BENGALURU: Lest it be forgotten, let me remind you of another Bangalore, a city I completed five decades in last year. With parents in the Air Force, frequent postings saw me traverse the length and breadth of this country till I was put into boarding school in this city. Baldwin Boys’ was a happy time, making friends with compatriots who remain in touch till today! Those were such halcyon days, for Bangalore in the ’60s was still a small town, with leafy avenues and vehicle-free streets, sleepy on Sundays and not much different on weekdays.
The ’70s saw it transform into a party city, and we had nightclubs like 3 Aces & Amber, where you could dance the night away. Tanya Jacobi was a glamorous Russian emigré who ruled the night life of the city, turning up at the disco with her pet python, Delilah, wrapped around her neck. She wore the shortest mini-skirts and thigh high boots, and danced a mean Salsa. These were the heady days and nights at the Blue Fox on MG Road, where Desmond Rice played maître d’hôtel to perfection. This restaurant was owned by Vicky and Rupa Malhotra. She was one of Bengaluru’s great beauties and had won the Miss India title, joining a glittering list of beauties like Heather Faville, Jennifer Webb and Lynette Williams.
We were staging elaborate shows with Olive and Colin Dozey, who were Bangalore’s first fashion show producers. Our first supermodel was Renuka Chowdhury, who went on to become a minister in the UPA government.
Amar Lulla dominated the ’80s, opening Prince’s Restaurant with Knock-Out Disco adjoining, where we danced many a night away. Bangalore had grown, transforming itself into the city it was doomed to become. The 24-storey Public Utility Building had come up on MG Road, till date our one and only skyscraper. Amar Lulla opened the Topkapi Restaurant on the 24th floor, a glamorously beautiful restaurant in partnership with actor Amjad Khan. I was the resident DJ there, spinning Tina Charles and my cousin Biddu’s Kung Fu Fighting to Bangalore’s hip and happening crowd.
The ’90s were about fashion and Bangalore’s new avatar as a tech city! Folio had opened Bangalore’s first designer store on Vittal Mallya Road, and I still remember the shows we did there, with the then supermodel Mehr Jesia sweeping down the stairs in a Tarun Tahiliani gown. The Wearhouse was the high street hit, with trendy export garments that were very affordable and smart, and I ran their advertising campaign for years! Dinesh Hinduja was the man who taught me everything I know about fashion, and I revere him to this day! The century turned and so had Bangalore. Rampant growth had changed the face of our city forever! Indiranagar and Koramangala, once considered outposts were now the scene of all the action. Married and with children by now, we took our kids to Bal Bhavan to ride the Toy Train at Bal Bhavan. The theatre scene flourished, and we staged plays at Guru Nanak Bhavan, Ravindra Kalakshetra and the Chowdiah Memorial Hall. Judi, my wife, was directing musicals like Cats and Starlight Express to great acclaim. I remember Imran Khan was the chief guest at one of our shows and we had a full house for him, a bigger attraction than the musical being staged.
And then it all went pear-shaped. By 2010, the city had seriously started falling apart. Poor infrastructure and untrammelled growth had combined to create an unholy mess. The very climate that we were so famous for had changed for the worse. A city known as the Air-Conditioned City now needed ACs to function as summers grew hellish. We have half the trees now than we had even 10 years ago and I wonder where we are headed. In one generation, we managed to destroy one of the most beautiful cities in the country.
Where are we headed, and what is the legacy we behind for our leave our children? I cannot understand the apathy of the powers that be, and am truly baffled at the problems that are never addressed, never solved.I weep, as I contemplate our waterless, treeless and airless fate.
Prasad Bidapa is a Bangalorean who presents fashion promotions all over India and abroad, and is committed to promoting heritage handlooms and khadi.