‘What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare?—’
The sweeper raised clouds of dust as she vigorously helped the dust resettle evenly on every object that was left out in the open. A very well-fed and contended dog, lay on the stones that lined the pavement, indolently thumping its tail at the passersby. It is my infallible observation that dogs that live in the vicinity of eateries, especially bakeries, find it difficult to retain their svelte, lean, mean and hungry look.
There, my guess was right. An ‘Iyengar’ bakery, shutters still halfway up, was a hub of activity with the aroma of fresh baked bread, and puffs – vegetable, potato and eggs, no meat, for this was a vegetarian eatery, the only concession was for the eggs that had the yolk, grey- blue in colour…very often likened to the moon, ‘Chandamama’ –‘moon uncle’ to be precise. It gave children a vicarious thrill to imagine that they were eating a piece of the moon. Yolk cooked yellow was unheard of, unseen even. The bluer the yolk, the greater its appeal.
Before television, and more importantly, satellite television held sway over people’s lives and stunted their imagination, babies and toddlers were fed their evening meal on the streets, or on the balconies, with constant prattle from the mother to ensure the little one ate its fill. Often tales of ‘Chandamama’, made the unsuspecting toddler gaze at the mysterious moon and before he knew it, a mouthful of rice, ghee-clarified butter and lentils would be swallowed. Curd rice would follow next and the squirming little bundle of energy would wriggle out of the mother’s arms to play with the older children.
The days of blue-grey centred eggs are certainly over, with Masterchef Australia being watched in every household, giving the local soaps a run for their money. Gourmet demands notwithstanding, local eateries have not succumbed to the pressure of the discerning Bangalorean. The yolk has the blues and refuses to sun itself. No sunny disposition for our eggs, no siree!
Outside the bakery, the dog was generally fed a staple of stale bread, cake and puffs from the bakery that were left unsold, and was quite content with its life and indifferent to the unwanted attention of children. Very often, a low growl would suffice to make the children run away to the safety of the concrete seat built in front of the house. Too lazy to bark at any new canine entrant, the rotund animal seemed to shrug, as it yawned, as if to say- Oh well, food was plenteous, more than it ever needed. Very well-behaved, it seldom rushed at food placed for it on the ledge, but ambled, gave a perfunctory sniff, before settling down to its meal. Yes, it was vegetarian, never gnawed on a bone in all its life. Wouldn’t start even if it were offered one. Got too used to the good life. Leave all the action to the ones that thrived on it. Peace was what this evolved soul craved.
The shops were all shut. Nobody stirred till eleven in the morning. Only the darshinis, delightful little places that served local versions of ‘fast food’ and bakeries were open, to cater to the needs of the hungry, in the morning.
Morning walkers, dressed nattily in track pants and t-shirts waited in long queues for breakfast, after the exertions of their exercise. ‘Walking’ as they call it, is rarely brisk, it affords a good opportunity for them to catch up on gossip and to get away from nagging wives, husbands and children. ‘Walking’ involves forming a huge gang and walking across the breadth of the path-in the park, even on the road and create an interesting hurdle to the serious ‘fitness’ enthusiast. It involves talking at the top of your voice making everyone aware of what your take on politics, religion, sports or even films is.
After the successful burning of a hundred calories, our walkers stand in queue to get into the mecca of all dosa joints. Dosas- delicious melt-in-your-mouth, savoury, buttery Indian crepes, served with a spicy potato filling and chutney, satisfying the cravings of enthusiasts on the main road, eager to compensate for the loss of a hundred odd calories with another four hundred. There is no guilt in tucking in. After all, we go ‘walking’ every day.
The beauty of these Bangalore mornings is that nobody is in a hurry to go anywhere. Concrete benches around trees are the favourite haunt of retired men who gather around and discuss pension woes and latest government policy. Women gather around vegetable vendors, looking adorable, dressed in sarees and wearing ‘walking shoes’.
To the harried office-goer, all this inactivity seems rather aimless, but in a world gone mad, in a flurry of activity, this is a sign that sanity reigns. The world need not always move in fast forward mode.
When you get a chance, and traffic forces you to stop, open your eyes to the world outside, take in the colours around, breathe in the air redolent with the fragrance of fresh flowers, and aroma of coffee. Thank the cow that stood there holding up traffic. I know I did.
Put your smartphone away-
-‘And stare as long as sheep and cows:’
You will thank me and the cow, for you need a well-deserved break.
Believe me, you do.
‘A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.’
P.S. Never mind the fluctuating tenses in the syntax. Nothing really matters. Get my drift?