I came to Bangalore over 10 years back. I was falling in love. Not with a person or even a place. I was really, completely, truly committing myself to life. I was 19. I had just weathered a tempestuous adolescence culminating in my dropping out of college. Then I licked my wounds, cleared my arrears and waited for life to begin again.
It did, in the summer of 1999. I found my first boyfriend, completed the Landmark Forum, figured out my plan for the next decade of my life and then came to Bangalore to start it all. I wasn’t just turning another page, I was starting a fresh book, Bangalore its first chapter.
It was a green, calm, young and fresh city. It seemed to mirror how my own youthful self felt, within. The IT sector was booming, retail was opening up and the peaceful little Garden City was waking up and experiencing the first flush of attention and awareness. Just like a debutant belle. Just like me. It was in every way, a perfect summer. I tried my wings for the first time in everything I could think of – work, love and other relationships. And I was soaring. Just as the country’s spotlight begin to focus on that lovely little place called Bangalore.
Bangalore and I sustained our relationship for the next couple of years, only growing with every interaction. There were the friends whose arms were wide open to me, their sweet, drawling, Southie accents telling me about the city we all loved. There was the boy, only a boy, who arrived to beat me in a debate and left minus his heart. He would bike down to Mumbai every few weekends to meet me and bring with him the whiff of cigarettes, pub stories and flowers that I always associated with Bangalore. There were the college admits, graduate and post-graduate that I confidently strode up and claimed but never used. Bangalore loved me.
The monsoon of 2003 is the time I can peg as when things started to go wrong. I had crash-landed a devastatingly poisonous relationship. My beloved Bangalore had toppled into the abyss of the dotcom crash. After college, in a bid to escape Mumbai’s unsympathetic memories and unemployable reality, I fled to Bangalore. But the city had nothing to offer me at all. Not a job, not a friendly smile, not a kind word. The bracing weather that had been my wings , my mood upswings, on my earlier trips gave me a bad cold that year. It was a sudden turnface that left me empty.
A year later, we met again, like guests at a party of a host who doesn’t know our history.I went out with my Mumbai friends, the metropack prowling the new-kid-in-the-city-business city. The best way to meet an ex- is looking fabulous, surrounded by fabulous people and wearing a cold, casual attitude. It worked. I spurned my former lover, Bangalore, enjoying it like a stranger and my only memory of that time was the incessant partying. The boy met me once and after ferrying me around one evening remarked that I was the cruelest and most wonderful woman he had ever known. So there, Bangalore. I went back with my claws sheathed.
Yet another year later, it beckoned to me in the form of a lonely Mumbai friend, asking for solace, promising companionship. I set my cynicism aside and went back with open arms. It was a mistake, a shattering defeat. I felt it like a slap on my face. If I had fallen in love with a city that was youthful and fresh, this was a date with a youth wasted in drink and other excesses. There was nothing for me in this city anymore.
If cities were people, Mumbai would be my family in every sense…the one I can’t do with or without, an inseperable part of me. Delhi would be the slimy, leery relative that I’ve always been terrified of, for reasons unmentionable. Chennai would be the stiff-necked, stern grandparent with whom there would be a connection but never an attachment. And Bangalore, Bangalore would be the love, the first wonderous love that turned traitor….on itself and on me. The love that will never be again.
Bangalore, you were mine and I, yours, for a brief, sweet spell before we passed into each other’s almost-oblivion.
Other things and places and people have happened tome. I’ve discovered Pune. And Hyderabad. And Goa. And other friends, lovers and selves.
And yet, there is nothing quite like the first love, is there?
To Bangalore, with much affection and warmth. In my memories, there will always be a fresh, bracing place for you as I remember us.