Does time standstill, or is this a result of our brain modulating a perception? This was the thought I juxtaposed, when writing down my memoirs of time spent in Bangalore (as it was referred till the year 2014); post a recent trip to the city now renamed as Bengaluru while being driven down the very streets which appears to have changed, or have they? Was all of seven when we moved to the “Garden City” from my city of birth Calcutta; and vividly recall initial memories of the salubrious climate, tree-lined avenues, fragrance of jasmine which local women adorned.
Topping this was what was ‘home’ at the time a quaint yet charming little bungalow comprising a flowering patch and wicket gate from a bygone era, which seemed like paradise. We lived in Indiranagar, a relatively modern locality inhabited by a diverse social strata, evinced by the varying sizes of homes with gardens, some with lovely bougainvilleas.
Bangalore’s unique colonial charm and South Indian elegance was one that I didn’t quite sense when visiting any of her neighbours. Perhaps that’s why Bangaloreans were always considered ‘cooler’, and as validation the city transcended to being referred to as the “Pub Capital of India” and the “Rock/Metal Capital of India”. Be it fashion, lifestyle or food trends Bangalore always appeared to be ahead of its peers. At the time, shopping was typically on or around Commercial Street; lined with shops on either side selling everything from textiles to jewellery or beautiful carpets to antiques.
Nightlife in the 80s or so, and as a young girl going out with family, mostly included memorable evenings spent at two most iconic restaurants Peacock and Blue Fox on MG Road, in the CBD. Both outposts had live bands, lively dance floors and exuded a charm best described as old world classic; and I used to watch both young couples and older ones with a younger heart, do the Cha-Cha-Cha with great aplomb! In the 90s as a college student, live bands had become uncool, and were replaced by DJs belting what one refers to today as ‘retro’ music; while “day parties” at the Knock Out discotheque on Brigade Road, were all the rage a convenient solution for those hard to obtain permissions to be out after sunset.
Fast forward to current day Bengaluru the climate is still somewhat the same, even though several trees have been felled, colonial bungalows replaced by commercial and residential high rises, IT parks and more. Residents have swelled to over 12 million. Local women now adorn cell phones glued to their ears rather than sweet smelling flowers; roads are mostly dotted with vehicular traffic as opposed to flora, and Prestige and Embassy have taken over the city’s landscape. Shopping is relegated to a mall. With respect to dining and nightlife Bangalore is on par with other pulsating metros discos have completely disappeared and shaking a leg means going to Zumba or aerobics!
However, with some reassurance, one can confidently state here are still some things that have not changed? Koshy’s an institution renowned for fish and chips, prawn biryani and other such staple favourites remain part of the city’s dining history. Whilst you may see less of the ad and media executives who were a permanent feature back in the day; food remains as one remembers. Despite the growing popularity of e-books, Higginbothams, one of the oldest book stores is another enterprise that has stood tall on MG Road since 1897. When I moved to Mumbai from Bengaluru in 2010, I held amazing memories of the city. But it hurts when people constantly bash the city due to heavy traffic and messy urban planning.
Evolution, reinvention and modernisation are important for a city’s progress the nation and world at large are beneficiaries of such advancement. Yet, the city’s core still remains. So let’s not judge Bengaluru by its frenetic outside and appreciate the calm, aristocratic yet sincere core it hasn’t lost even today.
Kempe Gowda would be proud to see what became of the mud fort he built 400 years ago, as the foundation to Bengaluru how about you?
The writer is vice president – public relations & corporate communications at a leading five star.