My house has a balcony leading from the kitchen.
Every morning since I moved in, my routine went thus; make a cup of chai, throw open the door, and breathe in crisp, fresh air from the forest right outside the door.
And I mean an honest-to-goodness, dense trees and all, forest, outside my kitchen window. In the middle of Bangalore!

Tree cover so dense, the only sunlight I ever could see was filtered through the thick foliage, falling in soft slants across the mossy floor, punctuated by squirrels scurrying around in pairs, in true Bollywood style. Eagles, perched on branches, camouflaged so well I once saw a squirrel run up and bump into it, pretty much suffer a minor stroke and fall right off when the realization set in. Brahminy kites, ninja-swooping between the leaves. Your garden variety mynahs, pigeons, sparrows and if I was lucky, a beautiful black bird with a long feathery tail that twitched when it sang, looking eerily similar to a legendary Pokémon. A family of migratory storks that claimed the teak tree for their own, overlooking the proceedings like awkward firangs at a desi wedding. And at night, scores of bats flitting around like no one body’s business, the still air punctuated by an occasional ‘hoo hoooo‘ followed by two gleaming golden eyes in an owl face.

The house was always two degrees colder than any part of the city. The fan just sat there, dejected, gathering dust. Because all it took was an open window, and you were instantly transported to the chillness, the sound of rustling leaves, of a forest camp. It was the next bets thing to living in a tree house.
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Until the day I woke up to the sound of power saws.

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Sobbing like a child, I watched my majestic trees fall like matchsticks, one after the other, as if they weighed nothing at all.
The big one with wide leaves fell first, the squirrel family leaping frantically into thin air. The gulmohar fell, taking with it the pigeon nest and her newborns. The teak tree fell, leaving the firang stork family despondent on a nearby broken branch, looking very much like a NatGeo refugee image.

For the first time in many months, I could see sunlight through my balcony.

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In two days, they razed an acre of forest that took perhaps decades to grow, all the while amused by the hysterical, bawling woman on the balcony trying to click frantic pictures before all was lost.
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Today, I wake to the sounds of drills cracking through bedrock. I make chai to the rumbles of earth-movers. My dreams are punctuated by the dull roar of CAT diggers.

I breathe in fine, lung-clogging dust that seeps through the cracks and coats my house.

I bar my windows, my kitchen door, and my heart.
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I watched my view go from Avatar to Mad Max.
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For two weeks, I had to contend with huge rats taking refuge in my balcony, fleeing from the destruction of their underground housing colony. The maid discovered a squirrel nest and four minuscule newborns tucked behind the washing machine, also solving the mystery of how my broom and mop were chewed exactly in half. Chai-time eagle and his friends soar over the dust bowl hunting for mice that are long gone.
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And today, two months later, I rush to hurriedly bolt my balcony door in the morning and see that in the midst of angry JCBs, angrier laborers, steel and concrete and rebars and cracked bedrock and mounds and mounds of debris….

There were the unmistakable beginnings of what looked like small, hopeful, teak plants.

Dire Measures.

“But…but sir, what you’re suggesting is…..”

“Yes.”

“With all due respect, this is madness! Madness, I tell you!”

“No more questions, Gowda. My decision is final. You will follow orders, and you will do as you’re told. Is that understood?!”

“But the risk is too great, and the reward too paltry! Sir, I urge you to reconsider…surely there are better ways…surely, there must be another solution….”

He put down the handheld device, and thundered.

“GOWDA! Must I remind you of the nobility of our profession? Do you need a lesson in the indispensability of our responsibilities? Do you understand, how imperative, how absolutely crucial it is, to ensure delivery of this package? Can you fathom the enormity, the staggering weight of the trust that has been placed upon this mission? Consider, for a moment, what would entail the failure of this task – unrest, chaos, perhaps the very downfall of what we stand for! To that end I say, no action, nay, not even the potential rip we could cause in the fabric of the space-time continuum, is too minute to ensure that we live up to the mission we have set out to achieve!

We have no time to waste, my good man.

Now hand me the parcel, and prep the machine; I must make the quantum leap.

“…….It has been an honour working with you, sir.”

“And you, soldier.”

“Godspeed.”

He checks measurements, sets coordinates, adjusts for error margins and with a final, proud salute, sets the pod to reset time by 24 hours.

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Years pass.

“Appa…who am I named after?”

He wipes a lone tear.

“The most dedicated man I ever knew, son. The one who laughed at the known laws of physics, when it came to his duties. He was…PAKETTS-Nagaraja.”

 

Capture

Run-in with Royalty.

Cab guy calls me.

Madam, please swalpa walk and come forward, if not I’ll have to take 2 U-to pick u up…full traffic…20 minutes…

So I trudge along for 500m, lugging laptop and lunch dabba, and reach the car, parked left near a footpath, ahead of a bustling bus stand, horns honking impatiently behind. Skid to the door and try to open it.

That’s when I meet her.

The Lady.

Clearly descended from royalty, judging from the regal indifference to the disheveled vagabond rattling at the car handle. Lost in her own kindle wonderland. Perhaps taking stock of her heirlooms. Not for her, these common courtesies and car doors. Not for her, these piddly notions of shifting to the other side. No sirree. Peasants may brave the traffic- side door, and if they get flattened by an oncoming BMTC, well, that’s just their peasant-ly luck.

The driver fruitlessly reaches over, and tried to open the door. Horns honk. Buses rumble.

She rummages in her bag, perhaps to throw some change at the crazy person who for some reason just won’t leave, and is now banging at her window! Tch tch.

Seconds tick by. Driver manages to open door. I stand there.

Queen Bengaluru’s posterior is firmly still planted on the seat.

“Madam….swalpa adjust?”

After an appropriately aristocratic pause, H.H. Lady Olashare the Third slides to the other side.

I dive in, bag and all, and just sort of…stare at her divine magnificence, as she utters these words.

Issshh….. Eshtu time waste aayithu anna… Almost 5 mins…

Fin.

Epilogue: Just 450 meters later, her ride ends.

Bumpy ride.

The pickup right after me was a lady, who asked us to wait in front of Cambridge school.
And we did.
Then she says 21st cross.
Cab guy is clueless, so I map it out, and off we pop.
Then she says school again.
Loop back.
The timer is ticking. The trip has already started since technically, we’re at the location.
I’m using complex Fourier transforms to calculate how the 15 minute delay will exponentially increase my travel time at the major bottlenecks on the way, in order to to arrive at a reasonable estimate as to how pissed my boss will be today.

Tick tick tick.

Cab guy cursing under his breath.

There she is! Red salwar!

Cab guy dials her. She cuts the call with not a flutter, and continues strolling towards us at snail’s pace, enjoying the crisp January air, content with life and its wondrous beauty.

Jaldi aavo madam!!

She slows down even more.

My calculations just shoot up. From the looks of it, so does cab guy’s BP.

She approaches the car, hallelujah, and there it is, the reason for all this nonchalance.

Baby bump.

She kicks me out of the front seat, sets down her lunch dabba, makes herself comfortable, cab starts moving, we’re all good to go…

AAP METER START KARKE MUJHE CCCHODKE JAANE WAALE THE KYA?!! AAP KITNA RUDE HAI PATA HAI?! SAMAJHTE KYA HAI APNE AAP KO???!? HUMKO PATA HAI AAP SPEED BREAKER PE BHI FAST CHALAOGE!! MERE PAAS GAADI NAHI HAI!!!!!

Cab guy: “arey….jhagda mat karo aap *mumble grumble*”

“CHUP!!! CHUP!!!!!!!

Sigh.

#sorryboss #latetoday #ohwhyyouask? #hormones

Smooth operator

My cab guy gets booking after booking.

He picks up the phone and cheerfully goes,
Gaadi puncture aagidhe, cancel maadkolli.

Next booking:
Tumba Traffic jam ithe sir, 30 mins aaguthe. Okay na? O, not ok??! Cancel maadkolli.

Next booking :
Police problem saar. Gaadi move aagalla. Cancel maadkolli.

Next booking :
Dinner time saar. Cancel maadkolli.
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So on and so forth, all in 1 minute.

He turns around with a conspiratorial smile at my horrified expression, as the memories of every cab guy who refused my desperate booking flash through my mind.

Quota ho gaya madam.”

#olashare #thosepoorpeople

Non-apologist

Co-passenger in cab makes polite small talk.

Picks up phone, unlocks screen.

Hardcore porn begins to play, at full volume.

After ten seconds that feel like an eternity, fellow manages to switch it off.

Very human mistake only, but now I’d rather just listen to my music and stew in uncomfortable silence.

But brave-heart that he is, dudebro initiates small talk. The fact that his cab passenger now knows about what tickles his innermost fancies in five minutes, be damned.

Tries to ask me how to spell my name so he can find me on Facebook.
Tell him I don’t add strangers, sorry.
Asks me for number so we can “hangout in HSR layout”.
Tell him I’m a nomad who doesn’t believe in homes, and instead crash on people’s couches, and today I just happened to be in HSR.

He looks confused, poor guy.