1. There are no photographs in this blog since I don’t have any of my own of the old Bengaluru. I don’t want to use the ones from the Internet and get into copyright issues. I have used only one photograph of Vidhana Soudha from the Government of Karnataka Website.
2. The period is late 70’s and till early 90’s, after that the old Bengaluru was lost.
3. I grew up mostly in North and East Bengaluru. Hence this blog is biased towards this portion of Bengaluru.
Bengaluru was always a cosmopolitan city by nature. I remember in the 1970s, a lot of Iranians used to live near Hutchins Road. There has been the proverbial once in many blue moons incidents when an individual belonging to a particular race or religion or language has felt insecure in Bengaluru. BENGALURU IS THE MOST ACCOMMODATIVE CITY FOR ANYONE, FROM ANY PART OF THE WORLD AND GIVEN THE GENEROSITY OF BENGALUREANS, EVEN PEOPLE FROM MARS WILL FIND IT HOSPITABLE. That it became a metropolitan city is a Greek tragedy. Bengaluru still retains its cosmopolitan attitude; a certain amount of regional zeal is noted these days but is this due to the abrasive and domineering attitude of a certain set of people.
I have seen agriculture being done with an ox and plough in Banswadi, that much old I am. I have seen greenery on Marthalli Main Road, for that much long I have been in Bengaluru. I have been in Bengaluru traffic where there were more bicycles, a few two-wheelers, and a countable number of cars. I have lived in Bengaluru where life came to standstill after 8:30 p.m.
Life in Bengaluru during those days was like a test match played on a Faisalabad wicket (notorious for no results). Nothing much happened for hours, and when it happened it was for the limited time during the morning and evening hours due to office going crowd. The intensity of the monotonous life is clear from the fact that BTS (now BMTC) had a PHS (Peak Hour Service) which started from various areas and usually terminated near Vidhana Soudha. Mentioning of Vidhan Soudha, sitting on those stairs was the favourite weekend pastime of Bengalureans. Things have now changed thanks to the security threats. You cannot get anywhere near the shadow of this monumental structure.
Traffic during the afternoons on MG Road those days was as sparse as, free parking space on an afternoon in MG Road these days. Only the prominent areas of Bengaluru had traffic signals. Much like a metro station these days, the presence of a traffic signal spiked the real estate value of an area. Back in those days, the average Bengalurean had respect for traffic rules. The airport used to be near HAL, and the road used to become hyper-busy whenever an aircraft used to land. Otherwise, life on this road was left to be disturbed only by HAL buses. MG Road and Brigade road were the two most happening places of Bengaluru, and still, continue to be so. I wonder if Army had not occupied one side of MG Road, how much of a stink hole it would have become.
BTS (Bengaluru Transport Service) buses were red in colour during that time, and when they did turn up, made many people go pink. Those days it was mockingly called `Bittre Thiruga Sigalla’ (Means if you miss it, you won’t get it). The crew used to take liberal breaks after each trip and in some cases, the duration of the breaks was more than the duration of each trip. Even then, BTS buses were the best in the country. Double Decker buses were a treat to travel, but they phythoned along only on a few prominent routes. The first bus was usually at 7:15 a.m. and the last bus at 8:45 pm. With Brindavan train, the first electric locomotive arrived in Bengaluru. I remember as a kid going to East Railway station just to see the train speed by without raising any smoke. If you had to travel to any important city other than Chennai, you had to take a train from Chennai.
Halasuru Lake was more natural at that time. There used to be ridges on the border and we used to love walking on them. There were no jogging tracks like now but there was boating during those days. During afternoon and nights, it was a notorious place. It was supposed to be haunted during late nights, with the spirits of people who committed suicide in that lake. Halasuru Lake was the favourite suicide spot for jilted lovers, unsuccessful students and failed businessmen. There was no dearth of stories of people being chased by these spirits during late nights. The only benefit of IT-BT revolution of Bengaluru was these spirits had to stop haunting people, possibly because the number of people they had to haunt was beyond their logistical capability.
There were more grounds to play in Bengaluru than the number of malls it has today. I remember the better part of my summer holidays was spent in Gymkhana Ground in Cox Town. Summer in Bengaluru those days meant a maximum of 27 to 29 degrees Celsius. A good part of the 200 plus lakes was not yet encroached those days and that explains the good weather. Till March started we used to wear sweaters. Cricket has always been the part of the culture of Bengaluru. Even state and national level cricketers used to play in club matches. I distinctly remember watching Kirmani and Roger Binny play in the local grounds. On Sundays, a larger crowd used to turn up to watch club matches, compared to the one that watches a Ranji Trophy match these days.
Single Screen theatres were abundant. I studied at RBANMs College, and there was no dearth of theatres around. Houseful boards were so common. If I remember right, Abhinay Theatre was the first to get escalators. Quite a few people went to this theatre just to use the escalators. Bengaluru used to have many cabaret dances those days. Video Parlours cropped in the late 80s usually showing blue films. Restaurants were far and few between. Commercial Street was the haven for middle-class shopping. I remember most shops used to be closed on Sundays. There was a watch showroom, The Time Shop it was called, if I am not wrong, at the entrance of Commercial Street. Then there was the Maftlal Showroom. There was also a hat shop. There is nothing today in Commercial Street that reminds me of the one from the 80s except Bhagthrams and a few other shops. Bhagathrams used to operate in a corner of what was a residential complex but the taste of the Gulab jamoons was and is still the best.
Education institutions in South Bengaluru were largely run by Hindu institutions and in the North by Christian, Muslim and Hindu charitable institutions. I remember in my college days freaking out near Basvangudi just to have a glimpse of the fair girls of Bengaluru south.
Houses were largely self-occupied. A few were available for rents but then they too were governed by the draconian rent control act. Some of the bigger house had an outhouse. Some had servant quarters with entrance from the sanitary lanes. Malleshwaram usually meant Brahmins but there was nothing to suggest only Brahmins were given houses on rent. Most of North Bengaluru had a mix population of Kannadigas, Tamilians, Teluguites, Malayalis, Anglo Indians, Muslims and North Indians. There was this huge Bengaluru North and South divide if anybody remembers. I don’t remember anyone from Bengaluru North who would have readily relocated to Bengaluru South and vice-versa.
This was my memory of the Bengaluru that I lived in. This is just a personal account of all my prejudices, bias and incomplete descriptions. The quality of English used is average.