We are now descending into Bangalore International Airport, temperature 20 degrees, clear skies.
Music to my ears. I step out of the plane and watch as the crowd rushes to claim their baggage. Each one trying to catch up with the person ahead of them. I join them in their little race. l look at the transparent door ahead of me, the only thing separating you and me now. Miles and miles now reduced to a few metres and a transparent door. I realise how much I’ve missed you. That I crave you like a bird craves the sky, like the morning craves the sun, like the taxi drivers outside crave a confused tourist.
I get my bags and step out of the door. You hug me, the familiar, cool breeze gathering me in its arms instantly. I can tell you’ve been waiting for me. It has been too long.
Long distance with you has not been easy. I notice how much you’ve changed and you remind me that I’m no different. You tell me I’ve started forgetting the small things. That I take time to remember where we had our first driving lesson. That I need to ask for directions to Iyengar bakery. You complain about how I’ve started noticing your faults more. The gaping potholes, unkept roads and crowded buses. That sometimes, you worry that I’ll stop finding you attractive.
I take a deep breath, soaking you in. The Silicon Valley of India, I think with pride. You and I grew up together. Year after year, matching your widening roads with my widening horizons. And by the time I was ready for college, you had a spanking new airport ready for me.
But these days, I feel like I don’t know you any more. I don’t recognise the buildings, malls and pubs that seem to sprout overnight. That the roads have been widened and flyovers have been built. That the 335E has increased its rates. Leaving only Namma Metro, which continues to be a modest straight line between Indiranagar and Brigade, and the undeniable beauty of the handlebar moustaches on the local political party billboards untouched.
I look around and helplessly demand an explanation on how or when this happened. I feel betrayed.
At this point, I feel you deserve to know. I have been unfaithful. I’ve fallen for other cities. For their perfectly manicured lawns, their wide roads, organised traffic and meters that run proportional to distance, not luck.
I hope you understand that I have my needs. That I am easily seduced. That I cant help myself from going through pictures and videos of them over the internet. Holding my breath, my heart racing as I spend hours marvelling at their beauty. I travel to meet them over the weekend. A quick flight and visa on arrival. Cheap, quick, no strings attached. I fall asleep satisfied, tangled up in its cuisines, landscapes and beaches. Taking with me a light, sweet memory that will soon fade over time.
But you. Not once, do I forget my nights with you.
As always, my time with you flies. And before I know it, I’m on my way back to the airport. Trying to ignore the unexplainable sadness in emptying my wallet to make space for shallow, beautiful, crisp dollar notes. I am always left wondering where the months disappeared as I pack my bags. My heart sinking at the thought of going back. Back to predicable, sterilized, perfection. I realise that sometimes, I just want to cross the road without waiting for permission from a blinking green man. That I want to be able to pay ‘one and a half’ for squeezing 5 in the back of an auto because adjust maadi. That nothing will ever have your flavour, your texture, your soul. A city I know. A city that knows me.
Each day so defining, but altogether just a vibrant, happy blur. I load my luggage into the car thinking of the number of times I’ve had to say goodbye. I wonder why it never gets easier. I look out of my window in silence. The only time I’m grateful for the heavy traffic. This time, the sight of Bangalore International Airport makes my heart sink. You punish me for leaving you for another. Teasing me with the cool breeze, starry skies and the familiar bustle. On the days I leave you, you’re always most seductive, most beautiful.
And so I board the plane, watching you get smaller and smaller with every second. Leaving behind Ammama’s onion chutney, Chilled Kingfisher Draught, Mysore Mango and Kerala Gold. Hidden treasures at Blossoms. The chaat at Anand Bhavan. The gobi at Spicy Corner. The icecream at Corner House. The vibe at Koshys. The beer at Pecos. The prices at Chin Lungs. The sound of dosa batter being poured on a hot pan every morning.
Leaving behind a city that made me, piece by piece, story by story.
I stay glued to my window as the plane mercilessly moves away. Looking down at the city that seems to have lit up, just for me. Watching as the little houses, cars and buildings fade into twinkling lights, and the twinkling lights fade into the darkness.