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Bangalore of Yore

July 24, 2020 | By

Having seen Bangalore from a ring side seat for over 65 years, Rajan NS often feels wistful and nostalgic about his city. Take a trip down memory lane with him.

St Joseph's P U College

St Joseph’s P U College (Pic: Wikimedia Commons CC 3.0)

I was very fortunate to be a resident of Bangalore and a student of St Joseph’s Indian High School in 1947, located in the quaint old building on Residency Road, which the St Joseph’s P U College occupies currently. We lived in the Gandhinagar area and a bunch of us four boys walked to school and back everyday from Gandhinagar, through Cubbon Park, Lavelle Road, St Mark’s Road and Imperial Bank (as State bank of India was known then).

The climate of Bangalore during those days was very salubrious and we never felt any discomfort. Cubbon Park was not riddled with buildings, there was hardly any traffic and our passage through dense fruit trees such as Wood Apple, Tamarind, Mango and Jambul (Jamun), besides Neem, Gulmohar, Jacaranda etc, was always a pleasant, chatty, and playful ‘walk in the park’ literally. We occasionally stopped to bring down some fruits with  well-aimed missiles.

Just beyond Cubbon Park, stood ‘The Bangalore Breweries’, forerunner of the UB Breweries, which too has now yielded to the ’U B City’. For us then, it was just a landmark on our walk, with tall boundary walls and a gate with an arched name board to mark the place. What went on inside was always a mystery to us, though we were never tempted to investigate.

The area around my school was a peaceful retreat. Down Residency Road from the school stood the Imperial Theatre, where a Fuel Station now operates and, further beyond at the junction of the Brigade Road, stood “The Opera House”. The lanes lying in the area opposite the school, now Rest House crescent, were sleepy and sylvan, lined with English cottage type houses, their gardens dense and colourful, conveying the sense of a small English village, rather than the heart of a busy city. I cannot recollect even a few houses with two stories. It would be absolutely quiet in the afternoons when I would walk these lanes admiring the houses and wishing I lived in one of them. We were never bothered by any traffic or noise.

Holy Trinity Church

Holy Trinity Church, Bangalore (Pic: Wikimedia Commons CC 3.0)

South Parade, now MG Road, with its landmark Holy Trinity Church and St Mark’s Cathedral at either end, was a hub of activity, with the Plaza and Empire theaters, Lakeview Milk bar, GK Vale, India Coffee House with the promenade opposite to it, all of it making the locale  worth visiting in the Bangalore of yore. Commercial street was a quiet place then, not the premium shopping area it was to become later. Ulsoor Bazaar was the limit to the East. The bus fare from Majestic Bus stand to historic Russell Market was the equivalent of 15 paise.

‘Cantonment’, area was distinct from the ‘City’, which again  had two distinct parts: the southern part such as Chamrajpet, Basavangudi and Gandhi Bazaar, with the famous Vidyarthi Bhavan as its beacon, and the ‘other’ Bangalore of Chikpet, Gandhinagar, Malleswaram. Residents of the South would look  disdainfully at the rest of the city, which they did not consider as ‘the real Bangalore’, a title which they felt belonged only to them. The 1960s changed the shape of Bangalore with institutions like the HAL, HMT, ITI, LRDE which opened the flood gates of immigration to Bangalore and the creation of new residential areas such as Jayanagar, once acclaimed as the largest planned residential area in Asia, the cosmopolitan Indiranagar, Vijayanagar etc. Later on, the influx of the IT and Building Industry effected a transformation that leaves no traces at all of its old character.

I always loved Bangalore, no matter where I lived and worked, hence I settled down here after my retirement. My wife’s family were residents of Chamarajpet for generations. Having seen Bangalore from a ring side seat, for over 65 years, I often feel wistful and nostalgic, reminiscing the clean unpolluted air, traffic free roads, numerous parks maintained scrupulously, picturesque tree lined roads and shady walks, cheap transport and honest auto drivers, Jutkas cheek by jowl with cars and cycles, Malleswaram and Gandhi Bazaar, colourful, vibrant and scented with flower shops, excellent filter coffee in neat little hotels and, the most significant, a lovely, pleasant, equable climate. Alas, that Bangalore is gone forever.

More to read

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NS Rajan is a retired senior IRS Officer. He is an avid reader and a sports lover, particularly cricket, having watched many greats in action from the late 1940s (he has played cricket at a fairly competitive level). He loves listening to music of all genres, is fascinated by Hindi film music of the ‘golden era’ and has written many essays on composers, lyricists and singers. Rajan loves to sing and spends some of his time singing on his karaoke system. He likes to write and has contributed articles, short stories and letters to newspapers and magazines, some of which have been published in Silhouette Magazine and LnC. Rajan is very fond of travelling and learning about new and fascinating places and is a keen observer of all that he sees, hears and observes during his travels. Travel and photography usually always go together and Rajan has been interested in photography from his teens, weaned on a German Zeiss Ikon. His abiding love for travel and photography inspired him to write an illustrated book on his trip to the USA, Go West Odyssey: How I Saw America in 19 Days, including in it a number of pictures taken by him during the trip. He works actively to keep himself engaged in some mental pursuit or the other and to keep himself mentally and physically fit at the ripe old age of 87.
All Posts of NS Rajan

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8 thoughts on “Bangalore of Yore

  • Raj Swaroop

    The nostalgia trip of a more unhurried and a more innocent age brought a smile. Although my time in Bangalore was a few years during the turn of the century it remains second home in a sense. The walks and the eateries were always pleasant. The Saturday morning routine of my cousin and me was heading to a Darshini in Malleshwaram for breakfast and takeaways for people at home. That and other such little pleasures are kind of lost. Can see where Mr Rajan comes from on this.

    1. Antara

      I have been to Bangalore once that too just about 3 years ago. But this story appeals to everyone who loves to recall how his/her city used to be.

      I have similar memories of Delhi, although I am Made in Delhi and will live my life here. The city has changed like any other, perhaps more rapidly because of metro, Commonwealth Games etc.

      Raj, I agree with you. The story did bring a smile. 🙂

  • A Bharat

    Thank you Mr Rajan. Your article was like a breath of fresh air which used be always present in my childhood but which is practically on its way out now. I belong to the other half of the spectrum – Basavanagudi in the City Area of Bangalore. With wide avenues lined with Gulmohar trees, large circles (a concept now totally obsolete) and practically no traffic, it seems more like a dream than reality now. We used to cycle to the Gandhinagar area for movies or the South Parade (now MG Road) for more movies, book shops eateries.
    I don’t think traffic policemen existed in those days!

    1. Rajan N S

      Yes, Mr Bharat. That ‘old’ Bangalore, is cherished and remembered by all those who were a part of it. It is ironic that while the City itself has been renamed, all its charms and pleasures that really belonged to the erstwhile, unspoiled ‘Bengaluru’ have vanished.
      Thank you for your nice comments. I completely echo what you have said.

  • Anantha

    I am so happy to see this post of yours. I lived in Jayanagar for 8 years and past two weeks I have been working on a write up about my Bengaluru experiences!! Such a coincidence to see urs . Good to see a fellow sojourner !! Very nice post !!

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