The Street

My Sunday morning retreat is Starbucks on 80-Feet Road.

This is a flat store with a shallow depth, but it is broad all right. It stands at a location that's important at this time. I'm there now, with an Americano brewed with "blond roast," served tall. It is weak but will do for my caffeine-intolerant self.

The afternoon sun is splashed on the storefronts on the other side of the street. It has caught and held up the dirt on the glass panes, saturated the colours of the garish bottles and cardboard cartons on the street-fronting shelves, it has brightened the outsides and darkened the insides of the stores.

The light also shows up the dust accumulated on leaves of the trees, and grimy dead leaves and twigs where branches fork and rise.

A translucent sheet of brown has robbed the asphalt of its blue-grey. Orange data-cables hang over the street crisscrossing between buildings and columns and posts and masts, They sag at eye level when seen from the raised Starbucks cafe.

But what catches the eye most is a pole hacked to half its original height before the door of the cafe, right on the steps.


The Pole, The Bench, and Our Chief Minister

This pole, intended to be a lamppost, and over a score just like it line the pavement. Matching benches accompany them. They were installed along the street during our Chief Minister's first term — he lives around the Starbucks' corner, just off 80-Feet Road. A small fire tender, police jeeps, bent and dented barricades with casters too small, and police in plastic chairs whiling away time on handphones attest to the VIP's residence hereabouts.

After several spells in power and interregnums between them, the politician has aged all over, except in his eyes — they burn with ambition, tenacity.

The posts were not so tall when new, beating by a few inches the average man's height. Twin bulbs topped them and housed incandescent lamps, which means the lights when lit were in the face of the walker. The bulbs, the lamps, are gone; the poles are hacked in half as if to rule out a rumour that they housed a treasure in their lean hollows.

In this current term, the Chief Minister's energies are sapped by battles with Covid and its variants, even as he pushes against other headwinds: the dictates of his party high command in Delhi, his cabinet-colleagues in Bangalore demanding more meat than already given. They're too much a fight for an aged man to bear. He hasn't enough fire left to redo the ornamentation of the public road that leads to his house.

The matching benches that I mentioned have met another fate; they are sinking into the weak paving. But some remain that can safely seat people, so they are offering better service than the lampposts. On them, you find the occasional flaneur, couples old and young, and the odd senior with the newspaper.

Sitting at Starbucks, looking out, I'm pondering the limits and the durability of power.