B-e-n-i-n-g-a-n-a-h-a-l-l-i

7:30 am

We live next to a place called Beninganahalli.

Yes, B-e-n-i-n-g-a-n-a-h-a-l-l-i.

The shortest route to my school (1.2 Km) passed through the place and so, I had to walk through it every afternoon. If I was alone, a major part of my journey was carried out at a pace that comes in handy when you have to navigate yourself safely through a muddy, crowded and uncomfortably narrow lane.

Shops. Rows of them. Standing erect, in a haphazard way. Begging you, pleading with you, not to pay any attention to them. A vegetable shop next to a clothes one. A butcher’s shop next to a bakery. It was an explosion of resources and the perfect distribution of goods. Everyone probably buys everything else from the neighboring shop. I don’t know what it was about the place, but it always made me feel like I’d taken a wrong turn, stepped into a magic doorway and landed up in an undesirable destination. It was wearing the ring that rules all and entering Diagon Alley that was turned upside down after being beaten with a goblet shaped portkey.

When it wasn't flooded by the water from a broken pipe, or stagnating rain water collected in big ditches, then it was just a matter of shifting your gaze before you realized that you lived in a world of Maya, nay, that the world itself was Maya. Beninganahalli was, in fact, always flooded with street vendors, boards, banners that claimed to give you 75% discount and all the other paraphernalia that comes with little shops.

There would be auto rickshaws with loud speakers that blared out some random Kannada songs. There would be eunuchs, weird looking guys selling colored chickens and crazy ascetics who beat themselves with a whip. I hated having to pass by this repeatedly irritating sequence of events every day. I was a stranger in someone else’s town, a casual passerby that was forced to persist in her presence every afternoon. A disjoint element in a world that was frightening to me.

A buzz of activity was my sole companion. And I used to walk through the crowd, with my head bent low. Thinking about the restaurant that I’d been to last night. About how satisfying it was to eat my food, sitting by the beautiful glass window that gave me a view of the fast paced, sonorous, eclectic world that I belonged to. A world without much meaning attached to it. Which is why, a lot of people became excited with the possibility of 42 being the answer, which of course, Douglas Adams came up with just like that. Six by Nine. While I would be thinking about all that, I would catch a glimpse of a skillet with meat on it, turning slowly over a tandoor. Adjacent to it, there would be a carton containing dead, rotting fish. The fast food stall would be located right next to an open drain. Fast food stalls that I hoped I would never have to eat in.

Buildings were always being broken down to make place for new ones, which in turn would stay new and overshadow their companions for a day or two, only to camouflage with their surroundings at the end of that period. They tarred the road occasionally and it rewarded them by coming back to its original state.

In spite of all this, it never stops visitors from coming and going as they please. It gives them the freedom to form stubborn opinions and think thoughts of their own. I’ve imagined myself coming back to it, years later and finding it as I’ve always remembered it or as I’ve always tried to remember it. It would be one of those rare cases when there was no resistance to change because change never came in the way. I would look at it, get nostalgic and then support a guilty conscience because I never really liked the place. So, I decided to write about it. In the hope that perhaps, years later, I would realize that I was fascinated by this world, wonderstruck by the aura it created around itself. A world so wrapped up in itself that it could not be penetrated or broken into.

Right now, Beninganahalli’s memories don’t really mean anything to me. For all immediate purposes, it is a chapter in my past. I think about it at times, when the speakers play their inane music, loud enough to reach my room’s window. Or when my brother comes home crying one day because some moron threw an egg at him.

Good old Beninganahalli, located at the mean point of a pendulum.

B-e-n-i-n-g-a-n-a-h-a-l-l-i.

Right now, it’s just a really difficult word to spell out without having to repeat myself half a dozen times when I’m ordering pizza over the phone.

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