An Ode to the Road

Susan Narjala

The surprising sights and comforting rhythms of Hennur Road in Bangalore.


When we moved to Bangalore from the US several years ago, Hennur Road wasn’t on our radar as far as the most “liveable” locations in the city go.

After all, the traffic was maddening (to put it mildly), the roads were bumpy (euphemistically speaking) and, back then, in the middle of Hennur Road lay an incomplete bridge to nowhere, unapologetically (and annoyingly) suspended in mid-air.

But when we found a great apartment on Hennur Road, I was determined to ignore the chaos and prioritise the convenience.

What I didn’t expect over the years was a change of heart toward this road that usually makes most people cringe. Surprisingly enough, I actually began to observe and even enjoy the many merits of this maligned road.

As I drove my kids to school on Hennur Road, I noticed the pop-ups that organically sprang up on the sidewalk. One day, there would be giant pink and yellow teddy bears stacked on the side of the road. A few days later, an array of convincingly-legit-looking suitcases would replace the lounging teddy bears. A man selling rat poison would perch himself on a stool next to a truck brimming over with prickly pineapples. I even noticed a somewhat dubious ramshackle structure with a cloth banner advertising potent remedies for one’s “love” life.

A Shopkeeper Selling Steel Utensils at his Shop by T.S. Satyan, Silver gelatin print, PHY.10338

Hennur Road was many things—but one could never accuse it of being boring. While I came to enjoy the surprises, I welcomed the comforting familiarity of the road as well.

I knew that the Ayengar bakery guy opened his store at precisely 7:30 am and was one of the last to shut shop every night. I knew where you could get a ridiculously cheap (and fairly decent) haircut. I knew the little store where ornate Turkish lamps hung like jewels from the ceiling, as if we were in a bazaar in Istanbul. I knew what time fresh banana fritters (ethaka appams) were fried at the Malayalee shop and that those fritters paired perfectly with the steaming hot lemony Suleimani tea sold there. I knew at which point I needed to cover my nose because, even in an air-conditioned car, Hennur Road has a few spots which brazenly assault one’s olfactory senses.

Over the years, Hennur Road has seen some changes. For one, the bridge suspended in mid-air actually grew arms that snaked their way to the road below. For another, Hennur got more “posh” – fancy stores (we have a Fab India, people) and a snazzy outdoor pub sprouted along this unlikely road. While I wouldn’t say the road has redeemed its reputation, I do think people have stopped cringing when they speak about Hennur.

Or maybe that’s just me.

Hennur is my road now. The regular rhythms of the road make my heart as happy as the surprises that spring up out of nowhere. That makes it one of the most liveable locations in Bangalore. At least for this transplant that found her home on Hennur.

Susan Narjala is a freelance writer who lives in India with her husband and their two children. In her writing, she shares her faith with authenticity and humour, and has been published on leading platforms like Desiring God and YouVersion.

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