Every once in a while, on weekends, I go to my best friend Manju's house. He lives with his family on a resort near a little village called Nelamangala, about 50 kms from Bangalore. I usually take a bus to Nelamangala and he picks me up from there. All the times that I have been there, Manju has been late (not intentionally, of course!) and I have had to stand outside the bus stand for some time, much to the amusement of the people there.
I really stand out there with my jeans, kurta and sunglasses with a backpack on my shoulders. I would stand next to a market that sells all kinds of colourful flowers, buy some chocolates for Gowri, my friend's daughter and look around. As I often say, I am fascinated with villages. Madikeri is a place where a stylish person is gaped at too, but then it is my town and I don't really stand out there. All the other villages I have been to, I have been greatly amused by the people there. The villagers have been equally amused with me too. When I was in my early teens and that rebel streak was just emerging in me, I would deliberately dress up in shorts and wild hairdo and junk jewellery for that shock value when I went to my cousin's village several miles away from Mangalore. And shock I would, much to my aunt's horror!
I no longer do that of course. But I have become legendary for my antics there, so no amount of prim and proper behaviour helps now (Thank God!) ;-) Going back to Nelamangala, I continue to interest people. So much that, there was once a man there who actually stopped his bike and stared at me for a full two minutes! I laughed my head off later.
To be honest though, I don't mind all the attention I get. It is not vanity. It is just a genuine, almost innocent interest that these people have that really does not bother me. They are unabashed, not conscious at all that they are staring and that it is not polite to do so. It is that innocent, almost child-like curiosity that amuses and interests me no end. I now tell my friend to be deliberately late, so that I get to look around, get nostalgic about Madikeri, look at the couple who are flirting quite discreetly in a corner, listen to the crude, and loud, language of the countryside, watch people haggling, look at shops filled to the ceiling with cheap wares and plastic toys, smell the mud, see the colours, feel the pulse and be back in a village, where I sometimes think I really ought to be.
I tell him to be late every time for it makes for a new story, a new discovery, an interesting day.