Street of Gods battles demon’s wrath

Life isn’t the same for the residents of Malleshwaram’s Temple Street, who relive the blast even in their dreams.

On the Sunday evening, the Temple Street, Malleshwaram appears to be normal, at least on the surface. People are moving as usual, shopping and chatting, while shoppers are busy in their business. Isn’t this the street that saw a bomb blast four days ago? You don’t get to confirm it until you go nearer, at least till the next cross, from where you can see the police barricade clearly.

Majestic Jagannath Bhavan, the mansion that houses the BJP office, stands proudly, almost diagonally opposite to the blast site. Politicians and cops are seen everywhere in the scene. Next to that is the barricaded area past 13th cross – that’s where the blast took place. As you go nearer, you see the heaps of glass pieces everywhere.

The burnt vehicles have been taken away. What remains is the burnt tree and the ashes. And of course, the memories of the horror haunting the eye-witnesses.

The blast site as seen from a playhome nearby. Pic: Shree D N

“It was 10 in the morning, so people were less. If it were in the evening, it could have taken lives,” says Rupa, a flower-vendor who sits next to the Devi temple. “Glass pieces flew in every direction. The blast left the glasses of the building opposite to the temple (which is almost 100 meters away) shattered,” she explains the horror. The blast was heard across the radius of 3 kilometers from the blast site.

“The blast shook this entire building, glasses were broken and the door lock of my office came out,” recalls Lokanath, a tutor on the ground floor in a building near the blast site, showing off the lock. He is still cleaning his office, heaping up the window glass pieces.

Lokanath, a tutor on Temple Street, displaying the broken lock. Pic: Shree D N

He points to the playhome opposite the blast site. “This playhome is run by my friend. It was closed on that day, for some reason. If it were open, some 30-plus children would have got affected; there would have been loss of lives… we just can’t think what could have happened. The ice cream vendor near the blast site had gone out to keep his extra stock in his stockyard when the blast took place; otherwise he would’ve been a sure victim. Many people here lost hearing temporarily for some time,” Lokanath recounts.

Ashwath, a tailor sitting directly opposite the blast site, recalls the event. “I had just opened the shop and went to the next street to get something. My wife was sitting here in the shop. The blast left her deaf for almost half-an-hour.” The metal pieces and glass pieces have attacked his shop too, causing minimal damage though.

Shattered windowpanes of a nearby house. Pic: Shree D N

“This is a very old area. We never saw this kind of horror before. That day somehow we all got lucky. Kids were not roaming outside. Usually flower vendors and cut-fruit vendors sell their products near where the blast took place. That day none of them were in the scene. We all got lucky, so there was no loss of lives,” says Kalavathi, a resident of a house on the first floor of a nearby house.

“Doors are broken, window glasses shattered. Every moment we are afraid of our safety,” she shares her concern. The Chief Minister visited these houses on the day of the blast, took stock of the situation, and promised to get suitable compensation. The residents hope to hear from the government again, at least after the elections.

A lone cop is sitting inside the barricaded area, as if he still has something there to protect. On a closer look, you can’t help but notice the yellow and white-coloured ‘crime-scene tapes’ that bear the words – WORK IN PROGRESS – and Bangalore International Marathon 2005 – Keep Running. Perhaps the Home Department in Karnataka hasn’t found the need to have proper crime-scene tapes. Never mind.

Lone policeman sitting in the barricaded area, four days after the blast. Pic: Shree D N

There are at least four temples next to the blast site, including the Kadu Mallikarjuna Swamy temple – from which the name Kadu Malleshwara is derived – and the Gangamma Devi temple. The street in this oldest locality of Malleshwaram is filled with vendors selling various Puja paraphernalia, the fragrance pervading your senses, transporting you to a sacred world of devotion. However, now the otherwise busy street is almost deserted, with less devotees and lesser vendors.

What is clear from the scene is that life isn’t as simple as it was, for the residents of this area who still see the blast in their nightmares.

‘Politically important’ landmark?

Is Malleshwaram an unexpected place for a blast? Yes. However, it has been ‘politically important.’ The state offices of the BJP and the newly formed KJP are located in Malleshwaram. There are houses of political leaders like Ashwath Narayan (MLA, BJP) and B K Shivaram, an ex-assistant commissioner of police, CCB, a Congress candidate this time, who lives just two crosses past the blast site, on the same road.

Vikram Hatwar, a software engineer-cum-writer residing in Malleshwaram, was to pass through the Temple Street just at the time of the blast. He got delayed due to traffic and thus was 5 minutes away from the blast site.

“Our area was cool and tranquil. Malls, bazars, underpass, jewellery shops, political party offices, and now a blast… everything must be packed and thrown out of the city… hell with development…” He expresses his rage over a Facebook post.

The blast has affected the lives of people here in many ways. “Business on 8th cross today looks usual, but people are not coming to this street. Our business has taken a hit past the blast,” says Ashoka, a tender coconut seller. Same is the case with Ashwath, whose tailor shop is located opposite the blast site.

A charred tree near the blast site. Pic: Shree D N

Jay N Jayaram, a writer, lives half-a-kilometre away from the blast site. “Whoever carried out the blast seems to have chosen a spot from where the BJP building and vehicles in front of it remained largely undamaged. The claim that the blast was aimed at the BJP leadership is astonishing. No party leaders with an iota of ego – and most politicos have ego in spades – would let their cars be parked in a non-prominent space,” he feels.

Vani Murthy, a resident and active citizen residing in Malleshwaram, says her first reaction was of shock and then concern about the innocent people who found themselves in the middle of this mindless act. “There can be no excuse, no cause which can justify this act which has sickened us all and throwed fear around. This left me thinking as to what really makes people want to harm others…. Any amount of caution cannot prevent such cowardly attacks,” she reacts with concern.

However, the blast has failed to affect the spirit of the rest of Malleshwaram. The Sampige flowers have been blooming with all their beauty and fragrance as usual all over the streets, while kids continue to play in the parks and people are busy as ever in their work, not worrying about the past.

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