Ravings of a Roving Reporter
Have you seen the movie Brazil? It may not be your cup of tea. Set in a fictional country, not unlike Brazil, where the beaurocracy runs amuck, it sets the stage for my current situation.
After a gap of nearly two years, I have made the pililgrimage to India. This trip, I am spending most of the time in Bangalore. I can sense the change in the my relationship with India — it is that of a son who went as #illarikam alluDu#. I may have been the favorite son, but the reconicilation is setting in that I am an outsider.
For starters, I no longer can sense the faces. When I used to look at a face, I could a tell a story to myself — where it came from, what are its aspirations, dreams, and folibles. In short, in a span of couple of minutes, like an alien in the Bradbury novels, I could suck the essense of a person, distill it into an story, private and untold. Now the very faces do not yield stories to me; I am a stranger in the strange land.
It also might be my first trip to India without a visit to my beloved Sowpadu. With all the people I know emigrated to various corners of the country (majority to a specific corner of Guntur), I have indeed become a stranger there. Last time itself, there were occasions where I had to introduce myself. With our house given away, the last tenuous connection to Sowpadu is gone. Now, I am truly rootless, and (sigh!) a citizen of the world.
Anyway, here I am in Bangalore, on the most Salman-rushdiean day of the times. It appears that “Kannada KanTheerava” Raj Kumar has been kidnapped by Veerappan. FYI, Raj Kumar is NTR and ANR rolled into one. (Since he sings, he may even be like Ghantasala also). In an almost eerie concidence, the recent movie of Ram G. Varma, called “Jungle” features some of the stories of Veerappan. This is even more of magic realism than Rushdie can dream of.
Last morning, the morning after kidnapping, coming from the airport, I encounted a strange sight. The tension in the air is palpable. There are no buses, no cars, and no autos in sight. Hundreds of people are walking in streets taling in whispers, trying to get home, and some stray police vehicles going by — all reminiscent of an unreal city. [Cf: waste land].
In some corners of the city, I have encountered purposeful crowd with shirts untucked, sleeves folded, lungis hoisted. I am extremely curious; why do they want to close down the city? As a way of showing respect to Raj Kumar? I wished I could interview some of these people. But my naive self was prevented by my local guide.
It seems that Raj Kumar’s fans have had skirmishes with the local Tamilians. Raj Kumar, at one time during the Cauvery dispute, called for a Bangalore populated with only kannadigas. A city made up of so many immigrants is like powder keg at times like these.
Sitting in my room here in Adarsha Gardens of Jaya Nagar, I can feel the stillness of the city. As a response to the kidnapping, the government imposed curfew, and declared a holiday for the whole city. No more than four people should assemble outside. I am unsure of whether vehicles can travel now.
And, I do not intend to miss any of this drama.