Monday, November 29, 2004

A road in three different hues

A road in three different hues

From a sleepy, small town area, CMH Road has evolved into a road that has everything to offer for everyone, except perhaps a five-star hotel.

Deccan Herald

This is the tale of two ends of CMH Road that links Ulsoor, one of Bangalore’s oldest localities, with its relatively recent showpiece, Indiranagar. The road draws its name from the Chinmaya Mission Hospital located at the shiny end.

Beyond the hospital some 30 years ago was no-man’s land. “The hospital was the last point on the BTS bus route. There were only two or three trips in the morning and again in the early evening. For two rupees, an autorickshaw would bring us here,” remarks a man under an awning that I and another stranger share with him during heavy rain one afternoon at New Thippasandra. Buildings have replaced the wilderness. Numerous buses under the BMTC banner and not BTS, now rumble through the bustling Thippasandra main road towards densely populated destinations five kms beyond, but let’s return to CMH Road.

Its either end is dead-end and appropriately, the gate to a vast burial ground towards the Ulsoor (western) end remains always open. At this end rises the wall of a school football ground. At the eastern extremity lies a gate that remains shut to most citizens because it leads to the restricted area of the Aeronautical Development Establishment.

The road has three distinct sections – an upmarket section with MNC banks, fitness centres, beauty parlours and photography labs; a commoner’s section with small business places squeezed tightly together; and a moderate link section between the two.

The contrasts along the road have emerged naturally and avenue trees aptly reflect the character of the three sections. At its eastern end, large houses of the well-to-do and the CM Hospital itself lie discreetly behind rows of tall, close-set avenue trees with dense foliage. In the moderate mid-section, the trees are smaller and fewer. At the Ulsoor end of the road, the trees have either disappeared or remain as stunted vestiges.

Narrow lanes that take off from the road at this end are crammed with small dwellings of daily wage earners. A remodeled slum here is almost a benchmark for slum improvement. A little over a km long, the road offers everything from cheap footwear to the latest luxury goods, new motor-cycles and ‘pre-owned’ cars. All it lacks conspicuously is a multi-star hotel.

For most of us hotel spells food and where do you want to start? Did you say 'ham' just to trip me up? CMH Road has a shop vending the commodity. The ready-to-eat Kentucky variety of chicken has moved in lately. Little chaat counters and fashionable coffee joints dot the road.

From roadside tea stalls and darshinis to ‘Andhra style’ and Chinese cuisine restaurants cater to every class of diner, save the five-star brand of food lover. Bars abound too.

You could point out that the road has no petrol bunk, school or college, discotheque and auditorium. But it has the Arya Samaj which has built a large hall that meets at least the last need. A cinema house lies close to the Ulsoor end and wedged between that and the road corner is an arrack shop. From here till the burial ground corner, every petty trade is in evidence on either side, from mutton and chicken stalls, scrap dealers, lock and stove repairers and condiment vendors, as also business that is not quite petty, like granite, hardware and electrical appliances stores.

What about vegetables? True, CMH Road has no vegetable stall but three Hopcoms outlets are located within 50 metres to the right and left of the road in the better off sections. So are schools and at least one college.

The really rich arrive in cars to shop for vegetables at a supermarket in the midsection of the road.

Similarly, a good proportion of devotees come to the Chinmaya Mission’s Krishna temple in cars but the temple bears the name of ‘Deenabandhu Devasthanam’. Perhaps it wished to draw residents from the far end of the road.
The mission’s hospital opposite the temple is a practical alternative.


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