Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Nostalgia: Bangalore again

(1924 map of Bangalore)

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.

I plan to go back to Bangalore for another visit next month, or in May.

(Old photo of Lady Curzon Hospital)

Images from Wikimedia Commons; Public Domain. Click on map for enlarged view.
Also see:
Bangalore memories
Hockey days in Bangalore
Bangalore Memories: Cricket, hockey and the tragedy of Len Dial
Bangalore: Of a club, a park and a Chief Secretary couple


Maddy said...

has been ages since i visited bangalore, will probably do it this july..let's se..

Nebu said...

Yes. Almost all OBs – Old Bangaloreans have nostalgic memories of the place. During the latter part of 1970’s whenever my uncles came to visit they used to say how much the place has changed and that they can’t find their way around. Now it is my turn to say so, especially the Koramangala side. The central district around M.G.Road is more or less the same. The pace of change is unbelievably rapid now. Wonder what the present “Forum Generation” will have to say in another 25 years time.

Jacob Matthan said...

Dear Abe,

Your post filled me with nostalgia, but during my last visit to Bangalore in 2000, it took me over an hour to get from Benson Town to Basavangudi in a journey where I was gassed in an air-conditioned car!

How I wish Bangalore was like in the early Fifties, where I would wake up on Lalbagh Road, in the house you said is no more, and see the clouds of vapour from my breath condense as we watched the buses from ITI and HAL stream past at 7 in the morning!

But those days are gone and I know they can never come back.

I found in Oulu, a small town of just 120000 people a lot of the old character of Bangalore in a more modern fashion! (We are complaining as the population rose from 80000 to 120000 during the last 23 years!)

Abraham Tharakan said...

Thank you maddy, nebu and jacob matthan for your comments.

Ashvin said...

Dear Mr. Tharakan, I remember reading that the West End Hotel was once the Bangalore Palace of the Arni Zamindar. But the Taj website says something else...

Abraham Tharakan said...

Ashvin, I think Jaimahal was the Arni palace in Bangalore.