Friday, June 24, 2011

French Riviera of the East - Pondicherry

ETA: This post has been selected by 'blogjunta' as one of the editor's pick. Thank you blogjunta, never knew you existed until you sent traffic to my site.

A calm, meditative, spiritual Union territory with a strong French flavor - That’s Pondicherry fondly called Pondi. It’s officially back to its original name ‘Puducheri since 2006. (pudu is new and cherri is hamlet so new hamlet in Tamil).

Nothing much has changed in this city, even the changes that I noticed has been for the better.

My first visit to Pondicherry was some 18 years ago with my parents and we had a two night stay there and I visited all the tourist places, but my many subsequent visits to Pondicherry have happened after a noonday siesta, or evening tea when we suddenly decide for an evening outing and drive to Pondicherry Beach from Neyveli and we return back the same eve.

This time we had planned to visit soon after our brunch but what followed was a brunch nap , finally past 4’0 clock we left to pondi, this time Akka(my SIL) who had come down to Neyveli accompanied us.

After negotiating on mud roads fit for rally drivers and passing through tongue twisting villages like Kullanchavidi, Kurinjipadi(one of the Indian handloom cluster) we reached Cuddalore.

From Cuddalore the roads are better towards Pondi. After reaching Pondi, We drove on the toll road and reached Auroville - an experimental universal self-sustaining eco- village rich with handicraft workshops (will make a post of it in detail) which houses the ‘Matrimandir’.

My children had seen it long back when my elder one was around 4 years old, but akka who has been around the world and frequently shuttles between Chennai and Neyveli has never seen Auroville and Pondicherry.

To our bad luck ‘Matrimandir’ was closed (it closes at 4) and now it was around 5.30( we thought it closes at 6) but never the less driving through the woody Auroville is itself a pleasant experience. We drove out of Auroville through the beach road which are lined with antique shops and reached Goubert avenue to find it blocked for traffic (repair works on the already good roads. We parked our car on the Rue( that’s how roads are called in Pondi, by the French name) behind the secretariat and spent the rest of the evening till 7.30 on the rocks of the Bay.

This beach has a promenade like a boardwalk and the shores are rocky. Like other beaches, the waves don’t touch your feet but clashes on the rocks and splashes water to a height making a pretty sight. We love to spend our Pondi evenings looking at the wide expanse of the bay ahead and the historical French buildings behind us.

Ambling along this rocky promenade unfolds your history texts, for this place is a part of many Carnatic Anglo-French wars fought between Robert Clive and Dupleix. My children were excited to see that their history text heroes were on the shores of Pondicherry frozen in stone - statues of Dupleix, Gandhi,Nehru, Subramania Bharati, Joan of Arc, French war memorial etc.

My daughter especially was surprised to find Bastille’s day which was a part of her French revolution lesson was celebrated in Pondi like a festival every July.

You can witness the strong French influence in the buildings that you see, in the layout of the town called ‘grid pattern’, the sprinkle of French you get to hear from the native tamils and from the policemen who were kepis(French style caps). The reason why it is called ‘French Riviera of the east’. All these are the hangover of the French rule of 138 years till 1954 after which it was acceded to the union territory of India. Some natives left with the French to France and some French nationals stayed back here in India during the accession time.

History of Pondicherry ahead

It was known to Roman and Greeks as ‘Poducei’ when it was just a fishing and weaving hamlet which then turned into an important trade route between Rome and the East, the remains of a Roman amphitheatre recently excavated from nearby arikamedu(ariyankuppam) substantiates this.

The Cholas and Pallavas were the first to control when it was called ‘Vedapuri’, followed by the Portuguese, The Dutch ,later the French and the English during the Anglo-French wars struggled for this coramandel piece of land. The French finally managed to win and John Francis Dupleix arrived as Governer general. The French finally rebuilt the city demolished by the British by designing the city French style.

The city was divided by the French into two parts by a canal called Pierre canal. The French side built towards the bay was marked Ville Blanche(European city) and the native side towards the West of Canal was called Ville Noire(Indian side).

A well planned city again , Pondi is laid in a grid pattern. You will find all road turning at right angles and finally reaching Goubert Avenue which displays simple French Architectural buildings. Any repair on the buildings needs permission from INTACH since these buildings are under their care.

The pondy tourism office, pondy handicraft emporium( Pudumai), Aurobindo ashram, French Consulate, Many high end hotels like the Promenade(Hidesign Dilip Kapurs’s), The chief secretariat are on this avenue.

Just a few metres away from the beach side where I was standing, I was surprised to find the Chief secretariat building bang on the road with no high compound walls. It just has a short grilled barricade. It is easily accessible without security from all sides.( or does it have some hidden security alarms and fences –I don’t know). Just the previous week, Pondi CM had formed the new Government and there were no frills like buntings,cutouts, banners. Absolutely no fanfare.

There are not many trees here except some gulmohar trees, but most buildings have profusely flowered bowers like bougainvillea falling all over the high walls and all the lanes and bylanes are named as rue(road) so it goes like Rue Ananda Pillai, Rue sufran, Rue Dumas etc.and most buildings are colored in pastel shades.

The Indian side again consists of Tamils who live in beautiful traditional houses with earthy colors like brown, terracotta red etc., These houses have no high wall compound. They have entrances made of solid wood and are covered with traditional terracotta awnings, which in turn are supported by solid wooden pillars. On either side of the entrance door, they have alcoves called ‘Maadam’ in which diyas are lit in the evenings. The houses have a sit out in the form of ‘Thinnai’ on which weary visitors can sit. The houses have common wall and easily you can jump from one terrace to the neighbours terrace. Many houses are still intact, though some need little repair work.( you can catch these houses while you are on a PT&TDC bus. The roads here are named ‘salai’ (road in tamil). Many big houses have turned into homestays and heritage hotels.

The Indian side and the French side have merged now since the accession and the Pierre canal dividing them is non-descript. Today, However it is more famous for its spiritual Aurobindo ashram and the nearby Auroville commune. It has numerous tourist interests all covered by the tourism department. Numerous resorts offering varied interests are the river cruises at Arikamedu river, backwater cruise at Chunnambar, Deep sea fishing , some creeks are developed as resorts with tree top houses and little cottages on bamboo stilts and also don’t miss a place which is hidden like a treasure chest called ‘Picchavaram’- the second largest mangrove forest in the world, ideal for cruising, boating and bird watching. When I went to Picchavaram a few years back, The drive to the place was more interesting than the destination itself.

There is a steady flow of tourists from foreign countries (not just France) and the weekend partying crowd of Chennai. I’ve heard this is also a test base for products like alcohol (bio-beer) and other beverages besides Goa.

You can come out of Pondi with many souvenirs or memorabilia. Pondi’s handicrafts are available at ‘Pudimai’- the handicraft emporium. It is famous for paper Mache dolls, paper lamp shades, jute items like hammocks,swings, pottery, hand made paper, incense and textile products from Anglo-french textiles and Pontex. (My Mil patronises the pontex towels. They are highly absorbent and dry fast).

It is also famous for leather products. It is the base of the world famous leather brand ‘Hidesign’ owned by Dilip Kapur. His daughter Ayesha was the little Rani mukherjee in the movie ‘Black’.

After whiling away our evening, we refilled our hungry stomachs and our car. This city does not does not levy high taxes since it is a UT, so petrol is cheaper.

We drove out of the calm city, where the simple people are not in a hurry and you will find them more on bicycles than in cars.

It has many restaurants and bay side eateries serving best quality multi- cuisine but beware they also get into holiday mood often, you will find all hotels closed on Deepavali and on many occasions. Atleast, I have come out of Pondi hungry on two occasions with all hotels on my way till cuddalore closed much before 8. Then we have called my Mil back home at Neyveli to keep some ‘Thayir saadam’(curd rice) for us.

Pondi is a must visit place for anybody who loves vacationing and a perfect balm to the souls who are buffeted by the rigours of busy urban life.

Reaching here from Chennai on the East coast Road is a pleasure I’ve heard, though I hav’nt got a chance to travel this route.

check some clicks here

Inspite of my husband’s palm on the forehead situation, he did oblige to stop the car when I took some clicks from my mobile, but unfortunately they got lost when my mobile memory was corrupted. Here are some clicks taken from flashnews

The waves crashing on the rocky shores

A French style building

A traditional tamil home converted into a heritage hotel. Many such homes are converted to homestays or hotel.

This monument is called 'Aayi mandapam' built in memory of the lady who donated her house to supply water to the city during French rule. Built by Napolean III. This building reminds me of Arc de Triomphe when lighted.

Pondi police wearing French caps called 'Kepi'

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Meal in a bowl, Upma goes International ! Ahem!!

For most people, When you say South Indian food, the food that comes to mind are Idli, dosa and vada but never upma.

For some reason, my favorite upma never makes to the list of many people’s favorite food, infact it tops the hate list, like in my own family(maybe b'cos of its gooey texture, many hate it)

But now it has topped the “Top chef masters” - a reality show in America and won a top prize of $100,000 for the participant chef Floyd Cardoz, the mumbai born new York chef behind the contemporary Indian restaurant Tabla and now upma goes international after knocking its spanish and Italian competitor. Ahem!

The once humble, now uppity ‘Upma’(tamil) or The 'uppittu' in kannada is very famous in Bangalore. It is also called 'Kara bath'(spicy) or along with its twin 'kesari bath'(sweeter version made with sugar and chunks of pineapple,raisins) it is called "chow chow bath".

Call it by any name, you will find me ordering it in any of the Udipi restaurants I frequent. It is a meal in a bowl and can be eaten anytime for breakfast, lunch or even dinner.( atleast by me).Simply yummmm!

An easy to make dish, can be rustled when you are feeling lazy to cook or it can even be cooked by a person who does'nt know to cook.

In simple form, it consists of ingredients like dry roasted rava(semolina/sooji), little oil for seasoning, green chillies, mustard, ginger, curry leaf, coriander and a teaspoon of urad dal.

We can jazz it up by adding vegetables like onions, tomatoes, peas, carrot, capsicum and it becomes nutritious - a healthy meal in a bowl. If you want it richer add a dollop of ghee and dress it up with fried cashews.

Ohhhh! The upma lover in me is surfing up.

I’ve slowly introduced this to my children and my husband who hate upma by spicing it up with ‘vangi bath powder'.

My appa who loves cooking rustles up the best upma which is called as ‘Devamrutham’(nectar of god) by my upma hating children. So when cooked rightly, even upma haters will love upma.

I am so glad that my humble, delicious and nutritious, easy to cook, safe to eat Upma has finally got recognition, that too International.

Move over Pasta,Pizza, Here comes Upma.

A healthy tidbit about upma: Dr.H.Narsimhiah , an educationist(vice chancellor of Bangalore university),freedom fighter,nuclear physicist whose physics text books were most sought after by Bangalore university students lived an healthy life till the age of 84. He was once asked in an interview his secret of good health and he answered that he cooked and lived on upma as long as he was in the US.

Pondicherry can wait but not upma, so this post preceded pondicherry.

Friday, June 17, 2011

A fairy tale town - Neyveli

We left to Neyveli from our Paati’s home (Lalgudi) after an early morning puja at Siruvacchur( our family deity temple) and a visit to Virudheeswarar temple, a huge temple dedicated to Lord Shiva on the banks of River Manimuttar in vriddhachalam.

Neyveli – 200 kms south of Chennai is the home of Neyveli Lignite Corporation - a mining and power generation industry in Cuddalore district inaugurated by Jawaharlal Nehru 40 years back. The thermal power generated here lights up the whole of South India.

I have written a lot about this township before and I can write some more about this well planned township where my FIL retired as chief engineer(electrical) and my husband studied in this township till he went for his engineering studies to Trichy. This 53 sqkms township is exclusively for the employees of NLC and there are no private houses here and so has a static population except for the visiting officials, relatives and friends of the employees.

Luckily my husband’s maternal uncle is the DGM here and we still have access to this place and visit this place almost once in a year since this falls on the way between Chennai and Trichy.

This is a well planned and well maintained township. The township is divided into blocks. A double road lined with trees separates the blocks. For a visitor like me each road and house looks the same, but for people like my husband who have grown here they know it by block numbers like Block 1, block 2 etc. No power cuts since they are the power generators and clean water flows in taps 24/7 without any overhead tank or underground sump.

For a nature lover, just sitting at home and watching the huge well manicured front and back lawns of each duplex house is itself a good time pass. These lawns are fringed with fruit trees like mango, gooseberry, coconut, black berry, jackfruit, cashew (both are grown abundantly in nearby Panruti), Lemon etc along with flowering plants like hibiscus, laburnum, Indian jasmine and many more ornamental plants and kitchen plants.You never feel the heat in summer @ home with lots of greenery clouding your home.

If you still want to go out and enjoy then you have two classy children’s park ‘ The silver jubilee park’ and ‘Nehru park’. These huge parks have many unique play equipments for children which I hav’nt seen in any other children’s park or for that matter even theme park.

Another attraction is the Lovely Natarajar temple which has a panchaloha idol of dancing Shiva supposed to be the biggest in Asia, It is supposed to find its place in the Guinness book of records, standing tall at 10’ and having a base of 8 feet. Anyone with a restless and disturbed mind is sure to find peace of mind in this lovely pristine temple. They have a big Dhyana mandapam (meditation hall) here. Another uniqueness of this temple is that it has a prayer box on the lines of ‘Manu’s needhi bell.

Manu Needhi chola was a chola king who was known for justice and he did not think twice before punishing his son when his son’s chariot killed a calf. His kingdom had a grievance box for his subjects under a huge bell and his name is synonymous with justice in Tamil literature. Similarly, here too devotees write their grievances in a chit and drop it into the box. The grievances and wishes are read to the God during prayers secretly by the priest in the morning and then the chits are burnt. When the wishes are fulfilled the devotees write a 'Thank you' note and drop in the drop box. A faith which many devotees believe in.

‘Villudaiyan patti’ is another temple. The idol of the temple was found during an excavation of the mines. The uniqueness of the murugan( son of lord shiva) here is that he has ‘Villu’(bow) instead of the usual vel(spear).

Many more temples, mosques and churches define the secular and multi-cultural population here.

For entertainment they have 3 theatres which may never have a ‘houseful’ board. When we went to watch the tamil movie ‘KO’ at Sri Nidhi Ratna theatre which has a seating capacity of 300. There were just around 25 people to watch the movie of which 6 were from our own family.

You will find no malls or chain outlets like Mc D or Subway, but they have a main bazaar which meets the needs and conveniences of the people. Also a 'Pay day bazaar' which pitches stalls like a 'mela' in the first fortnight of every month when every employee get their pay.

Sports lovers have a beautiful 9 hole golf course, skating rink, swimming pool, tennis court, chess academy, stadium to play cricket, volleyball, basketball etc.,

They also have an airstrip here which operated some flights. It did not bring in much revenue so it is not operational now. This now serves more as a training track for those learning 2 and 4 wheelers. Incidentally my 12 year old son learnt to drive a e-scooter BSA streak rider ( similar to scooty pep but does not require licence and registration) here this time and my 14 year old drove confidently on the broad roads here where you can never find traffic. The broad road sans potholes looks as though they are specially laid for you.

It also has its own prasar bharthi TV tower.

At night, when you drive out of the arch gate of the township through the cashew tree lined road and reach the national highway, you can find the mines at the horizon worth capturing in your camera.

The mine equipments ‘bucket wheel excavator’ and ‘spreader’ have a series of lights on them. When they excavate and send the lignite to the thermal stations through the conveyor belts the mines @ the horizon lights up against the dark sky.

An eco friendly place, where you’ll find lots of greenery, since NLC is an eco-warrior, actively involved in environmental care by afforesting the exhausted mine fields and careful waste disposal management.

Sea beach at cuddalore and Pondicherry is just an hour and half drive away.

My next post on Pondicherry.

Check pics of neyveli below( quality of some pics not good since taken from a moving vehicle)

The arch gate to enter Neyveli from National highway 45 (chennai to trichy)

The clean and peaceful Nataraja temple(you can see the idol of nataraja)

At the right side the tall tower with the bell is the replica of manu needhi mani

Roads without potholes and traffic. This almost when each house has a NLC jeep, a 4 and 2 wheeler and the township also has intra bus service.

The landing or take off area

the runway of the air strip, now used as an unofficial driving track for learners , mud mound at the far end which look like hills are the excavated mud of mines.

cashew fruit and nut

Lots of Cashew, Jackfruit, coconut and mango trees on either side of the road inside neyveli and out of the township leading to Pondicherry.

view of thermal station at night (last 2 pics courtesy: NLC india)

Monday, June 13, 2011

Kalanai - An Engineering marvel of Ancient India

'KAL' is stone and 'ANAI' is dam , so kalanai in tamil means stone dam.

Many a times(4-5 times)I have passed through the kalanai bridge in Trichy and my MIL would mention to my children ‘Idhu daan chozha kalathu Kalanai (this is the stone dam of chola times). Whenever she said that, It never occurred to me until this time, that I was overlooking a standing testimony of the first century engineering skill which is still functional today in the 21st century.

Kalanai or it's english name ‘The grand anicut’ is ancient India’s engineering marvel built in the first century A.D (source: sangam literature) by the chola king Karikala chola.

This is built across River Kaveri near Trichy. The dam gives raise to a series of water canals like vennar, vettar, arasalar, kodamurutti etc., and irrigates the whole of Thanjavur district of the Cauvery delta which is called the ‘Granary of south India’ for its rich green paddy fields, plaintain plantations, sugarcane fields, mango orchards etc.,

If not for the foresightedness of the chola king, the whole Thanjavur region would be barren since there is no other major water source here.

Today, When cement structures built with advanced technology by esteemed companies fall like a pack of cards,(most of you will remember, an under construction bridge fell a couple of years back in Hyderabad @ punjagutta killing many), this dam much before the invention of cement was built with loose rock set in mud, well levitated clayey soil, stiffened with lots of wood and stone shutters. This has withstood many floods and is still functioning to date. The outer and inner sides of the dam were lined with finely cut granite blocks and were interlocked at the lower level while at higher level, the lining was roughrock set in lime paste. The whole structure is then lined with a thin layer of lime plaster.

The dam was rebuilt about three times till the ancient chola engineers were satisfied with the correct size,length, breadth, height, volume, force of water in storage behind the structure.

In the 1800's minor modifications and alterations were done by European engineers of British India. The stone shutters were removed in 1830 and replaced by Iron shutters, chains, roller wheels by an irrigation engineer of the British East India company Sir Arthur Cotton. He was awe struck to find a structure built of lime sand mix still functioning. He made modifications to the dam by increasing the storage of water by three fold after working the specifications scientifically. Based on the study and materials used here, he built barrages and dams across river Godavari. This helped him to become India’s greatest Irrigation engineer. But he in all humility never took the glory, instead he highlighted the skills of the ancient chola engineers from whom he learned his work. This also became a model for many European enginners later on. Later on many modifications took place periodically, the latest being in 2006.

Today this functional dam has become a picnic spot. A beautiful park with statues of Karikala cholan, Sage Agasthya and the crow depicting the origin of Kaveri etc adorn the park.

Many families enjoy by barbecuing the fresh fishes caught by them and cooking food on chulhas. The washermen of the city also use the place to wash the clothes close to the dam.

The channel gates have been thrown open on june 9th and now it must be gushing with water. I visited it in May when it was peak summer in Trichy called kathiri veyil, so the river was almost dry and the water was not released from Mettur dam.

One must visit this place between July- December when the river water swells. In the tamil month of aadi and on the 18th day(mid july) it flows to its full glory and tamils celebrate a festival called ' padinettam perukku' or 'aadi 18' by offering puja to River Kaveri, rejoicing with a dance called 'Kummi' and feasting on mixed rice like lemon rice, curd rice, coconut rice on the banks of river Kaveri.

I wonder why this structure has not got the honour it deserves, thankfully this engineering miracle is now on the way to be in the safe hands of UNESCO's World heritage site for being the oldest engineering structure to still function albeit repaired periodically. The whole area needs maintenance. The dry water channels(summer) are strewn with plastic wastes, tin cans, tetrapaks etc.,

When you drive out of the place, after the bridge you find lot of thennamthoppu( palm groves), vazhathoppu( plaintain plantations) and mango orchards like thathachariyar gardens. The harvested mangoes are sold on either side of the road giving rise to the name of the road as Mambhaza salai( the road of ripe mangoes). Sadly many acres of such land are gobbled by apartments.

Below are some clicks,though I have not done justice to the place with my images.
Most pics of the river were taken from a moving vehicle,it might lack clarity.

Sage Agasthya and the crow ( the originator of River Kaveri and the Ancient language of Tamizh)

A view of the dam

River Kaveri, it would swell to its capacity and beyond in july, august

The bridge to trichy

River Kollidam a tributary of Kaveri

The plaintain plantations

The palm groves

Information courtesy on Sir arthur cotton: NTV news.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Our ancestral village - Vadugakudi

The journey of River Kaveri from its origin at Bhagmandala hill in Madikeri, Karnataka to Poom Puhar in Tamilnadu where it drains into the bay throws open an entire civilization’s belief, lifestyle and culture.

It has various temples on its banks some very famous and some not so famous ones.

Vadugakudi ( Sathanur) in Tiruvaiyaru taluk ( Thanjavur district) Southern Tamilnadu is a village on the banks of River Cauvery. This is my husband’s ancestral town though his grand father migrated to Trichy long ago.

We try to visit our village deity temple of ‘Kalyana Subramanyeswarar’ at least once in a couple of years and light the traditional ‘Maa vilakku’ ( diya made out of dough) after the abhishekam.

A chola king (Dholasinga Raja) while on a hunting expedition is said to have been caught in the floods of Kollidam( coleroon), a tributary of Kaveri. He is supposed to have rested in the small temple which he came across. The temple priest who was present at the temple requested the king for some land to grow fruits and flowers required for the temple. The king is supposed to have told the priest to throw a stone and he immediately encircled the acres of land surrounding the radius of the throw.( source: the temple priest)

The temple falls under this land and the idol of Lord muruga which is installed now is said to have floated in the floods of Kollidam. In later years,The temple and the land were under litigation. In 1986, the court pronounced and declared the land to be that of the priest and their inheritors . The present priest Vijayan gurukal’s father got back the temple from the court and after his death, Vijayan gurukal who was employed in Bombay left his job to handle the temple affairs.

Today he does the pooja in the temple and stays in the house adjoining the temple.

River kaveri flows a kilo metre away from the temple. We walked down to River kaveri to find it dry this summer but enjoyed the walk through the ulundu fields, plaintain fields on the way to River Kaveri.

My children too morphed so well to the surroundings. They enjoyed and pranced around along with their cousin as if they knew the place well .

We also plucked some tender citron leaves to make Narthelai podi( a traditional accompaniment for curd rice) and drank lots of fresh coconut water and hoarded some for our onward journey.

Some pics below.

The ulundu fields( urad dal fields)

The dry bed of river kaveri at vadugakudi

Plaintain tree from a plantation

tender coconuts from the priests garden

Coming up … Grand Anicut – an engineering marvel of Ancient India

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Bean town Bangalore to Burger town Bengaluru

‘Nothing is forever – the only thing constant is change’ is a statement which is applicable to most tier I and tier II cities. But in case of Bangalore, I experienced it.

I am a child of Bangalore and have stayed for 30 years, I felt shameful being lost in the city, the city for which I have been the resource person for most of my non-Banglorean friends.

My recent visit to Bangalore, made me really long for the Bangalore of my childhood. Way back in the 70’s ,80’s and even early 90’s words like traffic jam, gridlock, bottlenecks were unknown to us.

Till the ‘ Namma Metro’ (Mass rapid transport) is commissioned the traffic is going to be a pain not just in the neck, but the whole body. Wherever you see, you only find the metro piers and related works or the under pass works. The regular road routes are now either ‘sub way’(under pass) , ‘one way’ or ‘no way’. In many places, the main road traffic is now diverted to the service road. If you are a shopper bargaining for the right price with the hawkers on either side of the service road, consider yourself lucky, if you return home with your limbs intact.

Gone are the days when we used to carelessly walk on the Bangalore sidewalks carpetted with gulmohars, lilacs, sampiges and jacaranda while their trees canopied above us and the sunlight never fell on the road.

The charm of old Bangalore is lost to modern civilization. In the last decade, the city has grown beyond the 4 towers marked as boundary by the founder, Kempe Gowda. These towers now almost stand in the center of the city. From a 200+ sqkms it has now grown into a 700+ sq km city.

We had beautiful treelined road like margosa road(because of neem trees), sampige road( a wild scented jasmine) with proper trenches, lesser pollution, a salubrious climate( it still has), acres of lung space like Lal Bagh, Cubbon park,bugle rock, temples which are architectural marvels.

Bangalore had lots of water bodies called kere(lakes) which compensated for the sea beach that it does not have( then we would’nt have had such a lovely weather).

For entertainment we had the live music bandstands on weekends in Lalbagh, cubbonpark, traditional music festivals at Fort high school grounds, magic shows and dramas at Chowdiah memorial, town hall, ravindra kalashetra, Bal Bhavan, numerous theatres(KG road in Bangalore has 14 (or is it 17?) theatres which is the biggest number on a road in Asia. For tasty food we had thindi beedis like Sajjan rao circle, Udipi hotels like MTR, Dasprakash, darshinis, sagars ,Kamats, Tiffany’s, Koshy’s, K.C. Das, baked products at the many iyengar bakeries,V.B bakery( supposedly the first bakery of Bangalore), pay packets came from companies like HMT, HAL, BEL,BHEL, ITI,NGEF, Kirloskar, MICO etc.,It is also home to premier instituties like IISc,IIM, Raman institute.

With the advent of Texas Instruments the first foreign MNC to enter india and make Bangalore its home in late 80’s, slowly things started turning around in Bangalore. Many more companies like HP, Digital Equipment, Motorola, Verifone etc., came in, added to those were our own HCL, Infosys, Wipro etc., These companies brought the name ‘silicon valley of india’ to Bangalore and the number of openings and placements in the companies drew people from outside. This also inspired me to take up electronics for my graduation(B.Sc).

With the influx of people from other states, housing became a problem so the regular planned BDA layouts which had regulated sanitation and water connection, street lighting, a park, a play ground, a nandini milk parlour(bangalore milk diary), hopcoms outlet(horticulture produce of lalbagh for fresh veg and fruits) could not meet the growing population. Realtors struck gold while the IT people bought flats built on gramthana( agricultural) sites, revenue sites and encroached land of lakes etc giving way to many apartments in JPnagar, Bannerghatta road etc (closer to Electronics city).

Today, In the name of development, roads are dug, trees are felled, lakes are encroached. Sturdy age old trees are compensated with landscaped parks and lakes are compensated with musical fountains. Healthy brick and mortar buildings are replaced with hollowblocks, glass and chrome facades.

Satellite towns, agricultural lands of the 90’s developed into electronics city, IT parks, the BI airport, tech parks and shopping malls. The sprawling 40 acre Kirloskar company has given way to Brigade Gateway and lovely heritage structures like Hotel Victoria have made way to Bangalore central ( a mall), Lido theatre becomes lido mall,The british bungalows with fireplace and high ceilings in the wooded binnyston gardens( I had lunch at a friends place at one of these 15+ bungalows in 1988) have turned into a 200 apartment 'ETA star's -The gardens', The sprawling Minerva mills ground which held handloom exhibitions is turning into Sobha Minerva, the galaxy theatre where I saw ‘Titanic’ is now Galaxy embassy mall, the rose gardens of Vijayanagar, Double road (K.H.Road), beautiful boulevard with lovely bowers of bougainvillas on M.G.Road, , the calm west of chord road, the little retail shops on malleswaram 15th Cross Where I have shopped and walked have all made way for metro piers and so many numerous things have changed.

Old landmarks like lake view ice cream parlour, GK vale, India coffe house, Tiffany’s where memories are stashed for old bangloreans are turned into Glass and chrome malls for new Bangloreans to shop, enjoy and celebrate.

I really miss the beautiful and gentle Bangalore which had the sobriquets – poor man’s ooty, pensioners paradise, air conditioned city, garden city, Pub city etc.,

Now, How I wish IT revolution had never happened in Bangalore.

Change is welcome when it is healthy but then when things are changing for worse…… It’s time to think. Can silicon valley be reverted to Pensioner’s Paradise?

Not that other cities are lagging behind, there is chaos in almost all cities but this is the city I know and I miss the character of my Bangalore which still has the best summer @ 33 deg. Having experienced the hot summers of Delhi, UP, MP, AP, TN etc., I still maintain that Bangalore summers are cool even now in 2011, though evergreen Bangloreans sulk and say 33 is ‘shakkey’(sultry) and bisilu’(hot).

Having said all the above, there is something in the atmosphere which seems to draw me closer to this city.

Love you Bangalore though you have had a make over from a bean town* to burger town.

*Bangalore is the anglicized version of Bengaluru derived from Benda kaal ooru meaning the place of boiled beans.

Friday, June 3, 2011

The road taken - Magical vacation

Secunderabad - Bangalore – Lalgudi(Trichy)- Vadugakudi ( ancestral temple at Tiruvaiyaru on the banks of river cauvery)- Grand anicut( kalanai- a stone dam built across cauvery river) – Siruvacchur (family deity temple), vridheeswar temple at virudha chalam, Neyveli ( my in-laws place and a lovely township ), Pondicherry, Auroville (an universal village in virudachalam district) 8 kms away from Pondicherry, Hosur( an Industrial town 40 kms from Bangalore- sis’s place), Bangalore(my parents place) again - then a one day trip to Gaganachukki and Barachukki falls of shimsha river( also called bluff) , Madhya ranga (temple dedicated to reclining Vishnu), talakadu on the banks of river Cauvery, Somnathpur( temple displaying hoysala architectural excellence) and on the way back to Bangalore a brief stop at the toy town Channapatna and Maddur( famous for maddur vada) were all the places I visited and enjoyed in this short trip of 18 days. (Every year I go on a 40 day vacation). Enjoyed thoroughly at my in-laws and parents place. Experienced life on a slow lane, bonding with people, enjoying the country side, inhaling fresh air, relishing and savouring the traditional dishes made by chitti patti, mil , my appa , my amma , my sis and mami ( husband’s aunt.

Now back in the race to prepare breakfast and lunch boxes before 7.30a.m and to my regular routine.

Will post my vacation in detail along with photos of the beautiful places .