Tuesday, July 24, 2007

There goes another bit of history on M.G. Road

There goes another bit of history on M.G. Road

Bangalore: “1910: When Mahatma Gandhi was still M.K. Gandhi. When M.G. Road was still South Parade. When photography was still in its infancy…” a portrait that hangs inside the photo studio softly proclaims. Outside the G.K. Vale building, the banner screams “We are moving to Church Street”.

On a sunny afternoon, Lakeview is abuzz with customers placing their orders and a long-time employee is too busy to answer questions about the café’s imminent future. But its fate is clear: a sign on the door says that this landmark — another bit of the city’s history — is moving to St. Marks’ road.

The once colourful shelves at Jamals next door are dusty. This home accessories store is moving to a fancy place in Pavilion Mall.

The unstoppable transformation of M.G. Road has not spared the historic Kannan building that houses shops as varied as Jamals, G.K.Vale, Lakeview, L.B. Publishers and Distributors and Lawrence and Mayo. A spanking new multi-storied structure will now replace this old favourite.

The Kannan building, says historian T.P. Issar in his book The City Beautiful, along with other legendary buildings such as the Empire cinema, E.G.K. Building, Higginbothams, and Cauvery Arts Emporium were “fine period structu res of the commercial variety, which have invested the Mahatma Gandhi road promenade with much of its character and attractiveness”.

But this is all set to change. Those who work in these outlets confidently say that they will be back at work in the same location two years later.

But old faithfuls of the plaza are not reassured — things will not be quite the same again, they feel.

Take the regulars to Lakeview, for instance, unquestionably Bangalore’s culinary landmark. It was the favourite haunt of lovers and singles and families long before big brands came with their packaged frozen desserts.

Sighs a Bangalorean who has lived here for over three decades: “When we were a young and poverty-stricken couple, we would turn up at Lakeview when we got our salary to have the Lakeview Special. In fact, whenever our parents came down, they would also come here to have it.”

“For about five or six months when we were engaged, my husband and I went to Lakeview every day. I had probably eaten everything on the menu, right down to the last item,” reminisces Bhanu Ramani, another Lakeview loyalist.

Shekar M., yet another romantic, sighs: “One of my childhood memories is that of our special family Sunday visits to Lakeview. I remember all of us would order exactly the same thing: Peach Melba.”

He will miss the place sorely, says Mr. Shekhar, and is not reassured by the fact that the café will be back, albeit in a new avatar. “When so many of the outlets on M.G. Road have become sterile and soulless, buildings such as Lakeview and India Coffee House became symbolic of the Bangalore I grew up in; but is not the Bangalore I live in anymore,” he says glumly.


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