Namma Bengaluru

Stories that I had heard of the ideal weather condition in Bangalore were confirmed instantly when a cool breeze blew my hat off as I exited Bangalore International Airport. Bangalore, or rather Bengaluru, with its easy accessibility, young population and metropolitan character seemed the best location for a short getaway and I was here to enjoy all the sights it had to offer!

Bangalore, Karnataka’s capital, is currently India’s fastest growing city and a crucial I.T. hub. It is well connected by road, railways and airways. Although the airport was at a large distance from the heart of city, the airport authorities had an efficient bus service which enabled travelers to commute to the most frequented parts of the city with ease. Traffic was crunch, but while driving into the city I was pleasantly surprised to see that there were tastefully painted murals, depicting different tourist spots all over Karnataka, on every single wall that lined the roads. A co-passenger conversationally told me that this was a government initiative to prevent disfiguring of public property by posters and graffiti, and at the same time promoted state tourism –killing two birds with one stone!

M.G. Road, one of the city’s veins, is a commercial and entertainment center in close proximity to the famous Chinnaswamy Stadium. There is an array of choices in hotels that one can stay at in nearby areas, ranging from national hotel chains to smaller, individual establishments. Since I was a student on a budget looking for adventure on a holiday spanning the weekend, the latter suited my requirements more. I booked myself into a comfortable single room at Ashraya International, and set out to investigate the city. Public transport was abundantly available in every direction I looked, but I preferred to stroll on my own. Bangalore is often called the ‘Garden City’ of India, and at the same time is also referred to as the ‘Silicon Valley’. As I wandered on I did, indeed, see a blend of these two themes. Vehicles sped past me while I walked under the shade of the trees of Cubbon Park.

While walking past the park I noticed it was full of statues, couples occupying the benches, an assortment of street vendors selling their wares of kaidlekai and spun sugar and a profusion of wild-looking flowers. Cubbon Park is a park that sprawls over 334 acres in central Bangalore.  Chinnaswamy Stadium loomed on my left side Walking on I reached the mouth of M.G. Road where I was supposed to get together with a couple of friends. We reached exactly at the same time. My friends told me that at one point even M.G. Road was lined with a garden. However, with Bangalore’s new Metro Rail coming up the greenery had been wiped out and the road was perpetually clogged with traffic. On the other hand, MG Road was the erstwhile ‘South Parade’ during the colonial period, where the British would march their army down. The architecture of the buildings, though not uniform, was still an echo of what it would’ve been during the Britishraj and was a treat to observe. We walked down to Brigade Road, which is perpendicular to MG Road. At their intersection is Bangalore’s finest ethnic store called ‘Cauvery’. Bangalore is famous for its sandalwood products and it took me a while to pick up a handcrafted sandalwood elephant as souvenir. Amongst other things, Bangalore also boasts of being home to Vijay Mallya, owner of United Breweries. United Breweries produces India’s maximum consumed beer named Kingfisher, and the fallout is that Bangalore has a large number of pubs and eateries. While Brigade Road itself is lined with shops, we went to relax at one such pub on it called Pecos.

Pecos is perhaps a tribute to the old Bangalore spirit. Even though it looks rather dusty on the outside, it has been around as far backs as anyone can remember –pounding with rock music and gathering a huge number of patrons because of its relaxed atmosphere. After a heavy lunch there, we walked down Church Street and spent lazy hours of the afternoon browsing through second hand book shops, poster stores and clothing outlets. We occasionally peeked into coffee shops, had a bite at another permanent feature of Bangalore’s geography named Hotel Empire (known for its delicious and inexpensive non-vegetarian menu) and settled for an evening of playing Scrabble at café called Java City. We walked back to the hotel later that night, the roads almost empty since Bangalore closes down at eleven thirty. The breeze was playing up again, the only thing missing were the stars and I went to bed –not having seen the city as a conventional tourist –but definitely with a grasp of its essence.

The next morning I embarked on a sightseeing expedition with an organization called ‘Bangalore Walks’. Being a nature freak, I chose the ‘Green Heritage Walk’ which went through Lalbagh Botanical Gardens. Lalbagh is truly beautiful and it made me incredibly happy to find out that even though the city is at its peak in industrial  growth and infrastructure consolidation, the authorities consider the natural environment priority. The garden was extremely well maintained and I was recommended to the annual flower show here by many acquaintances, during the course of the walk. There were some true-blue Bangalore-lovers walking with me, who had lived in the city a long while and thought that these walks on the weekends allowed them to reconnect with the city. They kept an incessant chatter going, and I gleaned from their conversation that no matter how fast Bangalore was growing, amidst all the negative influences of an urban settlement, it was still home –After all  home is where the heart is.

The walk around Lalbagh took up all my time till noon. I met up with my friends again and was treated to a traditional South Indian cuisine served on a banana leaf at a local restaurant. Waiters piled on different dishes one after the other: Rice, sambar, peni, pickle, salad, vegetable, sweets… At the end of the meal I was almost rolling down the stairs! Afterwards we drove past large malls, and a beautiful golf course to the Bangalore Palace. I caught brief glimpses of governmental buildings such as the Vidhan Souda, the Karnataka Highcourt and the Governor’s Bungalow.

Bangalore Palace is situated in the Palace Gardens, at the heart of the Bangalore city of India. It was built in the year 1887 by Wodeyar dynasty and its interiors are constructed using the Tudor-style. The guidebook stated that palace is quite similar to the medieval castles that were built in Normandy and England. The Windsor Castle of London left a great impression on King Chamaraja Wodeyar of Wodeyar dynasty, on one of his trips to England. Inspired by the Tudor style architecture, he got the Bangalore Palace built in the city. By the time we were done exploring the palace, it was time for me to get back to my hotel. The staff had been very hospitable and had taken care of my smallest whims. Again, I loaded myself on to a bus going to the airport and spent the next hour and fifteen minutes looking out of the window, listening to music on my Ipod and reflecting on the last two days.

Safely buckled into my seat on the plane, my backpack stowed away, I continued to ponder over my short holiday. I realized that it had been exactly the right combination of fun, culture and history. In other words, it had been a terrific success!

Rashi Rathi

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