A Shitty Day

Email continues to arrive about my earlier post about young Indians’ sexuality and relationship experience. This time, much of it is supportive of my position. (Post a comment already!) But I give up. It was only a theory. If you think I’m wrong, so be it. It wouldn’t be the first time.

I am still in Bangalore, though I think i will head to Hyderabad tomorrow. I was supposed to visit the scenic Nandi Hills today, which is a 2 hour bus ride away. But I am reluctant to board a bus due to the, um, first twinges of “Bangalore Belly”; interestingly, having experienced its polar opposite earlier this week, I think this condition is preferable.

Yesterday, I wandered away from the hyper-modern shopping core of the new Bangalore and ventured into the demesnes of the city’s labour class. Ahhh, that’s more like it: the grime, chaos and shit are what I recall of this place from 10 years ago; change has not been universal. Indeed, it’s the ubiquitous feces that first berates the senses. One side of a particularly long street is caked in fresh and dried turds, clearly human in origin (as best as my non-expert eyes can conclude). As one traveller in Bombay told me, “Indians have a unique relationship with feces.”

Indeed, feces is an issue in urban India. Mehta writes that in Bombay, the number of people who must shit on the streets numbers in the millions; this in a place known for its water shortages. Ultra-orthodox Jains must deposit their waste in an open area where it must dry quickly (it’s a religion thing). And, of course, this nation is also known for its digestive disorders and diarrheal diseases, even among the locals. For the underclass, shitting at your leisure is a luxury; line-ups at the pay toilets are commonplace, with people banging on the door for you to hurry up, seconds after you get comfortable. So to truly experience urban India in all its horrors and glories, one must be prepared to deal with a little shit, either one’s own or that of others.

I quickly tired of all the shit. (It occurred to me, as I wandered past one particularly caked sidewalk, that I was breathing in flakes of turd as they dried under the berating sun. Quite an image, no?) So I made my way to Lalbagh, quite literally “red garden”.

Lalbagh is a very large natural park at the centre of this busy, noisy and polluted city. I sat on a bench, drank some grape juice and had a nap. I was awakened by a very large raven next to my left shoulder. “I’m not dead yet,” I told him, and he flew away. Above me, falcons chased smaller birds who raced for protection among the branches of an enormous, arching banyan tree. It occurred to me then that I was taking India for granted. In Canada, in any urban park, a single falcon or a single raven that close up would prove the highlight of a day. Here, I just shrug it off.

It also occurred to me then that I had been here before, in this very spot, 10 years ago. Some unacknowledged memory had led me to this slice of shade beneath the banyan, where I once snapped a photo of me and 14 friends.

It’s not good to go back to places. Things change. Always go somewhere new. Hence, tomorrow I will try to fly to Hyderabad, a new place for me.

ps. JJ, I have yet to see any potholes!