March 2014. I am waiting at the Kempegowda airport arrival hall. It is early morning and I am biding my time because I don’t want to wake her up at this ungodly hour.
Her as in she, as in N., my friend from the time spent in Ahmedabad two years ago, picked up the receiver when I finally decided to call. With a sleepy voice she instructed me on how to get to her abode.
It took the taxi driver some erratic circling around and a couple of phone calls to N. who gave directions in what I later discovered was her own, faked version of kannada, the local language of Karnataka. We had breakfast together and off she went to work.
I don’t know if N. believed me when I told her that I am usually not a clumsy person; my first day in Dollars colony took quite a dramatic turn when I decided to wash some dirty laundry. Somehow, during rinsing, the sink blatantly fell off the cantilever it was standing on, yielding under the weight of a pair of freshly washed knickers. Then it landed on the floor, breaking into two big pieces.
(For the records, if you ever decide to break a sink, India is a good place: sinks are affordable and so are plumbers.)
The rest is history.
Over the next ten weeks we spent lots of time talking at the kitchen table. We would kick off the day chatting during breakfast and then pick up where we had left at dinnertime. We talked about food, politics, our families and friends. We had both recently lost a grandparent that had meant a lot to us so naturally we talked about them too; I am sure that they would recognise each other in heaven…
Being a stay at home student, I would put the coffee machine on first thing in the morning, prepare dinner and freeze copious amounts of fruit to cool our evenings. If the universe ever sends me an Indian cooking flatmate while I am a busy working woman, I will consider it as karmic payback and laugh out loud with life’s sense of humour.
You see, food connected us from the very beginning. We are both avid vegetable eaters and very curious about the culture that surrounds food. Naturally, paying after-work visits to restaurants selected on zomato became a big hit. We tasted, commented and rated. More importantly, we enjoyed the whole process from looking up restaurants on our smart phones to bargaining for the rickshaw drive back home. We did not limit ourselves to dinners however. One of my fondest memories is biting into a divine breakfast vada dumpling standing outside the renown Veena stores at Malleshwaram.
As I gradually learned how to navigate the city on my own, Bangalore became smaller. I roamed around the neighbourhood discovering this and that and reported my findings to N. You must understand that work is extremely consuming for a passionate urban designer. Hours spent at the office are long, things to do are endless and commuting in a congested Indian city is nerve-wrecking.
Yet N. was not deterred by tough deadlines and nights spent at the office with take-away food and Tamil movie soundtracks playing. In India competition is hard and nine to five jobs are a rare luxury. I do admire her zeal and dedication. I hope and believe that her integrity, creativity and focus will lead her to many a challenging and rewarding projects.
N does not only enjoy working though. There are so many things that she would like to do had she the time: cooking out of new recipes, painting on papier-maché, and traveling near and far; drinking morning coffee while solving ‘The Hindu’ crossword; eating pop-corn and candy-bars while watching Tamil Rajini movies and Coffee with Karan (TV that is so bad it becomes good); playing board games where, surprise-surprise, she gets to build settlements; going on long bike rides with a certain other wearing a pink helmet, and of course, writing insightful blog posts.
Before leaving Bangalore, N. asked me what I would miss. Yes, of course, obviously all the available succulent food, but more than that, I would say the context: all those moments shared, from the breakfasts, dinners and photographic city walks, to the weekends away traveling by train and picking fights with fellow passengers.
Who knows when or where we’ll meet again… What I know is that it should be sooner rather than later. I also know that I would like this friendship to last long, because a) I am really curious to see where life takes N., and b) I have just only started my culinary journey through Indian food and I need a guide.
Maybe, when I am sixty-four and she is a few years younger we’ll have a great deal of interesting things to look back at, and ever so curious taste-buds poking us to discover new tastes and enjoy life.