As we’re forced to constantly return to the smaller worlds of our homes, driven back in by pandemics (medical and otherwise), Sambavi Parthasarathy takes us back to 2016 as she speaks to Magdaline Kiruba, alumni of St. Joseph’s College. Kiruba was a student of the college between 2016 and 2019. She was part of the now discontinued triple major system, a student of the EJP course. Both Sambavi and Kiruba remind us of what it means to be a student, particularly when we’re expected to be anything but one.
They say exposure gives you a taste of life and a change of place is all that you need to discover yourself. Bangalore is one of those places that guarantees you exposure while gifting itself a surfeit of stories to reminisce about. The competitive city makes it a responsibility to mould you better; leaving you with survival lessons, emotional attachments and a bunch of evocatively entertaining stories that we don’t tell our judgemental relatives. This is one such story of a girl who had moved to Bangalore for her college.
“It was intimidating, but I was also excited”, the girl from Tirunelveli recounted her initial thoughts when she had to move to India’s third ranked city. Magdaline Kiruba, an alumni of St. Joseph’s college, narrated many moments of her life from the time when she lived in Bangalore. From feeling like a caterpillar as a newbie in the city to soaring its corners as a colourful butterfly, her story is multifaceted with entertainment, versatility and emotions that any outsider to the city would relate with. When I asked her about the education system and how different it was in her hometown than in Bangalore, she talked about the exclusiveness the latter provides, “When it comes to teaching or learning there’s just too much to learn in a city. At home [in a small town] you’d probably know your classmates already, the staff could even guess your caste from the locality you live in. There’s too much familiarity, leaving no space for curiosity. In cities, you meet people all over the place and you’re curious about every damn thing from the food they eat to the languages they speak. The learning never stops. It’s not confined to the classroom anymore.”
The residents of the city were always busy and always minded their own business. They seemed rather unwelcoming with their unsmiling, stern faces. Even the autowalas were indifferent to her ‘Banaswadi Ogutha?’s, unlike her homies who deliberately indulge in a conversation with strangers who appear to be lost. However, it was the strong pull of the EJP course and the exposure she got, from meeting people like Rohini Mohan and Molly Crabapple that kept her going.
She navigated through Bangalore with the unsteady interface of Google Maps combined with her already bad interpretations of directions. As we spoke, she shared an unchallenged tip for crossing roads that a friend had taught her. The idea was to be cautious of vehicles approaching on the opposite road and pretend to not take note of side of the road you’re in. Theoretically, it’s supposed to slow down automobiles on either side, enabling one to cross and thankfully, but it has never been proven till now. While crossing roads has evidently not been her strong front, walking through Bengaluru’s streets at night with the chill breeze cozying up her already cold skin is one of her favourite memories of the place that she now misses.
There was nothing more irritating than standing amid the restless clamor in Kempegowda Majestic bus station. Getting down at wrong bus stops, standing perplexed only at the names of complicatedly christened areas like ‘Banaswadi’ and ‘Basavanagudi’ are some things that made travel in Bangalore more interesting than she had anticipated.
Learning Kannada in just three months, she used it for conversations, directions and even as a pretense of not knowing Tamil during the Cauvery issue that cropped up while she was in the city. When the debate was at its peak, she spent her days conversing in Kannada that her Mangalorean roommate had taught her so as to not be caught between the state she was in and the state she was from. However, she held on to her origin and was not hesitant to be herself. Her individuality had in fact inspired her classmates to take pride in their native places rather than concealing it under the name of a city that the world already knows about. Bonding with people over similar Tamil movies, vibing to Dhanush songs, the girl from Tamil Nadu used her language, perspectives and her chiming laughter to break ice and find common ground.
“I think I miss all the food,” she said when I asked her what she missed the most about this place. Her list of recommendations began with lots of chai and memorable gossip sessions but extended to the often available capsicum dish and biryani in the canteen, the underrated food from the many thattu kadai(s), way too good sandwiches from a juice shop near an entrance to Cubbon Park, dahi vada’s from Udupi, spicy Mimis and fish meals from the North Eastern canteen in the college food court (where the woman behind the counter had mistaken her for an Assamese). Except for the sweet sambar and large parottas that still remain unacceptable to her (as opposed to the spicy sambar and coin parottas in her state); the variety of food was something she really enjoyed in the city.
Magdaline Kiruba’s story doesn’t trail on her fondest memories alone but also on her chagrins and learnings to cope up with the city. Nevertheless, it brought a smile to her face. They often say that the magic of a city can be traced in the memories they hold of it. Yet, the magic of this city resurfaced itself in moments when she narrated her story, as it let her laugh at her mistakes, miss her people and took her back to the years she had spent there. And that was Bengaluru, embraced in stories that people have about it.
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