I lived in Shanthi Nagar, at the 4th Cross, for my time in Bangalore.
From there I went to school, crossed paths with new souls, ate, danced, laughed and sang,
even had my own ‘local’ temple, wandered happy and aimless with naught by my eye,
and all other things which make life’s living; another page of memories made.
My street was full of brightly coloured houses, some beautiful and tall, some modest, historic,
all brimming with signs of Indian life ~ a quiet madness. In India you find peace within the great noise
and chaos of the Eastern world, the Eastern mind. Not so ordered and perfect as the West.
India likes to break rules.
This calf lived down my little street, I walked passed him everyday, as he lay, basking, in the hot morning sun.
I could never tell if he was sad or pompous – he was sacred after all, as all cows are.
Nobody in my area really spoke English, expect my housemates, which was a mixture of bliss and curse,
especially when I went to my local shop and asked for coconut oil – the reply simply “Kannada?”
(the local language)
I quite like the challenge of getting by – hands, feet, face – whatever has to be used to be understood (often all three). I really adored bartering with the street merchants though, who, whilst humble, did their very best to rip me off, day in, day out…
(Above – scenes from the market at the bottom of my street)
I cannot express enough the utter joy of having a fresh coconut halved before your eyes, a straw stuck in the middle, the refreshing juices taken as the hot Indian sun burns down. And you’ll pay less than a dollar… much less.
I quickly made friends in Bangalore, wherever I went; people show a lot of interest to Westerners, and I made the most of it. Especially as I have a habit of wandering into all sorts of obscure places tourists usually don’t.
I received many a warm reception, and some of my favourite moments were candid meetings with locals.
One of my favourite spots was my rooftop terrace. I used to spend hours watching the Kites and Crows sailing above. I have been in love with the freedom of birds since I was a boy – a mixture of strength, grace, purpose, a beauty, utter freedom of course, but also powered by my innate fear of heights – one that I’m slowly conquering. I’ve always been the sort to look over the edge, seek out my fears – I guess my curiosity is the greater contender. I could clearly see the tower of the nearby Jain Temple from the terrace; and at dusk, the enchanting sounds of prayer from the nearby Mosque…
Shanthi Nagar is a very culturally mixed neighbourhood, something I very much appreciated.
I’ll never forget the night I was caught in the middle of a monsoon downpour – puddles quickly formed, everybody
took shelter inside shops and houses, and I, like the madman I profess to be, ran through the middle of the streets,
soaked to the skin in seconds and laughing my head-off, my sandals splashing around in the waters beneath.
I heard my name shouted, looked round and saw my roommate, Abiroop, running towards me – he’d been
one of the many sensible enough to take shelter in a nearby shop – but then we ran together back to our place,
laughing all the way – victims of the rain and happy for it!
Everyday scenes, simple luxuries of life, permeate my memory of Shanthi Nagar.
Kids cycling around, playing games, even cricket, down my street. The first time I saw a monkey,
just outside my school, casually sat on a wall; the cows that roam freely and carelessly;
all the sights, colours, smells and sounds that embellish all Indian cities…
People on their way to temple…
To zoom through the busy streets of Bangalore on the back of a friend’s motorbike is a privilege indeed.
One I indulged in rather a lot…
I really did find a sort of peace at the local Jain temple. When my tuk tuk driver first dropped me off at the end of my road, right outside of the neighbourhood’s very own Jain temple, I was blown away by the building’s beauty.
A handsome, yet simplistic form, not superfluous in colour; looked as though its delicately-carved exterior of
intricate patterns had been tirelessly hewn from a single piece of glorious white rock.
When it comes to faith I’ve never been black or white. Needless to say, I am a Christian, a proud one.
I believe in one God, one Light, one Path – but I take it all as something personal to me, something part of my being, intrinsic, as omnipresent as faith itself, something I carry with me, as I walk the path of my life,
unaccompanied, but never alone.
I pray/praise a lot – but not just in churches, Gospel choir, or by bedside. God has given me a passion, a curiosity to see and discover the world for myself, a free will; I stay true to my faith, but I am not held back by man-made ritual. I take the Light where It Is – I take my rest where I can. I found a peace in that Jain temple – not in the many-faced gods or icons, bells or incense; but in the stone walls, the simple structure, the silence and the still. I found peace in a place I frequented only when it was empty, when I could go, take off my shoes, lose the noise of the world outside, sit, think, and listen… to my thoughts, my heart, the echoing of my soul, that so often gets lost in the chaos of the modern world. I find this peace wherever I can. I listen to the silence wherever I can find it. I search for the voice of my God whenever the opportunity befalls me, to stop, stare into the black, and wonder… I have found that Voice sitting under tree, atop mountain; in temple, in church – wherever there is His life…
Light shines greater than darkness; a single flame can light a room of dark.