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.
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.
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.
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