Friday, April 16, 2010

Charting the course of time on the city skyline

Charting the course of time on the city skyline

Our everyday hauntsare deceptive and camouflage their nuancedevolution

What will be your perception of the city as you move through KR Market, Chickpet or Shivajinagar, Cox Town or Basavangudi, Ulsoor or Malleswaram? Crowded streets, bus stops, markets, people selling their wares, silent lanes, and old bungalows amidst modern apartments. But look deeper, and you will find in the buildings, streets, people and activities, the story of a time, a city that has lived for nearly five centuries. For these are the places that enrich your knowledge and understanding of Bangalore.
As the city transforms rapidly and urbanisation swallows the city's old buildings, lakes and trees, there are still places like the Tipu Summer Palace and Bangalore Fort dating from the Bangalore of the 17th century. There are areas like Chickpet and Balepet which tell you that Bangalore has been a traders' town since the mid-16th century. Someshwara temple in Ulsoor reminds us of a village existing in the 11th century. Amidst the hustle and bustle of Shivajinagar, there is still Elgin talkies and Russell Market, there are still choultries, and mews which speak of the lifestyle of people who served the British.
Walk through inner circle in Whitefield or Cox Town, where a few of the remaining large plots with bungalows talk about the presence of British people. A drive on the road parallel to MG Road reflects the planning of the British Army, the barracks on one side and the upmarket South Parade on the other side with the huge Parade Ground between them. We would have driven through Cubbon Park, but how many times have we realised that it segregated the pettah area from the cantonment. Water bodies which sustained Bangalore's population in different parts, temples, civic buildings, statues… each of these markers now reminds us of the evolution of the city.
The next time you go to any area, look out for these markers, open spaces, buildings of varied styles, people of different communities, festivals like Karaga. Probe a little deeper, and the uniqueness and the variety of the area comes to the fore. The areas would have transformed, buildings would have been rebuilt, communities would have relocated, modern interventions may have come in as the city evolved, but they all become layers embedded in the city and so tell its story.
The writer is a conservation architect and specialist in restoration of heritage buildings and also an INTACH member.


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