I am Miss Marple.
Yes it is true. I had a moment of epiphany the other day while getting my hair cut and it all came to me just like that. Consider this:
How kind people were, Miss Marple thought, especially when they’d known you practically all their lives. Mrs Jameson, after long years of running a hairdressing parlour had steeled herself to going as far in the cause of progress as to repaint her sign and call herself ‘DIANE. Hair Stylist.’ Otherwise the shop remained much as before and catered in much the same way to the needs of its clients. It turned you out with a nice firm perm: it accepted the task of shaping and cutting for the younger generation and the resultant mess was accepted without too much recrimination. But the bulk of Mrs Jameson’s clientele was a bunch of solid, stick in the mud middle-aged ladies who found it extremely hard to get their hair done the way they wanted it anywhere else.
In the age of unisex salons, I resolutely and stubbornly continue to patronize Margaret’s Beauty Parlour. That shrine with the sanctum sanctorum edified with a blown up photograph of Margaret herself styling the hair of one of the late nineties Miss India contestants has been my go-to fixup place for years now. The youngest employee here has been around for a mere ten years or so and is bullied by the older ones as befits her junior status.
As I chatted with her the other day about work hours, holidays and general unburdening on both sides, I wondered about this. I buy groceries at the Rice Traders and whatever cannot be sourced there, at the local Mahalaxmi. I think Iyengar bakeries make the softest Pav buns. I buy my veggies at Madiwala mandi. Is it a desperate outsider’s attempt to fit in in an increasingly insular city? Or a way to dissociate myself from the other johnny come latelys – because newness must always be despised? Neither I think.
I came to this city long before it spontaneously exploded into an IT megapolis. I have cycled on roads before they were turned into one ways in a futile attempt to manage the growing car population. I have shopped at Commercial Street and Brigade Road before they became uncool. I have – old lady confession coming up (gulp) – seen Forum mall come up from nothing. I have wrung my hands over the cutting of trees and over the loss of heritage bungalows. At a much younger age than Ms. Marple in the book from which the aforementioned extract was taken, I have reached a stage of too much change. Bangalore has had it’s date with ‘The Development’ and left behind scores of bewildered mes. Having been left with nothing else to hold on to, I and others like me, hold on to the remembered past.
How sad is that? When I had moved to Bangalore many years back, there was the murder on St. Mark’s road that made everyone sit up. Everyone suspected land grabbers of brutally stabbing a defenceless old lady to death. It was years actually before any construction would begin on that site as it was reputed to be haunted, but I had argued vociferously with friends over how foolish the two old ladies were in not moving out before. What could they possibly want with the crumbling old bungalow, too big for them to maintain? Wouldn’t it be much smarter to sell the house and move to a shiny new flat instead? And in hindsight much safer as well. And now, thirteen years later, I am them! I feel for them now and pity them. But I pity myself a little too. It is TOO soon for me to become them. Become so attached to a way of life and all the symbols of that life to allow for any change. I think I need to shake myself up a bit.
But as I leave Margaret’s the fleeting glimpse I get in the mirror is reassuringly chic. Margaret has not yet lost her touch and maybe the old Bangalore hasn’t either. Who knows but a comeback might be around the corner?