“Where is Law College?” I asked a policeman who was standing guard in front of a building. He looked bored. Without speaking a word, he lazily lifted a hand and pointed to a road to his left. Subsequent questions I asked him to reassure my directions were responded with nodding or shaking of his head. He was not in a mood to talk. A little ahead on the way, I encountered a man who was coming from the other side. His appearance made me conclude that he works in one of the many government departments nearby, and would know the area better.
“Excuse me,” I stopped him and asked, “which way to Law College?”
Without a doubt or hesitation, he pointed me in the direction exactly opposite to where the policeman had pointed me. “It is a short walk in this direction,” he told me pointing his finger, “you will find it just a little ahead this way.” I decided to trust this man instead of the cop, who I thought would be here on work and may not know the area as well as the other man. Wrong move!
We are not a country where people are comfortable saying “I don’t know.” It was a day for me to see everyone trying to be helpful and preferring not to say those three words.
On a hot summer morning in Bangalore, I got down from a city bus and started looking around for Law College. My destination was not the college itself, but ‘Indian Council of Historical Research’, which was located in the college premises. Walking past busy Mysore Bank Circle along Palace Road, I entered Bangalore University’s city office and asked a watchman for Law College. The confusing directions that I started receiving from that moment took me all over the place and had me walking for next ninety minutes, searching for the elusive ICHR.
The watchman at the gate looked at me as if I am a latecomer, and shook his head and said, “They have shifted to the university campus in Mysore Road; there is no law college here. It has been almost six months.” When I asked him if he had any clues on ICHR, he dismissed me quickly, indicating that he hasn’t heard of anything that sounds like it. Just as I retreated, another man, someone who seemed to be of authority and sitting nearby listening to our conversation, called me back. “It is this way, at the end of the road,” he told me, pointing to the large intersection just 100m away. Indeed, the law college was there and a sign said so. But there was some construction in progress, and no one seemed to be inside. I also found a locked door where a sign said ICHR. The deserted building made me believe that they have indeed packed up. Just to confirm, I walked in and looked for some signs of life.
There were two private security personnel inside, and one of them shook his head and said “no college,” even before I said anything. “What about ICHR?” I asked him, “Are they here?” Neither of the security men seemed to have any clue of what ICHR could be. When I asked if they had moved out of here, one of them pointed me to the same gate from where I was sent here. “Go inside that gate,” he told me, “you will find it in Bangalore University Campus.” He seemed confident enough that I took his words. But when I did go in and inquire with more people, no one seemed to have any clue of anything called ICHR. When I asked for directions to ‘Indian Council of Historical Research,’ a few men there looked at me as though I was speaking Greek and Latin, After some frustration, I decided to start asking for Law College, with a hope that ICHR would have moved along with law college. That is when I met the policeman and the other gentleman.
Having decided to ignore the policeman, I went in the opposite direction and asked a few more people for Law College. Some young chaps who looked like students seemed to be the right people to show me the correct directions. They looked at me as though I am lost, and asked to me head towards the area where I initially started from. After searching for some more time and finding nothing, I finally decided to trace my way back and went again into Bangalore University Campus, to give it one last try. A watchman I met inside said he is new here and has no clue. When I asked another security guard if he had any idea where the law college had moved to, he looked surprised. “They haven’t moved anywhere. It is in the same place. Classes are going on everyday.” Another contradiction. It must have been more than an hour since my search was on and I had got every possible answers to my questions except the right one.
Finally I told myself that I will go back, make a thorough inquiry at the Law College building I had stumbled earlier, and return home no matter what the outcome is. This time the private security guards were not there, but a student was studying all alone in an empty room. When I asked him if the college had moved, he replied in the negative. “They are moving next month,” he told me, indicating that the college still operated from this building. “Today is a holiday, you can come back tomorrow and it will be open.” It was a day off owing to Ambedkar Jayanti, which explained why the college was empty. The private security guards I had stumbled into earlier meant that today is a holiday, when they said “no college.” But what about ICHR? I tried to check with the student. “Do you know if ICHR operates from here?” He seemed to have no clue again, and asked me to come and check the next day.
The whole search for an hour and a half had now brought me back full circle. I went home and never returned to check! I had found an alternate source for the documents I was looking for, at the ‘Mythic Society of India’, which I had stumbled into when people sent me searching in all directions. They had in their library, everything I was looking for!