Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Chronicling the ethos of a changing city

Chronicling the ethos of a changing city

Deepika Arwind
The once picturesque

M.G. Road is losing out to development

BANGALORE: M. Bhaktavatsala, old Bangalorean and a chronicler of the city, says that when he came to Bangalore in the 1940s, many “Off-Limit” boards lined M.G. Road to prevent military personnel from entering dance halls and places where alcohol was served. Seven decades later, large parts of M.G Road are off-limits for very different reasons — infrastructure projects or simply because this iconic area has lost many of its landmarks.

M.G. Road, formerly known as South Parade, now has a landscape that many Bangaloreans cannot recognise. The road has the forlorn look of being “work-in-progress”. The much-delayed Namma Metro project has large sections of the road under construction. Perhaps, one of the first and most noticeable losses was M.G. Road’s raised sidewalk, also known as the promenade, the only one of its kind in the city.

Stretching all the way from Anil Kumble Circle till the Cauvery Emporium Junction, the bougainvillea-lined sidewalk had for long been a haven for couples to stroll, and for people to gaze at the busy footpath on the opposite side.

Young and broke
“I remember being broke and not being able to go anywhere. My friends and I would spend time on the sidewalk after work and then head home,” says Davinder Aggarwal, who now thinks that the city has very few places where one can just hang out for free.

With Indian Coffee House slated to be moved to Avenue Road, the caffeine shot worth Rs. 8 or a satisfying repast for two for Rs. 50 will, perhaps, be hard to get on a road that now houses many cafes that charge many times more.

The opportunity to watch a movie at a reasonable price has also been lost after Plaza shut down in 2005 after it was acquired for the Metro station. “I still watch most movies at Rex and Symphony. I am old-fashioned but multiplexes scare me,” says Bharat S., who was a regular movie-goer at Plaza.

Old Bangaloreans will tell you that fast-disappearing landmarks do not surprise them anymore. Mr. Bhaktavastala says that he remembers Liberty cinema which is now Handloom House, and Chit Chat that is now Bombay Store. “M.G. Road almost epitomises Bangalore. Its downward gradient gives the road a beautiful, sweeping effect,” he says, even as he points out that some of the old property on M.G. Road still remain. “The building of the Bible Society and the property of VST and Sons are still there,” he says.

Buildings, including the Higginbothams bookshop, with their colonial facade, are testimony to the road’s old world charm, while others such as the Premier Book Shop with their modest interiors, will soon be history. . The pub next door to Premier’s, the first to come up in the city, also faces a threat as the entire building is to be renovated.


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