gone era? Maybe its a pining for a comfort zone in the past. After all, we feel homesick only when we are generally down or lonely.
I guess eventually when you talk of home, it is not just a physical building, but a whole constituted of people who matter. There is always the distinction between home and house. I guess eventually cities also constitute the same. They are never just physical entities, but constituted of things and people who matter to us. Losing one or more of them decreases the value and pining we hold for a city too. Houses evolve – you add rooms sometime, make modifications, expansions, sometimes moving to different parts of the city, but eventually it still maintains the same warmth and comfort as before and you continue calling it home. Cities change too. We resist some changes while we welcome others. When we resist it is mainly when we are to lose something that holds memories that are important to us. Some people resist the metro and how it has destroyed the boulevard on MG Road, while I am excited about a metro in Bangalore. There were many who didn’t care about the flyover near the National College at Basavanagudi. For me it meant a whole lot of memories from my college days.
Bangalore will evolve physically, sometimes for good, and at times for worse. Many who return to the city after spending more than 20 years of their lives here and then going away for just more than 4 or 5 years might find themselves alienated from the city. I guess it might be because when they return they expect to return not to the city of Bangalore, but to a wonderful and carefree past. They finish a childhood in a city and return to it as an adult, expecting the same childhood. Now they have to deal with everything like the gas connection, the telephone line, etc. What they see and face is what they were shielded from by their parents and they end up crushed and questioning their decisions. Every city has its ways to get you acclimatized. Eventually everyone then sets out on the same goals. The BDA site, admission in a good school for the children and the usual events that keep life flowing towards the inevitable end. What is lost is a childhood and an era you keep pining for. Only difference is, when abroad it flashes as images in your mind at unexpected moments, while in your city, you see glass structures standing on places and memories you treasure most and it tugs at your heart, silently.