Saturday, August 27, 2005

A walk that takes you into Bangalore’s past

A walk that takes you into Bangalore’s past
The Times of India

Bangalore: Here, a marble plaque in a church in memory of a British soldier mauled to death by a tiger in Shimoga. And there, the place where Winston Churchill’s chummery possibly stood and where he may have pottered amidst the rose bushes. All circa 1800. It’s the sort of thing you stumble upon when you take a Bangalore Walk. But the stumbling upon is a carefully orchestrated experience, and has come about after much walking, researching and market surveying by Arun Pai, Bangalore lover and corporate consultant.

The first of its kind here and inspired no doubt by the famous London Walks — though it’s uniquely Bangalorean being far less impersonal and taken at an easier pace — this is an effort to see beyond the Bangalore of malls and pubs. “I’m a Bangalorean but had been away some years. When I returned, I saw a huge influx and also apathy, including on my part, on what the city was about,’’ says Pai. The idea of guided walks was his way of attempting to know, understand and appreciate the city. And what better way to do that than to explore its history?

Pai, though admittedly no historian himself, researched extensively to come up with the first of the Bangalore walks, ‘Victorian Bangalore’. He has worked, too, to string together a story that holds the interest of his walkers as they begin at Trinity Church at 7 am (sharp!), and begin their stroll down M G Road — traversing history from the fall of Tipu in 1799 to the turn of the 20th century. The walk entails visiting 19th-century churches, public buildings and stately homes. Walkers hear stories of Bangalore’s famous British residents, and discover what made Bangalore tick in the 19th century.

In a city which hasn’t cared to preserve its heritage, Pai’s task is to try and recreate the past in sepia tones. He prompts walkers to imagine a time when crinoline-clad ladies ambled down South Parade and the boisterous singing of Irish soldiers resounded in the watering holes on Brigade Road. “I’m not trying to make it an academic exercise in history,’’ says Pai. “Call it pop heritage if you like, with something for everyone.’’

Despite the rush of traffic and the noise of horns, the Victorian Bangalore walk seems to have done the trick for most people. “It was fascinating to learn how the cantonment grew...” says publisher Balaji Pasumarthy.

On the website, are other comments: “You know why Bangalore is on the minds of 21st-century Americans. Now learn why 19th-century Britain was just as excited about this city,’’ writes long-time Bangalore resident Manohar Rao.

The Victorian Bangalore walk takes place every weekend, lasts two hours and winds up with a rooftop breakfast, which again lets walkers appreciate the cityscape. Bangalore Walks has other ideas line up — an End of Empire walk, which traces the city from the middle of the 19th century to the time of Independence, will launch from September 4. A historic pub crawl — not just for tippling — cycling trips and day trips are all planned.


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