Wednesday, April 28, 2010

It was Bangalore again, and the romance endures




If it’s Bangalore, there’s always something about the weather. I was away a few days in the Garden City that is now sadly a shadow of its former self. The green cover continues to disappear even as old buildings are being pulled down to make way for new-age monsters. Either there’s nobody in the family to care for these old homes or it’s commercial interests that swing the decision.

However, there were storms or thunder-squalls every evening I was there. They brought the temperature down and reminiscences about the old Bangalore as well. I usually stay at a relative’s in Cox Town, part of the lovely Cantonment area. This part of Bangalore still has an old-world charm about it, especially his place tucked away in one corner not far from the ‘railway gate’ as the area is called. It’s a cosmopolitan mix – Anglo-Indians, Muslims, Marwaris, Malayalees, Tamilians, Gujaratis, Kannadigas, they are all there. It’s a microcosm of what India really is. Over the years, I have made numerous visits here and have seen different generations growing up.

The layout is right behind the ITC compound. Once upon a time, you could get the strong smell of cigarettes as they were being produced at the factory, but no longer. The sound of trains hurtling by continues, though. I understand ITC has stopped cigarette manufacture here and the factory building and other units have been changed to suit the requirements of IT offices and John Miller’s ready-made shirts and trousers.

In the ITC compound are several trees, Ashoka, fir and casuarinas. Scores of migratory birds come here to nest; many remain through the year. Whenever I’m here, I wake up early and sit on the bench outside and bird-watch. You can see eagles up on high, puffs of clouds floating by – well, it’s a heavenly feeling. I envy my cousin who gets to sit out every day. He, of course, understands the way I feel and even makes piping hot tea for me while I sit on the bench and watch Nature.

An architect, he tends a lovely garden. This time, I saw him in action, trimming the overgrown branches, employing a gardener to do most of the work. My cousin tells me he loves to sit outside and work on his laptop even as he finds time to look up and watch the birds and the clouds. There’s never a dull moment here. Then, there’s a stray dog that waits at the gate, hoping to get a morsel, a German Shepherd in a house opposite and a Labrador somewhere close.

Despite all this, I was saddened to see the building opposite his, not a very old one, having been demolished. The owners, Anglo-Indians, have left for Australia for good. Once, the house used to come alive with the barking of their Labrador, the mother shouting out to the dog, her daughter talking to her friends, or paying guests arriving on motorcycles and partying on the first floor.

Sad. It’s just open space now. Large stones or boulders lie as the contractor waits for the right moment to start construction. How tall will this new monster be? My cousin dreads the very thought of the building obstructing the view of the Ashoka, fir and Casuarinas. I empathise with him. We hope to be able to see the birds once the new building comes up.

Why couldn’t the owners have sold the building to somebody who would have retained the original and been happy to do so? It was such a solid building, hardly 40-50 years old. The only reason I can think of: commercial interests. Why would they bother? They are not going to be here in any case; they’re away in Australia (Melbourne is what I hear) amidst all the greenery. And who cares for an old building in a city far away, never mind if it was once their home?

I clicked some pictures on my mobile phone, of the garden and the flowers. Couldn’t take pictures of the birds and the trees, though. A mobile phone can’t really match up to a camera. Sweet memories again, of a Bangalore visit.

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