Bengaluru’s summers were different when the city was still Bangalore and I was a schoolgoing kid. The city’s unpredictability in terms of rains remains valid to an extent even today but, most other aspects of the life and lifestyle of the people of the “Uru” has certainly changed.
I have spent most summer afternoons under the shades of the “Gasagase mara” (Muntingia Calabura). That tree was our gang’s meeting room. We all had our own spots in the branches of the tree.
Summers meant no school, and “no school” meant going around the city on weekdays. My mother used to travel from BTM Layout to Malleshwaram. The only means of affordable commute were the dark red painted BTS buses. We had to take the 162 to reach “Majestic”. The Majestic theater still stood there and was one of the many hundreds of single screen theaters in that area. The bus stand was called Subhash Nagar Bus stand and the route board of 162 read “SBS to SBS”. The board of 162A also read the same, but the devil was in the details. Which one you boarded, mattered. One would show you Jayanagar, South End, SBS before showing Wilson Garden or Madiwala. The other played the reel backwards. I always liked seeing the gardens first. I hated going through congested Madiwala and the cemeteries of Adugodi and Wilson Garden.
We switched buses at Majestic, hopped on to 90 and deboarded at Malleshwaram. And that’s where I’d get the rewards for walking with my mother in the scorching summer sun, under her umbrella’s shade, and subjecting myself to the never ending journey in BTS. The reward was a cricket bat shaped lollipop.
Weekends were different. Saturdays were meant to visit relatives. Sundays were meant for staying home. However, occasionally, Sundays meant a trip to Lalbagh or Cubbon Park. It was always exciting to see the same HMT clock over and again in Lalbagh, but Cubbon Park always remained the favourite. It was another thing that the city looked like a park pretry much everywhere. Fountains dotted every “circle” and “circles” still had, well, “circles”.
A trip to Cubbon Park meant packing lunch and enjoying a long day-out. A “Flying Disc” always found itself in the basket with the tiffin boxes, used only for ten minutes before someone got tired playing. The days would end with “Bisi bisi kadlekayi” (peanuts – roasted / steamed), Bhel puri or Masale Puri. These were delicacies we waited for weeks or months together. My father wouldn’t even promise any of these, he would buy them for us only if he felt like it. The rate, the hygiene, the apperance of the vendor were all the more important alongside his own mood before he’d buy us any of these. And then, when we get the blessings, we’d relish the hot and spicy stuff on chilly summer Sunday evenings, sitting on the lawns in front of the beautiful red building called Attara Kacheri (High Court of Karnataka), waiting for the many hundred tube lights to light up at the last hint of fading sunlight, to bring the majestic, fenceless Vidhana Soudha back to life.
It’s summer again, and we have the pandemic keeping us within the four walls. The rains are unpredictable still, but aren’t as common. The city has close to a thousand parks, but doesn’t look like one anymore. The fountains are gone, the circles remain without physicality. Cubbon Park is still as charming as ever, but one can no longer sit in front of the High Court, leave alone in its lawns. The Vidhana Soudha’s view is hindered by the ugly black rails of the fence around it. A building that has “Government’s Work is God’s Work” written on it no longer allows its citizens to freely enjoy time on its majestic steps even on Sundays. BTS lost its name and color, Majestic and many of its companions in the area have been replaced by shopping centers, Subhash has been forgotten, Kempegowda now rules over the Dharmambudi Tank.
And when it comes to the lollipops and the Bhel Puris and Kadlekayis, kids order their Moms to simply “Swiggy it” for them, sometimes by texting Moms on Whatsapp.