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The Bangalore Bohemian’s Nash-inspired poem #TheCityasMuse Runners-Up

The Bangalore Bohemian (he prefers his pen name) comes from a family of writers and journalists; his departed dad being his early inspiration. For this poem particularly, he follows in the footsteps of the infamous Ogden Nash!

Comment: It’s hard not to smile when you read this quirky piece of writing. And so did the judges!


He sets out with the poise of a Bon Vivant,
But, the auto-wallah he hails is recalcitrant–
There are somethings he knows he can’t
Surmount, for his ears he has already lent
In acquiescence, to fare demands sardonically strident !

Our gourmet meanders along to Malleshwaram’s VEENA STORES
Imagining in”Nadaswaram” notes, the wailing wife’s cries hoarse
“You have always, incorrigibly, coveted the grass in the neighbor’s garden…
And conveniently called ME a correction-home’s warden ?”—
Psst, years of a south-headed marriage can render courtesies coarse.

In a Bohemian Bangalore, become an irrepressible social butterfly—
Flitting, flamboyantly, hither and thither— come rain or shine,
Having learnt well— sensibly seasoned— to keep his powder dry:
Past his prime, it’s a convivially platonic gambit–“your place or mine…”–
A charming connoisseur— anytime, anywhere, to DINE is fine.



A Word a Week Photo Challenge: HATs in the street markets of Bangalore

I haven’t yet done two attempts at the same theme, but I remembered taking these pictures a year ago outside Russell Market in Bangalore. This is an interesting, dense, Muslim dominated area and I went there to see a burnt down historic market that the shop owners collective had decided to rebuild on their own!

Anyway, here are the hats!


Autonomous new urban offshoots akin to Electronic City Bangalore are worth a thought- Sep 13, 2012

There has been a face off situation between the Bangalore Municipal Corporation and the Electronic City, which is a collection of largely non manufacturing industrial units carved out of rural villages and consolidated under one administration. As I understand the situation, the municipality intends to bring Electronic City under its jurisdiction with the intent to collect taxes, but the subdivision is happy remaining autonomous and sees no value in being integrated into Bangalore city.
Their main argument has been their success at planning and managing the subdivision, specially in providing basic amenities that they claim the city has not been able to do too well within its current jurisdiction.
As I rode through Electronic City today, a few things struck me. First, despite large tech firms employing hundreds, there were no vehicles spilling onto the streets. Many complexes had built multistory parking lots to accommodate cars. Coming from Gurgaon where every office complex spouts a chaotic stream of cabs , this was a pleasant surprise. The streets were tree lined and had pavements, another plus. The area was safe. I can vouch for that from the experience of walking from the main road to well inside the city at nearly midnight after taking the last public bus here from the city, on a previous trip.
Does this mean decentralisation works? Is it the way forward? Well, with the huge shift from rural to urban, India should be looking to sprout many new urban areas and in that sense some sort of decentralisation is bound to happen. However this would need its own rules to prevent poor practices like redlining (keeping some groups out), unsustainable approaches and many others. Its certainly worth a thought!

Upset by the death of MG Road, thrilled by a night bus ride in Bangalore- May 29, 2012

After a day full of site visits and meetings, I did not see myself cooling my heels in an obscure hotel in the middle of nowhere, an apt description of Electronic City in Bangalore. I took the opportunity to ride with someone into town and found myself at that familiar intersection between M G Road and Brigade Road. Right next to me was the Cauvery Emporium where as a child I remember buying Mysore Sandal Soap with my grandmother and staring at the bronze statues and silk carpets that my uncle Gopal would sometimes buy (he was passionate about these and they appeared super expensive to us).
I decided, for the sake of nostalgia, to walk down M G Road. It was about eight in the evening and the stretch that used to be the heart of the city with people jostling for space was a deserted, sad place with no pavements to speak of, a clattering ugly overhead Metro line and lots of traffic. Even after several malls came up in the city, this used to be a vibrant space. The metro seems to have sucked whatever life it had out and I was sorely disappointed.
Brigade Road was more like what it used to be, though it also seems to have relinquished it’s status as a prime shopping location. Even so, I enjoyed watching the passers by and marvelled at the wonderful cosmopolitan mix this city now is and the sheer feeling of youth and casual confidence here as compared to say Connaught Place in Delhi.
A good meal later, we (my colleague Nipesh did his own city trawl in the meantime) topped off a the evening with a small adventure we greatly enjoyed- we yapped away while riding in a City bus to Electronic City and then savoured a long walk to our hotel in dark deserted but beautifully tree lined streets escorted by a street dog!
Images below: The overhead metro has ruined the heart of Bangalore, followed by two shots of Brigade road at night.




Resilience & buzzing activity at Russell Market, Bangalore- March 26, 2012

Earlier this month on a work trip to Bangalore, I had written about how traders in the city’s Russell Market were taking a private initiative to rebuild it without waiting for the city authorities to do so. This trip gave me the time and opportunity to see for myself.

I found a bustling market in Shivaji Nagar, in the heart of the city’s busy shopping district near Commercial Street. Visiting on a Sunday, we saw crowds pouring out after finishing mass at St Mary’s Basilica, the oldest church in the city, which is right opposite the market. The streets were lined with vendors and it was a bit of a mela. Russell Market is an Indo Saracenic structure built in the 1920s like much of this part of the city, which was known back then as Blackpully.

The char marks left by the fire were apparent on the exteriors and interiors of the market. Inside, the place was a medley of assorted wares–flowers, vegetables, fish, meat, fruits, poultry, even shops dedicated to prawns! The trade seemed to be largely in the hands of Muslim tradesmen; having driven through a few districts in Karnataka the past few days, I could see that the influence of Islam runs deep and is seeped into the fabric of this region; and the obviously Islamic character of the shopkeepers was not surprising at all.

Naked, dangling wires were everywhere. Apparently, this was the cause of the fire, which had gutted 123 shops and required 29 fire tenders working five hours to douse! Traders have accused the city municipal corporation of having neglected their repeated complaint to fix the wiring.The corporation did compensate shop owners though (to the tune of Rs 50,000 reportedly), and the money is being put to good use from the look of the renovation work that is proceeding full steam. The renovation is focused on the most damaged part of the market. The rest of the place continues with business despite the charred walls and structure; the walls have been painted over where necessary and life goes on. Of course, poking around with camera did attract some curious stares, but none   hostile! Finally, one vendor asked me which newspaper I work for. When he learnt I am an architect, he seemed delighted. And I had to make a swift getaway lest he expected instant advice on the interior remodeling of his shop!

I returned with a sense of hope at the resilience of the ordinary person in this country. Despite systems breaking down all around, Indians have the knack to refuse to be intimidated by obstacles and Russell Market’s traders epitomized this. I was saddened, however, by the neglect of this lovely building by the city. Clearly a heritage structure, a public place that must occupy a significant place in the public memory of this city’s inhabitants, Russell Market deserves a better deal.

Market entrance

Buzzing streetside activity in this predominantly Muslim neighborhood

Naked wires, charred walls

Hindu Gods and puja flowers share the space too

Charred walls have been whitewashed over and the market is buzzing again

Architectural delight

Lots of meat. This was one organized market....

The new interiors...not much heritage, but who can blame shopkeepers for wanting modern finishes!

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