My memories of Bangalore go back about five decades. I remember playing in the suburban streets with hordes of children. Jayanagar, 5th block, where we lived, was known for its rustic landscape. The roads were not asphalted, there were more empty plots than houses and today’s manicured parks and playgrounds were lush groves of trees. As children, we would often enter them when the maali was dozing off and eat our fill of tamarinds and mangoes.
There was a very warm community feeling in the pre-TV and pre-IT era of Bangalore. Life was leisurely; both children and grown-ups had plenty of time for games, get-togethers, movies, picnics and moonlight dinners on the terrace. Skipping, hopscotch, lagori, hide and seek and badminton, the games we played were endless. As there were no generators, UPS or emergency lamps, nightly power cuts were the signal for us to leave our books, rush into the street and resume our play.
On hot summer nights, grown-ups would follow us and sit in front of their gates, companionably chatting with each other. They would sometimes show us how to identify different planets and constellations. Compared to our neon flooded skies today, the shimmering stars seemed to hang just above us in the velvety darkness. There were no baby-sitters or play homes because neighbours could always be counted upon for all this and much more. If we were suddenly short of sugar, rice or milk, we would just borrow it from next door and return it later.
Our bonds with relatives were also very resilient. At least once or twice a month we would picnic at Lalbagh or Cubbon Park with aunts, uncles and cousins. Every week, our parents would take us to the Banashankari or Ragigudda temple. In Sanskrit, ‘Banashankari’ means ‘Goddess of the Forest’. The name was extremely apt then as this quiet shrine was set in the midst of orchards where the ringing of the temple bell was punctuated only by birdsong. Today, when we see it filled with innumerable devotees and hemmed in by honking traffic, this seems incredible. ‘Ragigudda’ which means ‘hillock of brown millet’ in Kannada was surrounded by green paddy fields. A tiny shrine of Lord Hanuman stood at the top and we laughingly competed with each other as we ran up the steep, monolithic rock which had no steps. Anybody who has seen this popular temple teeming with thousands today will be amazed to hear this.
For groceries, there were small neighbourhood stores. Large families got sacksful of rice and grains from villages or the wholesale market in Chickpet. For fruits and vegetables, the hawkers ruled the roost. I remember running over the empty plots that stood between our house and the small hawker’s market where we bought vegetables. Today, the Jayanagar BDA Complex towers over this area.
In fact, the skyline of Bangalore is transformed by high rise office towers, apartments and malls. Progress and change are inevitable in any city and that is the way it should be, but it would be wonderful if this could happen with greater sensitivity to the environment, community needs, infrastructure and our own ethnic culture.
(The reader is a resident of Jayanagar 5th Block)