Going back in time

Usha Srinath goes back in time and recalls tales of when her grandmother first came to Bangalore and saw history unfold with the advent of the first motor car and electricity.

My grandparents first came to Bangalore sometime in the early nineteen hundreds from their home village in Tumkur district. Chamarajapete was among the earliest planned extensions of Bangalore city located close to the old inner city areas like Dodda Pete, Chikka Pete, Arale Pete (Cotton Pete) and Bale Pete. It was a popular residential area for many of the upwardly mobile new settlers of Bangalore city.

Grandmother, a strong, intelligent, home educated woman, settled into one of the old houses there and began her new life in the city. Bangalore was still a small town and soon she had many friends to spend her evenings with. When grandmother first moved to Bangalore, street lights were fired by kerosene and lit one by one by hand. Bangalore city, as some of you might remember, was among the earliest cities in India to be electrified, thanks to electricity plant set up at Shivanasamudra in 1902.

Soon after she came to Bangalore, electric street lights arrived, too. Grandmother and her neighbours, many of them young women from the villages of old Mysore state, were fascinated by these dazzling lights that came on att at the same time, as if by magic. By early evening, they would finish their household chores and wait outside on their doorsteps, in great anticipation, to watch the world suddenly light up. It must have been exciting days indeed for her generation.

Some years later (I am not sure of the year), she was part of the history of Bangalore again. The first motor car had arrived! In her words, ‘we were told that there was a new kind of ‘gaadi’ (cart) which ran without horses and that it was often seen at South Parade’. So a day’s picnic was planned to sight this wonder. For grandmother and her friends, Bangalore ended somewhere near Lal Bagh. Areas north of that were uncharted territory. But this horseless wonder was too fascinating to be missed. So having packed a picnic lunch, all of them set off by foot, walking from Basavanagudi through the lonely stretch now called Double Road, scarier because it ran next to the crematorium and burial grounds, all the way to South Parade (M.G.Road). They settled down on the kerb with their picnic hamper waiting for the car to come by. It was soon getting to be evening, and they still had the long and lonely walk back. Just as they thought they would have to leave without the sighting, the car arrived! It was fascinating for them to watch this contraption trundle along by itself, with not a horse in sight! It must be said here that some years later, grandmother found herself the proud owner of a car.

Grandmother also told us many tales of the tanks of Bangalore city. Close to our house in Basavanagudi, was a tank filled with water on whose banks they used to picnic. The Kempegowda Medical College stands there now. And the present Subhashnagar bus stand was only a pristine water body, the Dharmambudhi Kere, where young people learnt to swim.

Change, I suppose, is inevitable with growth and development of the city, but it was still interesting to look back at the Bangalore that was, through my grandmother’s eyes.

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