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Barefoot in Bangalore: Steps to keep oneself grounded


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The more I get to know this place, the more I realize how much there is to discover and understand. How distant my logic is from what thrives on the ground. And the neutral corners I always run to for safety are exactly what they are: corners in a world, in a life that is round. While I initially cringed at the idea of walking inside homes and temples barefoot, I understood it is a necessary step to make peace with the truth. And again, for security or for balance, it is never a bad idea to keep one's feet on the ground. In grace and in gratitude. One can’t get footloose and fancy-free in life just like that.

Photos of Barefoot in Bangalore: Steps to keep oneself grounded 1/16 by Unshod Rover
Photos of Bull Temple Road, Basavanagudi, Bengaluru, Karnataka, India 1/2 by Unshod Rover
Photos of Bull Temple Road, Basavanagudi, Bengaluru, Karnataka, India 2/2 by Unshod Rover

I arrived early morning in Bangalore a few days after my introduction to India through Mumbai. The cool weather gave me goose bumps not so much a physiological reaction as a psychological one. Life seemed pretty laidback. From my quick showers in Mumbai at least three times a day, this southern city was inviting me to soak up in this lukewarm bath, testing its waters and mapping out many possibilities for this time I felt that I am here for the long sail. Another step towards a certain understanding of this great subcontinent.

Bangalore was no different as India's I.T. capital still has its streets randomly matrixed with peddlers in carts and cycles. Just outside of my house, two men under a makeshift tent were ironing clothes for a living using a pair of traditional iron.

Photos of Shivaji Nagar, Bengaluru, Karnataka, India 1/2 by Unshod Rover
Photos of Shivaji Nagar, Bengaluru, Karnataka, India 2/2 by Unshod Rover

So you ride my tide: Bangalore is about the charm of old world and the chase towards the future. That somehow explained the dust: old roads being reconstructed. At one point, you'd grow a longer neck waiting for that fresh mango juice as the vendor would have to peel it by hand and whatnot, and then, just upstairs, some grown up kids in an office try to continue knotting the whole world beyond breakneck speed.

However, Bangalore is also a city that still sleeps. Here, before trees of avocado, neem, what looks like a relative of pine, and a moringa almost as tall as the neighbor's mango, I caught the city still in the land of dreams. In the quiet of its midmorning chill, I felt every part of it breathing. I woke up to this, after a night tranquil, dreams of elephants marching to a crow's rhythmic pleadings, echoes of laughter over a young man's late night phone call about his struggles with the underside of young love.

Photos of Bangalore Palace, Jayamahal, Bengaluru, Karnataka, India 1/3 by Unshod Rover
Photos of Bangalore Palace, Jayamahal, Bengaluru, Karnataka, India 2/3 by Unshod Rover
Photos of Bangalore Palace, Jayamahal, Bengaluru, Karnataka, India 3/3 by Unshod Rover

I also had my very first haircut in India at the Bombay Salon, here in Bangalore. The first part went the usual. Short and clean, despite Mr. Barber Guy watching Bollywood half of the time even during crucial moments like clipping around the ear area. And then, when he asked me to choose between coconut and almond oil, I thought it was some sort of hair gel or any hair product. But what ensued or what I could remember to have happened was a series of some serious head slapping and banging that had sent my spirit away. And then, just when one think it couldn't get any weirder than this, Mr. Barber Guy brandished what I deemed to be an interior of an electric fan fortunately without the blades, wore it over his hand, plugged it in, and voila!: an improvised vibrating massage machine that he let loose about my head. When he asked if I would want some facial massage, I politely said no, and headed home, my hair flat heavy with oil, and my spirit still somewhere else.

Photos of  1/2 by Unshod Rover
Photos of  2/2 by Unshod Rover
Photos of Lalbagh Botanical Garden, Bengaluru, Karnataka, India 1/1 by Unshod Rover

Then, there’s this constant adventure with Bangalore traffic and its rickshaw drivers, which is yet another story.

Coming from an archipelago, for me it used to be that the sea was the only link. And every time I am before the sea, I strongly feel a certain connection. But Bangalore is landlocked, so sometimes it made me feel a fish out of water. The great thing about this city though is that it is in the heart of South India, from where you can reach the country's many other interesting cities.

Photos of Tipu Sultan's Summer Palace, Bengaluru, Karnataka, India 1/3 by Unshod Rover
Photos of Tipu Sultan's Summer Palace, Bengaluru, Karnataka, India 2/3 by Unshod Rover
Photos of Tipu Sultan's Summer Palace, Bengaluru, Karnataka, India 3/3 by Unshod Rover

Slowly, I’m learning that India is not only about marveling at the great beauty of its people and the complexities of its culture. But also, it is the act of embracing what is different, what makes you uncomfortable, what rattles your cage, what tips your top. It is having the grace to face the children of this generation when India is in a tug-of-war between modernity and tradition.

Then, it’s about gratitude for the chance to be part of this history, this episode in India’s great history as it opens its doors to the world, but not without asking its visitors to keep their feet off the rangoli. I am not so sure yet about eating with my hand all the time or wearing long shirts, even skirts, on all occasions.

Photos of State Central Library, Bengaluru, Karnataka, India 1/2 by Unshod Rover
Photos of State Central Library, Bengaluru, Karnataka, India 2/2 by Unshod Rover

But for the nth time, I am taking my shoes, sandals, slippers off before I let myself in. I am thinking of home not as the ability to resist or be very comfortable in a place for the longest time. I kept telling myself, home is a journey. And I should be ready to walk, even barefoot. //

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