To feel the temperature of a city, I walk around aimlessly at first, just to let the sights, the scents, and the sounds of the place sink in. Bangalore, ‘the town of the boiled beans’, says the legend, was so called by a king who had lost his way and was helped by an old woman who served him boiled beans. Funny, how places are named sometimes.
I leave the hotel just after the rain, the roads are washed and the air smells of white jasmine; it comes from the young ladies walking before me who have threaded it through their braids. Very soon I find myself submerged in the furious, but the controlled energy of the streets.
A flood of cars, pedestrians, rickshaws, motorcycles, kids coming out from a public school, buses and bicycles, altogether seem to be heading somewhere with determination. My contemplative Southern European nature is a bit disturbed by the crowd, but my long experience as a traveller has taught me to become an observer. This is the third most populous place in India, ranked in the list of global cities along with Dallas, Miami, Boston, Brasilia, and Berlin. Parts of the town are extremely modern, others have a colonial feel, a reminder of British times when it was called the Garden City.
Here I am walking in one of the busy areas, downtown, the pulse of urban India is pounding in unison with economic development, declared consumerism, rampant advertising, and I wonder if India will remain the spiritual heart of the world and I keep on walking.
At the turn of the road, I enter a quiet street and all of a sudden, the metropolis is left behind. On the empty road, time slows down a little; the pavement trees sway to the gentle wind; a little girl is walking home with a long cotton nightgown, looking like a drawing from a fairy-tale book. Just when I had decided that the streets of urban India are not for me, it makes me pause to reconsider and accept that there is nothing that can be decided about India.