I understand area a lot better when I walk around in them. Walking is how I understood the grid-like pattern that Koramangala follows, the area that I live in, and the various nooks and crannies in Commercial Street that sell some of the most marvelous things at disturbingly cheap prices. I say disturbing because they showed me how I was being ripped off. Walking is also my way of remembering.
When I last went to Mangalore, my hometown, to our ancestral home on Bishop Victor Road, this became pleasantly clear to me. Our home is a short walk away from Crave, the one café that sells annoyingly delicious pastries at refreshingly cheap prices- the pastries that I crave for, during each trip to Mangalore. The café that I make a point to visit, every single time. The walk from my home to Crave is about two and a half kilometers. The funny thing about walking in Mangalore is that every place feels far away. The various ups and downs that the terrain provides make walking for such distances seem like a tedious feat, even though the same distance in Bangalore, would be a cinch. It’s a lot like the walk from the front of the Humanities block, where the flat areas provided between the consecutive staircases makes going up to the third floor a tolerable task, whereas taking the staircase at the other end of the building, feels much like climbing a mountain.
My walk begins, with me going out of our quiet little neighborhood and towards the Main Road. The first time I was allowed to walk out by myself, I was fifteen. The first time I was allowed to travel around Mangalore alone. I went out to meet my cousin and was asked to catch an auto as soon as I saw one, and not to walk past the main. If I couldn’t find an auto there, my cousin would have to come and pick me up. In Bangalore, I’m trusted alone. My parents know that as long as I’m comfortable in an area, I’ll be fine. However, our constant use of the car led to a sense of over-protectiveness in Mangalore. Every time I leave home, I think about that first time (it was about time too), when I found my way out and got to see a bit of the little city by myself. Stressed out about finding appropriate jewelry for my cousin’s wedding, and excited about being let out to travel by myself, I made my way out, without anything but a few basic directions given to me.
I walk through the streets that lead me out and make my way to the main road. The streets are filled with some of the most beautiful, ancient, gargantuan mansions I have ever come across, with their chain sometimes broken by equally colossal apartment blocks. The mansions have been lived in for many, many years, but somehow, still look new. Each of these gates bears the sign ‘Beware of Dogs’, beyond which is a vast veranda, outlined by various trees, shrubs and creepers. The houses also alternate between fancy cars, and well, not so fancy ones. So far, I’ve counted ten Mercedes’, five BMWs and three Beatles. I’ve also found Nanos, Maruthis and a few lower end Skoda and Ford models. These streets and homes, hold the secrets of my fear while trying to navigate around the neighborhood. The memories where my ex-boyfriend, or any male friends for that matter, had to drop me off a few houses away, to save me from the prying eyes of my overly conservative family, the way I ran away from an old, unkempt house, for fear the eerie feeling it gave me, or even the time my cousins and I laughed at my aunt, when she closely resembled a ghost as she walked home in the night, hair out open and arms stretched out wide with Mehendi on them. Beyond our little neighborhood, is Vas Lane. It ends with Vas Bakery, an ancient monument whose breads make the mouth water even today, and begins with Balmatta Road. Which leads to Crave. With its swarm of apartments and interlocked tiles for the path, Vas Lane had always fascinated me. I’ve never fully understood why though. It is a modern lane, in a city from a different era, but still manages fit in, like the perfect key to a lock. Through the years, it has given me a sense of comfort, closeness.
Vas Lane is how I find my way home from the Main Road. It’s distinguished pattern, allows me to find it easily, and is a route, that I will always enjoy taking. With its apartments and stray dogs and cats, it feels like a little piece of Bangalore managed to creep into this old, sleepy city. This lane, makes the area feel known, familiar. This is where it begins to feel like home.