Saturday, November 25, 2006

Bangalore - Garden City, A Historical look...

Let us look back into the history of Bangalore (One of the Popular City in India), which is being called as Silicon Valley(Software Park) of India.

A view of Brigade Road (The Most Popular road in Bangalore today), when you are coming down from South Parade Road (now called as MG Road) on the left hand side. The left hand side building is still standing, and housed the Ashok Electricals, the Post Office, now it is the LEE and Louis Philips showroom, The Post Office has been given eviction notice!! The building still supports the British Coat of Arms found on Government buildings. This has been covered in Brigade Road Photographs. The building on the right has been modified and part brought down, and houses a wine store. The building above that is called the Edward Building and was built in 1935. It used to be neglected and was a shop for garments, now it houses an Internet access office. The building still further up is called Albert Building, and is trying to survive between owners.

This is the BRV Talkies in its heyday, showing the monogram of the regiment. Most of the building has not changed in structure, but a wall has been added in front that obscures the view, and the local additions of decor have also changed the side to display a large board of some advertisement or the other. For sometime this was used as a theatre, but later it was converted into a shopping / office establishment for the Military personnel, but apparently that did not work out too well. Being a busy main road parking could be one of the factors.

This is one of the 'Victoria's' that one used to talk about. Until the 1960's these used to ply on the roads, and some of the stables were maintained on Richmond Road and Brigade Road. With the increase of motorised traffic and difficult to look after the horses and carriage body work, they have vanished, perhaps they come out for a Marvadi wedding or for a shooting of a movie. I do recall that when we were young, our family used to go to Lalbagh in these carriages. There were no taxis or autorikshaws that one finds today

New Opera is still looking like the above photograph, except that it is not being used, and encroached by small shops that sell clothes and computer software and hardware, and even have Internet browsing facilities in the back nooks and corners. Today's look is also available on my photograph page. The ladder at the left side of the building leads to the projector room, and the larger staircase leads to the balcony. I may have been inside this place about 30 years ago.

The only vehicles of transportation used by the majority of people those days were the man-pulled rickshaws and Victoria's (horse drawn four wheeled carriages) for longer distances. Only the rich had cars, and the few taxis were used by tourists and visitors who came frequently to Bangalore.

The above is Oriental building at the intersection of St. Marks Road and M.G.Road.

It was a Clean City with gardens all over. Everyone lived in a Cottage or Bungalow that invariably had a garden around. It was then that Bangalore could be called the "Garden City" unlike the mounds of Garbage one finds on every road, street and lane of today. It was a Military Cantonment and although the Other Ranks of the Army were inclined to be boisterous under the influence of alcohol towards the end of the day, the British Military Police that patrolled the streets for the greater part of the day, immediately picked up any Ranker that misbehaved and discipline was restored in a short while with the effect of the short end of their batons. Courtesy was the order of the day and made living easy and harmonious for everyone.

The heart of the city in those days was the so called MacIver Town, the area around South Parade, St. Mark's Road, Brigade Road and Cubbon Road. Each Town had it's own Park, and apparently Coles Park was one of the big ones as it flanked Promenade Road and St. John's Church Road. This area came under the Military Administration and was extremely well maintained unlike the nightmare that it is today. There was a Bangalore Military Officers Mess on Promenade Road that was well maintained and had some fabulous trophies in silver.

The Mayo Hall on South Parade was built in honour of the Governor-General of India Lord Mayo who was later assassinated in the Andaman Islands. It was inaugurated with great fanfare by the British Resident in the year 1904. The Mayo Hall was the venue for all important public gatherings, exhibitions and housed several public offices and nine Law Courts. It also was the Municipal Office for the Cantonment. The Parade Ground on South Parade was surrounded by a track maintained by the Military for Horse Riding.

Few interesting things about old Bangalore:
Funnel's Restaurant (where the Deccan Herald Office stands today) was a very popular Restaurant with Other Rankers and always very crowded and noisy. Occasionally a few of the men got into a brawl and it ended through the window onto the pavement!

The other well known places on South Parade were Dias Music Saloon, Barton's, Spencer's & Co., and Chellaram Silk House.

Dias Music Saloon was started by a Goan, Jose Mariano Dias in 1927. Every instrument for Western Music and Musical Scores were available at Dias. There were pianos for sale and hire and pianos were sold at Rs. 250/- to Rs.650/- for the best ones!! (Today you cannot pick up a good second hand piano for less than a lakh or Rupees!!). Dias Saloon was a place which no music lover could resist and often Army Officers, who were music professionals before the War, would step into his shop and play on his instruments. Mr. Dias was a pleasant person who welcomed music lovers and allowed them to use his instruments.

Chellarams (where Simco glassware stands today), was the house for the best and most fabulous sarees and silks. It catered for many of the Princely tastes and Artists. The resident had witnessed persons like Uday Shankar, Ram Gopal, Vyjantimala and reputed exponents of Indian dancing and Princes from Indore and Hyderabad shopping at Chellaram's.

Barton's where Barton Court stands today, was the house of silver masters of sterling quality. P.A. Barton was an Englishman who established his Firm of silversmiths using local craftsmen. It was patronised by a large number of Indian Princes and the British rulers and military personnel to furnish their Messes with silverware. Their exclusive and superior clientele encouraged the owners to maintain it's quality which earned then the reputation of "Bartonplate". Their master craftsmen have been working for Barton's for more than two generations.

Spencer & Co. also started by an Englishman, Mr. Oakshot. It was the most sophisticated and only Departmental Store in the true sense. It was a store where one could buy anything from literally a "pin to an elephant", as the saying goes, under one roof. Spencer's prided itself on quality, good service, which extended to after-sales commitment, and reasonable prices. The tradition of quality and good service dates back to 1864. Spencer's was not just an outlet for sale of groceries, cosmetics and other goods. Spencer's had their own factories where strict quality control was observed. It was this feature that made Spencer's brand product popular and always in great demand. Courtesy was a tradition that made shopping at Spencer's a pleasure.

The West End Hotel was another proof of the efficiency of Spencer's who owned the Hotel. It was a 1st. Class Hotel run according to British Standards of god wholesome food and al that goes with class living as Hotels go. The charges in those days was Rs.12/- per person per day inclusive of food and service. Next in order was the Central Hotel, also in High Style and good cuisine for a charge of Rs.10/- per room per person.

It boggles the mind to think that just in 50 years time, Bangalore has changed for the worse in every respect.

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