Sunday, March 27, 2011

Tale of two cities

She was not a virgin to me when I first went to her. I already knew her, more from what my friends had told me about her. “She is like a dream”, they used to say. The first time it was a quicky, a day, or two at the most. I was anxious and she was full of activity, as always. It was for a test and I was not expecting to pass with flying colours. Even then she captivated me, though I was not able to pinpoint at the very essence of what was so different about her.

I kept going to her once in a while before I decided to make her mine. It was big decision, but I solaced myself thinking that others have also done it before me. Now, after spending more than two years with her, I am with someone else. Though I am not sure if this is going to be lifelong I am making efforts to make it unending. But recently, people who know me, have started asking me who is the better of the two, the previous one or the one now. Tough one that is, same as the first time I tried to figure out the difference in her. But I think I have an answer for it now, which some might agree and others differ. There are traits in both which some like and others hate, some exalt and some disparage. And so if you ask me, it’s difficult to pick one over the other completely. But when people look at you with expectations of giving them a clear winner, I say I am only happy to have spent time in Bombay (I like it this way) and not at all sad to be in Bangalore (this one too) today. Finally I thought that there needs to be a little more reason to decide how these cities would be different, not better or worse than the other.

Bombay has the old woman’s charm, who has seen it all, and she gives you her wisdom, accumulated over decades. You sit with her, for a cup of tea, with the sunset in front of you and the sand beneath and she will engage you with stories of past and present, of millionaires and paupers, of sweet dreams and of bitter realities. By the time you sip the last drop you believe you have seen it all. But she just smiles inward, on your naivety, because her stories are endless and her experiences, countless. You always feel that she has given a part of her to you, to cherish and treasure. But in reality she has added you to her stories.

Bangalore is like the girl who has just got married and is coming to terms with her womanhood. She’s excited because she’s getting out of old habits and stepping into a new world. She anxious at the same time because all this excitement is new and unknown to her. There might be rules to follow and conventions to adjust to. There is lot of attention on the new bride and people want to judge her: on her looks and on her temperament and she tries hard to put her best foot forward. She gives you a courteous smile and you think you are special; but she’s just polite, to all and sundry because it’s her wedding. You have a lot of other things to look forward to: friends, music, entertainment and food, after all you are invited to this party.

I am sure people would have liked me to mull more over the traffic snarls in Bangalore and the overflowing trains in Bombay, the night life in Bombay and the club scene in Bangalore, the cool weather in Bangalore vs. the sultry days in Bombay, the steep rent in Bombay compared to the ‘we are almost there’ rates in Bangalore, the vada paav vs. egg puff, the safe night outs in Bombay vs. get mugged nights in Bangalore, and last but not the least the ‘marathi manoos’ and ‘navu kannadiga’ fight against the outsiders. There are more to add to this list but I my objective here is not to complain or commend but accept these as things which give character to a place and nothing more. Bombay, in her hay days, was the dream city; and in many ways is what Bangalore is now. Then it was the hot bed for doing conventional business as Bangalore is for IT now. Throngs of people now reach Bangalore everyday as how it would have been to Bombay two decades earlier. I was not surprised when mom said the other day that nowadays everybody’s someone from Bhopal is in Bangalore. Surprisingly or not I have a few Bhopalis in my office too. Though I am sure that compared for every one person from Bhopal in Bangalore, there would be ten in Bombay today.

Almost a decade earlier when I was thinking to give Bangalore a chance I had only heard of it as a retirement paradise and an air force or army base. We never used to hear of it that often nor would anyone visit and share stories. A lot has changed since then, with better means of travel, communication and livelihood, no city today remains untouched. Say a city like Jaipur today, with the palaces, forts and fairs, might be tomorrow’s Bangalore. But when all is said and done about a city, what really matters are the friends and family in the city, a good and satisfying job, the food culture of the place and a nice place to stay and travel. I have had all these and more at both Bombay and Bangalore and maybe that’s why it’s difficult to compare.

In the end, I like her here today and about tomorrow I am not sure. Some other city or who knows if it’s some town. I am always ready to embrace her, for even I am not a virgin anymore.