Paradise lost

Every afternoon, at 2 pm, a stooped, silver-haired elderly man stands at the park gate opposite our house. This beautifully maintained park has a walkway around the landscaped lawns and ornamental shrubs tastefully planted in the corners. Gulmohurs, Tabebuias and jackfruit trees lend their shade to this green scene. A gazebo on a small raised portion of the park can be reached by climbing a flight of steep stone steps. Cosily tucked into one of the slopes descending from Highgrounds, this place is an oasis of peace despite the incessant noise of traffic around it.

Yet, this oasis remains inaccessible to the old gentleman. The park gates are closed between 11 am and 4 pm in deference to orders from the municipal corporation. Upon questioning the resident gardener, one is told that “Janru sarige illa”, which roughly translates to “people behave improperly”. This euphemistic allusion to canoodling couples is amply evident from what one witnesses on the low, highly accommodating stone wall that surrounds the park.

And so he stands patiently, sometimes holding on to the gate, sometimes the stone pillars beside them. His face is always towards the park and never the noisy road. It almost seems as if he has mentally transported himself to one of the numerous benches inside. An hour passes; another half-hour. Then it is time for schoolchildren to come home. As they skip along down the road, swinging their lunch bags and chattering animatedly, the figure at the gate grows restive. Now, a few walkers have also appeared and scuff impatiently at the pavement with their expensive sneakers.

At 4 pm, as the gardener unlocks the gates to the verdant paradise, the elderly man rushes in, hurries to a quiet corner and sinks down on a bench. Soon droves of track-suited fitness enthusiasts, iPods plugged into their ears, lost in the rat-race of the corporate world will arrive to clock in their kilometres.

How long the old man stays in the park or when he goes home, I don’t know. What I do know is that Bangalore is no longer the ‘Pensioner’s Paradise’.

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