Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep. Musings from someone who sees stories everywhere.

Monday, July 24, 2006

The Well of Snakes

I've spent my entire life in the congestion of urban clusters. So I'm drawn to fresh air rustling through trees, the calls of birds, and wide open spaces. There's such a sprawling forest area just seven kilometers from our apartment in Bangalore. On holidays, we sometimes drive down and take a morning stroll through the wooded area, which is home to the Bangalore University campus. This area is called 'Nagarbhavi' in Kannada. It means, 'the well of snakes'.

Often, things I encounter in ordinary daily life form the kernels of stories. This forest campus too, has led to a story (link in right sidebar). The hundreds of acres of forest land is gradually giving way to buildings for more university departments and institutes. But there's still long stretches of trees and scrub, through which the roads wind to and from the city.

They've cut away some of the indigenous vegetation and replaced them with groves of eucalyptus now. But the babools, date palms, mango trees and the butterflies still thrive. Among the sweet chirps, coos, and twitters, I can recognize the cuckoo and sparrow.

By the roadside in the middle of the forest, a man sells juices of herbs and fruits to morning walkers. I ask for a mix of everything he has; margosa, mint, cucumber, bitter gourd, black grape, tomato, radish, other green liquids he chooses not to describe, but which smell refreshing anyway. He seasons my glass with a drop of garlic juice, and I quaff the slightly bitter, leafy smelling drink. All for a princely six rupees.

This gentle Eden has hidden dangers. I halt abruptly before a huge black scorpion flattened by some speeding vehicle on the tarmac. It still looks vicious, its black body at least eight or nine inches long. There are snakes too, some harmless but others not.

I stop by an anthill on the top of a slope for a view of the city. The rising columns and spires of the anthill teems with busy creatures who build yet higher. I stare at the expanse of buildings below me, boxlike independent houses, clusters of apartment buildings like ours, and farther off on the horizon, the towering high rises of the city's business district. So many cars and buses carrying busy people everywhere.

But the day's work awaits. I don't have time to wonder.

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