Cities don’t grow old. They change, sometimes subtly, often drastically. When such transformation affects the character of a place, something is lost forever. For better or for worse.
Has that happened to Bangalore? In my opinion, not yet. My last few trips to this place that I love, were rush in, rush out affairs. But this time (Feb. 21-25) I went with just one agenda – look for the old Bangalore in the metropolis that is bursting at the seams today.
Most of my time was lost in traffic snarls and half my plans went awry. Occasionally the landmarks that I was looking for were missed. They were either obliterated, or masked by new structures around.
I would have passed by the old St. Joseph’s College Hostel building without noticing it if the driver hadn’t pointed out from flyover connecting KR Road to Lal Baugh Road. I couldn’t locate my friend Sushil’s house near that. The Cash Pharmacy has been demolished and a new construction is on at that site. Does anyone remember the kind hearted Dr. Madhavan?
Opera House is still there, though I heard that it is marked for demolition. Many parts of the city have trees and gardens and flowers even now. The Cubbon Park has lost some area but the bulk of it remains. Unfortunately it is not well maintained. Wonder if the golf greens are still there; forgot to check. Didn’t get time to visit the Lal Baugh Gardens.
During my college days there was a man at the South Parade (MG Road) – Brigade Road corner selling old books and comics. Some years back I found a younger man, I think the son, carrying on the business. Wonder if it is there now. Wanted to visit Rakhra’s, the sports goods people on Commercial Street but couldn’t make it. Mr. Rakhra used to get hockey goalkeeper kit specially made for me according to my design.
One place which has maintained the ambiance is Taj West End. This hotel set in about 20 acres of gardens is one of the finest I have come across. My association with it started in 1951. My maternal uncle Jose Kallivayalil used to stay there on his frequent visits to Bangalore. I never missed an opportunity to stuff myself at the West End on his account. Those days Spencers were running the hotel. I think Taj took over in the 1980s.
Later on, during my career, I have been a guest there several times. This time too I went there. Spent a couple of hours in the bandstand style Blue Bar savoring the atmosphere and the lovely weather. Thank you Taj, for maintaining the character of the West End.
(Old photo of Lady Curzon Hospital)
Images from Wikimedia Commons; Public Domain. Click on map for enlarged view.
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