From Bangalore to Bengaluru

Ever since I can recall I have associated Summers with Bangalore [not Bengaluru], and even now April brings fresh goosebumps on my arms as I remember the rush for tickets three months before, the frenzied packing, and the mixed anticipation of spending two whole months in the company of my cousins. Mixed - because one year changed us a lot, and we knew that others had gone through changes - similar or dissimilar?!

Every Summer Holiday our parents would ritually take us to Bangalore to my Grandparents house. This used to be the general tradition during my childhood - most of my classmates (except some who had rebellious or adventurous parents) too had the same kind of vacation. Vacation was a time for meeting and bonding with relatives, and not discovering different places. The routine was set perhaps because the income was restricted to one person and middle class families could not afford to waste money on extravagant holidays especially with one earning member. My Dad's family is huge - they are over a dozen siblings and we are now more than two dozen cousins [the last head count touched eighty]. Except for some ten cousins who have migrated to the US, most of us are here in India! You can imagine the chaos, the commotion and above all the joyous mood that sets in when we all meet! We could form two teams and have a full fledged cricket match complete with an audience.

Those were days when pollution was still at its infancy, and Bangalore was deservingly monikered - The Garden City - with green avenues, pretty rose gardens separating rows of houses, and characterized by pleasant climate throughout the year. The British laid drainage system was still in working condition in contrast to the dismal condition of Bengaluru's open sewers. The pace was relaxed and Bangalore more closely resembled Mahabaleshwar during afternoons. My Mom often used to say - Bangalore is all about "oota maadu, nidra maadu" (eat, sleep).

Not any more! That was in the past. These days it is hot and dry in April, the everchanging one-ways pose perennial confusion, the traffic is always at its 'peak' be it a working day or holiday. The IT industry has secured a permanent foothold and shaved the landscape off its greenery. The greenery that is left is restricted to Old Bangalore or The Defence Area which remain a treat for sore eyes. As you go towards the old airport (Near HAL) and beyond, all you find is the concrete remains of a once beautiful land. It is the price Bangalore paid to become 'Bengaluru'. The slogan is 'kelsa maadu' (work)! Even Pamela Anderson has realized that silicon is not the only way to go, when will we learn that India requires employment for the masses, and not Silicon Cities catering to a select few! I am all for progress but when education leads to cliched 'rich growing richer' syndrome, generates a few high salaried MNC employees, kills creativity and indigenous production there is definitely a lesson there - are we willing to take cue? Like a Tee-shirt liner said 'there is life beyond . com', and we need to encourage the alternate path too!

What remains the same about Bangalore is the food. The quality has not changed much over the years. While many good restaurants have given way to multi-cuisine restaurants, some of the old eateries still manage to survive and impart the same kind of food as they did years ago - when my Dad was in college! On the flip side you find most restaurants have a post lunch siesta break (quite unheard of in Mumbai!) and after two in the afternoon it is quite difficult to find a good restaurant open if you opt for a late lunch. You will have to wait till four in the evening when they start serving snacks. This trend appears to be slowly changing - this time I found some of the recently opened North Indian restaurants keeping their doors open for late grubbers.

In this series, I will be introducing my favourite eateries in Bangalore, and review places I have visited and found interesting. I generally take pictures - always with permission of the owner, but sometimes you may not find any due to lack of approval. If you are looking for proper tourist places you could visit one of the many Indian Government's tourism sites. This review is for those who enjoy delving into the gullies and nukkads - places not usually reviewed but places which have built the character of Bangalore, and will remain the essence of 'Bengaluru'.

My passion is reading and I thought it would be most appropriate to start with 'Book Worm' - A treasure trove my sisters and I have been raiding since the time we discovered it - about three years back! My visits to Bangalore are incomplete without visiting this haven of new and old books.

Stay tuned for 'The Bookworm', and for stepping into Bangalore and out on Bengaluru time and again!

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