Of the Little Lessons – Memoirs from the Street.

What makes a human being more intelligent than the other animals? Is it the ability to think, to perceive? Is it the highly complex brain, the number of ridges? Or is it the emotions? I wish not to answer that question, for there are as many answers to this question as there are leaves in a spring tree or perhaps, shells in a shore.

None can be right and none wrong.

What is well known is that being human is not easy. It brings with it challenges that are differed by location on the planet, ‘caste’, colour. Life is delicate. Intricate. Like a masterpiece of artwork.

This artwork, and its versatility is best explored when on safari. Safari, on the streets! Singles, teams, friends, couples, young and old. As they are engrossed in their own part of the big world, this artwork gets more apparent, serving a feast to the spectator’s eye. And yes, it has something new to tell you every time you are there.

Here are a few snippets of the street that I have captured – a few glimpses that have taught me very important lessons, and made me wonder about Man’s very existence.

1. Fourth Block, Jayanagar, Bangalore.

I am on my way home after a hectic, tiring day that involved a visit to a ‘big’ pharmaceutical industry and late afternoon classes. In conversation with my mother on the phone, I cannot stop complaining as to how annoying the company officials were for not letting me use my camera, and for having served smoking hot tea when the Sun was above us. A noise cuts the conversation short.

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 I disconnect the call and turn to see where it comes from. I see him. Welding iron joints together. There he stands – without an eye-mask, or hand gloves or anything to shield him from those bright yellow streaks of fire.

Occasionally he stops to take a sip of tea from the plastic cup placed on the ground, and starts again. I cannot help but notice how unperturbed he seems. The frown on my face also vanishes. And I realise that my camera is still in the bag, waiting to come out.

2. Kanyaka Parameswari Kalyana Mantapam, Chittoor.

One thing every foodie loves to do is to sneak into the wedding kitchen. I am not a foodie. I sneak in because the colour attracts me. And I love it when somebody sends me to the kitchen to fetch something. Late in 2012, my cousin got married. One of the best things about the wedding was the kitchen and the happy chefs.

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It is no less than a marvel to watch the chefs work in the wedding kitchen. The constant chatter, the enthusiasm, the laughter, the tirelessness – all amidst endless cooking, is a wonderful sight. It feels like you are standing in a little world altogether – and they seem to gladly welcome you to cheerful world they create wherever they are.

3. The Footpath, Hosur Road, Koramangala, Bangalore.

Some weekday in May 2012 – the annual vacation time. Summer at its peak. I still do not quite understand why, or how, a friend and I decided to walk the five kilometer stretch from Jayanagar to Koramangala that noon. But we did. And I am glad we did.

IMG_0781The road seems almost monochromatic – with shades of pale yellow and faded green here and there – until I saw them. A woman in a red coloured sari walking with one kid held in her arms and the other walking beside her. The camera is with me, and I take a picture when she is about fifty metres away from me.

She may have heard the shutter sound of my camera. She slows down and turns around. Insecure, I keep the camera down. She says,’Do you work for the paper?’ ‘No’, I reply, ‘you have nothing to worry about. These pictures are for myself.’ Her eyes don’t meet mine as she says,’I do not beg for money. Nor do I make these two beg on the streets for me. I earn by fair means.’ Her voice is low. ‘I want to educate them so that they can stand on their own feet and take care of themselves.’ I try to make an eye contact. It fails. She continues,’Take a picture, it is okay. But don’t write things that say we beg and make our kids do the same. That is not true.’ She asks her son to smile. And he does. I take a picture, I show it to him, and I smile. This time I don’t turn to look at her. He waves me goodbye. I wave back. Then she turns around and waves back at me. I wave her goodbye too, and there is a smile on both of our faces. She then turns back and walks away – and he hops along.

P.S. – Our conversation happens in Kannada.

4. Outside the Forum Mall, Koramangala, Bangalore.

This picture remains close to my heart. It may not come under the list of the best pictures that I have shot. But it will top the list of the best moments I ever captured.

IMG_0835Walking out of Forum – known to be one of the best malls of Bangalore city –  after a heavy meal, tiredness takes over, and I start complaining about the weather. Walking back home is an impossibility, for obvious reasons, of course. Standing still in a dilemma, I spot something ‘strange’. He sits there, under his book cart reading something. He seems to be at peace, even amidst the noisy road in front of him, and, under the heat of the noon. I try to catch a glimpse of the title of the book he is reading, but I cannot. I do not know why, but I lack the courage. I do not want to disturb his peace.
That is the last time I see him seated there, reading. I am to see him many times in the days to come, but none with him sitting under the cart, flipping the pages of a book.
It is a memory I shall cherish. But I still cannot clearly explain as to why this picture is special to me.

5. JP Nagar, Bangalore.

It is not a thing of joy when you have a test to give in college during the Diwali week. More so, when your family knows about it. You are not allowed into the cleaning-the-house-club, which is worse than not being allowed into the kitchen.

So I was at the balcony of our flat, with a couple of books wide open, the bag lying next to me [with the camera in it.] I am distracted by the sound of fire crackers and of kids running around, screaming. I look down, and I see a war-film sequence being enacted by a group of 8-9 year olds, aided by their Diwali gifts – the toy guns.IMG_0029IMG_0030I am engrossed in it – it is filled with action, emotion, betrayal, and violence to a small extent. I am awed. Then I realise, it is not the 90s anymore. And kids grow up faster these days.

6. Christ University, Bangalore.

It is the Bhasha Utsav, or the ethnic day. Everybody who is associated with the University will agree with me when I say that it is THE best day of the academic year. Never have I seen such diversity per piece of land – and Bhasha Utsav, or the festival languages celebrates just that.

IMG_0008Of the best aspects of the day, one is the sound. The sound of music. Of the Nadaswaram, and the most prominent – of the traditional drums of Kerala. None can sit idly when they are being played at the background.

To watch them play is yet another treat. It takes strength for one to keep playing for more than an hour – managing excellently well in keeping the festive spirit alive.IMG_0244

And, as I said, no pair of hands can stay still!

For me, street  is anything that is not indoor. Anything outside home.

Street is the perfect teacher. She taught me what it is to be responsible, what is to be patient, what it is to be kind. She taught me perseverance, determination. Most importantly, she taught me that change, is inevitable.

Here I sit, with the monitor in front of my face and my fingers tapping the keys of the keyboard, wishing that I learn many more lessons from her, or to just sit and look at the magical world that she is.

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