Updated: Jun 20, 2020
On the 28th of July, around 20 minutes after I left home, I found myself standing in the middle of Kempegowda Bus Station, trying to figure out which bus goes where and how long it would take. Only one bus seemed to be leaving soon and I could hear the conductor go “Hospete Hospete Hospete Hospete” and so on. Mustering the nerve to talk to a random person with no plan whatsoever, I walked up to him and I asked vaguely, “Where would this bus be in, say, 2 hours from now?”. It felt quite funny to ask the question, and even weirder waiting for a response. He said “Where do you want to go?” I dodged that one and said “How many stops before the bus reaches Hospete?” Again, he asked, “Could you tell me where you want to go?” So I told him, “Sir, I don’t know”. A few silent seconds later, I said “You see, I want to get into any bus and then get off and take pictures of what I see”. He looked at me very weirdly and then said that the bus would be in Tumkur around 2 hours later. So I hopped on. As I found a place to sit, I hoped against hopes that he wouldn’t think I was eloping or something. Now that I think about it, I might have watched a few too many Tamil films of the wrong kind.
When the bus was somewhere around Malleshwaram, I casually looked at my phone and realised it hadn’t been charged overnight. I only had 38% left and I had to run the whole day. Mistake number 1: Never make assumptions. An old boss taught me this: When you assume, you’re making an ass out of u and me. Around two hours later, I got off at the Tumkur government bus stop. What I saw was amusing. Although the roads and the vehicles all looked very much like good old Bengaluru and it was the same kind of people going about their workaday lives, all of those things were much fewer and much quieter. Few roads, fewer vehicles, and few people talking and working quietly. I walked away from the bus stop for a while and I hit upon an old post office. I entered, sat down and unpacked my camera. The previous night, I had been careful to charge my battery pack fully. But then I was struck by a massive bombshell. “No card in camera”. Mistake number 2: Never make assumptions. Like Friends' Rachel when she’d forgotten her passport, I remembered exactly where the card was on my nightstand. I just didn’t have it on me. So I repacked and decided to use my already weak phone for the pictures as well. A few steps later, I found myself in a farm. I walked for a while and reached a tree in front of a little pond. I sat myself there and stared at the water. Then, the revving of a bike caught my attention. I turned around and sure enough, a single man on a bike rode towards the far end of the farm before parking. He was around 100 metres away from me when I realised I didn’t have pepper-spray. Not here, not at home, not anywhere in my possession. Moments after I had convinced myself it was nothing to be worried about, another bike rode in. So I got up and went hunting for something sharp. I broke off a stick from a fallen branch. I was testing its strength when I saw what the men did. They pulled their pants down and squatted. I cringed and looked away. So that’s where I’d found the peace that I had been searching: in a 20th century toilet. When the fourth man rode in, I packed my things and found a quieter spot. I could feel myself clutch the stick very hard. But the men didn’t take any notice of me. Once they finished their business, they rode off.
I sat there for a long time, contemplating life. Here I was in a city almost as developed as the “Silicon Valley of India”. I had just gone to a restaurant with the sole intention of using its restroom. And now, I’m sitting just a few hundred metres away from random men, chatting on their cellphones as they defecated. I didn’t know what to think. Would I be scum if I thought what they were doing was disgusting? I wrote about all this in my notebook and snacked on some peanuts. After a while, when I thought I’d calmed down, I stood up and walked towards the exit of this “farm”.
When I reached one of its ends, I saw around 5 abandoned pedal boats on a stairway leading to a park. And it hit me, this was a lake. It was huge; there were cows grazing everywhere; a couple of cranes and trucks digging it up and some men…getting busy. But it wasn’t a farm, it was a dry lake.
Once I came back home, I did some research on this place. This was the Amani Kere park opposite to the Kote Anjaneya temple in Tumkur. Before the lake went dry, here’s what it looked like:
(Image by Shubha Chinni on Google Images)
And here's the lake today:
A review from a local guide on Google maps revealed that the lake was full 11 months ago before the summers hit. Presently, short bursts of rain had created little pools of water across the piece of land. But for its vastness, I wonder if this lake can ever go back to its original, rich state.
I walked across the road to the beautiful Kote Anjaneya Temple. At the entrance was a huge Hanuman, carrying Rama and Lakshmana on his shoulders. I entered, paid the Vaanara a short visit and stepped out. They shut the gates moments after I exited. As I put my shoes back on, I noticed a woman who sold flowers outside the temple. She was eating a piece of bread with some tea under her table of flowers. I felt small.
A few tiring hours in the bus, and my delightful visit of Tumkur drew to a close. When I got home, I was happy that I ventured out aimlessly and I got something out of it. But at the same time, I realised I couldn’t do this as often as I thought I could. I was the kind of person who needed a plan and much more than a bunch of phone photographs taken over barely three hours. The next time, I was going to make a plan. Impromptu isn’t as fun as it sounds after all. Especially when you’re alone.