The children’s summer holidays started on the 9th of June. Having been restricted to our homes for the last six months because of exams first, and then the lockdown, we decided to take a vacation, before the next academic year and all the madness that revolves around a High school and University year. International destinations were out of question. All countries have prohibited Indians from visiting with the exception of Germany, S. Africa, Russia, Egypt and Turkey. However, either tourists are required to do a quaratine or there are limited flights to the destination. Even in India only few states out of the twenty-two are accepting tourists – Goa (they need a RTPCR test from anyone who enters), Himachal (but there is news of flooding), Karnataka (RTPCR only from those who have not been vaccinated, which means my younger one). The last choice was to stay within the State and visit places we had not seen before.
We decided to cast a vote. Hubby was all for Bangalore, in Karnataka so he could mix work with pleasure. The older one wanted a holiday. It didn’t matter where as long as it involved staying at at an ‘amazing’ hotel, even if that hotel was across our apartment building. The younger one didn’t care where we went as long as she could indulge in satisfying her taste buds. I was fine with anything as long as it wasn’t Bangalore. The last memories I had of the place were painful- that’s where dad had been at the hospital and where he breathed his last. And everytime anybody suggested the idea, I thought of myself in the city and the tears rolled – I have beautiful memories with dad on every street there. Now as I think of it I realize how invested he was in us after mom left. My husband believed that going to the place that held some of our best memories would help me find some closure. I wasn’t too sure of it. But after two weeks of imagining myself there and crying, I felt more capable of managing. After two weeks of debating and shedding tears on the idea, I finally agreed on Bangalore. I decided to stay in the city, complete whatever job we had to do there and get away from there to neighboring Mysore as soon as possible. I warned the family that if the tears rolled while I was there, they needed to let it be because it was bound to happen but that I would try my best not to go down that lane. They agreed but with trepidation.
When we left Mumbai on Saturday, July 10th, we heard there was an orange alert issued in the city which meant there would be heavy rains. I wasn’t sure if that was a good sign or a bad one. I kept my fear to myself and we headed to the airport. It was crowded with people in masks. As we walked on the open tarmac towards the flight under the vast sky I thought of Papa – but this time it was more in the line of him getting what he wanted. He had walked into the car that drove him to the hospital. He was well aware of what the doctors had said. He had asked what time my husband would reach in his normal, authoritative manner and he had told me that my husband would have to manage everything as nothing seemed to be happening at the hospital. After the surgery he had woken up, spoken to all of us and nothing had seemed amiss. He had gone peacefully into the night. He had lived his life and left the way he wanted. I stopped my thoughts there.
On the flight we had to wear our masks, shields and the person sitting in the middle had to don a PPE suit as per the norm. A flight travelling during Covid times looks like a spaceship full of aliens on a mission. I picked up my ipad to read ‘Ghost and its Gold‘ – a pleasant distraction from any unwanted thoughts. Thankfully, the story based on History and suspense managed to keep me hooked until we landed at 11.30 a.m. Stepping out of the airport, the cool Bangalore clime which dad so loved welcomed me, unlike the last time we had visited. That was when dad was in the hospital – it hadn’t been raining then but I remember feeling like it was – the sky was grey and there had been a general heaviness in the air. Strange…it was November end then- winter in Bangalore- used to be my favorite time of the year.
A few stray words in Kannada from passersby made its way into my ears. The fact that I comprehended them was a reminder I was home. Though I cannot speak the language fluently, it is the language I was born into and heard my parents speak. No wonder they call one’s language the ‘mother tongue’ – the sound of it is like music to the ears, its the roots that holds you down when you feel you are floating in a strange land, its what attracts you to a stranger in a crowd of unknown people. I strained my ears to hear more but there was silence. The last few days I’ve been in Bangalore, I haven’t heard the language often enough as I would have liked. The taxi drivers, the security, the waiters in the restuarants, the shopkeepers, the hotel staff are either speaking English or Hindi ( the national language of the country) – the language of commerce.
As I stared into the distance awaiting the taxi that my husband had booked to drive us to the hotel, I watched before me the Indian flag swaying in the breeze. I was aware of my husband’s and children’s eyes on me. They tried making conversation afraid that silence meant I was spiralling downwards. But I wasn’t. Ever since I was a child, I’ve felt a sense of strength when looking at the flag. Its a mix of sense of pride, gratitude, courage and belonging. My own sorrows feel too small in front of the flag. And though this may sound too grand coming from an ordinary person like me, this is exactly how I feel.
Three days later, I’m still doing ok. It’s lovely when the girls talk about their Nana (grandfather) when we visit the malls, walk on the streets or eat at the restaurants. They have a lot of fond memories with him in Bangalore. I suppose it makes feel closer to dad here than I feel in Mumbai. In fact, yesterday I met two of my school mates for lunch – we had known of each other’s existence in school but had been too busy in our own groups. It was the discovery of art during the lockdown that brought us together. We’ve been applauding each other along the way. We managed to spend a good 4 hours reminiscing school, talking about life and the one thing that connected us – art. A face-to-face meeting after one and a half years of being locked in was a treat. Meeting those who could join the dots of blurred memories was like diving into a triple chocolate sundae – loads of hot chocolate sauce and nuts.
My husband was probably right about coming to Bangalore and facing my fears. I have not told him but I guess he already knows.
A few pictures of the place we are staying at
Will share a few of the city in another post. Just realized that I’ve ended up taking pictures of flowers around the city and not much else.
That’s all for now.