My neck is usually strained and screaming with pain by the time I reach Mangalore. I can only tolerate bumpy, stuffy bus rides for so long; I always keep my bus window wide open to get as much fresh air as I can.
After the semi-conscious excuse for sleep that only a sleeper bus can offer,along with the unending chatter of passenger who act like they’ve found their soulmates sitting next to them, I’ve half a mind to hop out of the window. You can always see men with legs and mouths tightly shut preparing to sprint at the next stop. Everyone gropes around still dazed while they try to find their things, stretch in cramped quarters and ask the conductor how far away their stops are at least 6 times. They always manage to forget and receive a earful from the conductor.
It is tradition to complain about the driving, roads, sleep and ghat section once we’re off. Soon everyone sporting righteous outrage at the crass, loud nature of some co-passenger. Awkward silence and righteous indignity set in as the relatives who are supposed to pick us up, like always, are late but insist they’ve been waiting for us at another stop for hours.
The streets are quite, deserted, cool. The air is thick, pleasant and smells lazy. Stray dogs eye us as they enjoy their rule over the quit tarmac, the buzzing orange streetlights their collaborates. We pile into a car, while everyone asks each other how they’ve been. they point out how so and so has gotten taller, thinner. They whisper how so and so has gotten fatter. they all decide they must eat. We leave the car before it has moved an inch and head over to the nearest restaurant. The one’s where regular customers eat are always located in a hotel. There we eat Mangalore buns that are surprisingly filling. When your eating buns and waiting for hot tea/ hoicks in town that’s still asleep and grey, you know your in Mangalore and no where else.
People discuss how the roads where back when they were kids, how certain granduncles were caught by leopards while they stopped off to pee etc. I stick my head out of the window and look at all the trees that seem to rush past me. The cool, green, residential areas that are far away from the main road are always deserted when morning buses drop off passengers. People point to the new apartments and reminisce about the old, luxurious, spacey tiled houses that always seem to invite rain are all but gone. they point to the few survivors and tell each other stories of how they used to play by the compound walls.
The few quite minutes you have after you get home and the age determined ques to the bathroom is set up is a voyeurs wet dream. You can drag a chair out to the large open baloneys that Mangalore houses always have and watch sleepy life sneak out of the apartments and houses. Inevitably I’m told to get potato chips, milk, tukudies,flavored banana chips etc. The shopkeepers, the customers and pedestrians wear dreamy looks. You’d think they lived in a world where clocks didn’t exist.
Someone always insists on going to some temple, visiting some obscure uncle/aunt before they die, so we’re always out of the house. This will always be one of the greater mysteries of life to me. Manglore is the one place where wasting time at home is pleasant. If you disagree the sun and humidity will send you rushing back for cover indoors.My family however insists on packing themselves into a sweaty car and braving the heat. The humidity and sun torture you. I’m always drenched in sweat in Manglore.
The veg restaurants we visit, once someone man’s up and tell’s everyone else that we should probably take a break, always serve amazing sandwiches. I don’t know why but sandwiches always taste better in Mangalore. The petty shops around ever corner are the best places to eat however. They always have some specialty whose name I am too tired to remember. I can remember taste but not where they come from.
My most recent discovery is this guy who has an dd love affair with the coconut. He has multiple shops carved into old house near the port of Mangalore, where the air always smells of fish. He serves you coconut based ice cream, mixed with other melted flavors of ice cream. The ice cream is served in a coconut and is meant to be scooped out with a piece of coconut husk he gives you. You can recognize his shops by the red, 90’s refrigerators they always have.
We leave Mangalore the same way we came. In a sweaty, sleeper but filled with loud gossip, loud passenger, loud conductors, loud streets. One day I want to stay awake through the trip and locate where it is you top smelling the salty air of Mangalore.