Roughly around the same time last year, my phone buzzed with a text message from a friend preserved down my memory lane. “Prerana, I’m coming to Bangalore. Would you like to catch up, maybe?” Aastha Rohilla called it her “Solo-lore” for it was the first time she was ever travelling solo in a country where women are conditioned to beware due to the negative light the national media continually presents it in.
But nothing deterred her spirits, her soul submerged in that exhilaration, excitement and doubt that finds its way into every single being venturing into the unknown. But her excitement meant more. She was returning to the place where she had spent her first year on the earth. Her infectious excitement paired with my post-traumatic desperation to get out more often manifested into the reunion of two childhood classmates after a span of 11 years. But as we stood facing each other, it was as if those 11 years hadn’t changed a thing. We were still the giggling schoolgirls with a new-found maturity.
And thus began the planning of a day – with just enough room for improvisation – to showcase a side of Bangalore that we Bangaloreans, only know too well and tourists seldom get to experience. More than the want to check off another landmark to check out in a city, I aimed to take pleasure in rediscovering the feeling of being a person in Bangalore. As they say, “when in Rome, do as Romans do”.
Taking a ride in Namma Metro
Namma – a Kannada word for “Our” is often found to describe many things of collective ownership in the Indian state of Karnataka like Namma “Ooru” Bengaluru (Our City Bangalore). So it should come off as no surprise that the city’s metro rail transportation system is called “Namma Metro”. And aptly named, it does belong to us all.
Aastha was very keen on doing this for she is from Delhi NCR, and the Metro is the heart of daily commute for Millions of Delhites every day. And so we joined the lost faces of thousands of people travelling in the metro going to and from somewhere. There is a particular joy in travelling in public transport, which can be considered humbling even at the moment you acknowledge that every person in that transport is there for a purpose they want to fulfil. You are suddenly aware of the innumerable stories they carry with them, while they sit there glued to their phone screens, effectively ignoring and avoiding the chance of conversations with their co-passengers.
But travelling in the metro has more than just the obvious benefits of travelling faster and avoiding the ever-present vehicular traffic jam and reducing your carbon footprint. The metro line of Bangalore runs to a large extent above ground, which provides for a great view while moving on the level with canopies of trees and enables you to see your city from a different perspective from its large glass windows.
A quest to find the Street Art of Bangalore
A mural near Cubbon Park Metro Station Entrance By: Artez
We decided to alight at the Cubbon Park metro station, which happens to be one of the first locations chosen by the Street Artists of Bangalore to work their magic on. Street Art in a place like Bangalore was practically unheard of until recently – where all we knew were bare walls covered in dust, grime, moss, urine and betel nut juice stains. To add to the problem there were innumerable posters that often covered the walls of the flyovers from head to toe. The walls in the city desperately needed a paint job, for once painted, they were never given a second thought.
A few years ago, the city suddenly started getting some of its colours back. Muralists started to liven up the gloomy walls of the city by covering it with art which blended with the spirit of the new population where the only familiar sights to reduce this problem were the red-painted walls and the infamous “stick no bills” warning.
India’s walls are crying for Art, it’s high time we give it what it needs.
Cubbon Park is one of the few underground Metro Stations of the city. Being an art lover I was excited to be here and share with Aastha some of my joy. Once in the station, we were surrounded by the glory of various artistic expressions. The whole station seemed drenched in street art now. And there was so much to look around in that vast station, so many walls and corners and intricate drawings and details that added to the bigger picture.
St+Art India and Art In Transit (An initiative by the students of Shrishti Institute Of Art, Design and Technology) are the main organisations responsible for this transformation of the city in recent times. They have taken up various project for the beautification of the city and their initiatives go well beyond this particular station (details of which you can find on their respective websites).
After spending a generous amount of time at the place, appreciation for every single mural and inspecting each of its numerous entrances and exits, we decided to move on with the rest of the day.
Having to ourselves the new and renovated Church Street Social’s “Artlet”
A friend had once remarked that the Church Street Social with its dim lights reminded him so much of the streets of Old Delhi. Looking back at these words, I did observe in the past that Social outlets had an industrial look, quite their signature in the beginning. It painted the typical picture of a pub, with long chattering crowds engrossed in their own worlds, drinking their night away after a long day’s office work.
But man when I heard that they had completely switched up the interiors and added various art installations, I was so stoked to visit it. So we and our hungry stomachs rushed to the Artlet– the name given to the revamped Social’s outlet.
We encountered a hanging white swirling installation which they called the Giant Dervish (Mimicking the Swirling movement by the Sufi Saints) in a room with light installations and artwork by many artists. On our right was an all-blue room with a huge dot chair completely shielded from daylight. But the one place that stood out to me and screamed my aesthetic was – the All-red room that you find when you make your way upstairs. Outside the Red Room are various indoor plants which breathe life into the space.
In all, the whole place felt like the fusion of various photo ops with each space designed to contain unique elements differentiating one from another. And switching over to food (the main thing), their cutlery to the way their menu is presented (It looks like a Newspaper!), brings back the classic elements of Dining in an Indian Home. We were served Nachos in an Aluminium Patila and Anda Burji in a Tiffin Box! These quirky components were what makes me fall in love with the concept of Social in the first place.
Going to the “book haven” that is the Blossom Book House
This one is a no brainer! Every person I know can go perpetually about their tales of love for Blossoms. And if you adore books, there is no room or excuse you could give to skip this place. In about 2 decades of its existence, Blossom Book House has become so integrated with the culture that one’s Bangalore experience just seems incomplete without it. So, it was hardly a surprise that I urged Aastha to experience the bookstore that I’ve come to love so much.
A sniff through your nostrils upon entering will fill your lungs with the ever pleasant aroma of books – new and old alike. And as your eyes travel from one corner to another, all you can see are continuing stacks of books. You turn around to check if you had missed anything in your field of vision but it paints the same story. More books; they’re everywhere. On either side of the aisles, the shelves just go on and on. At this point, you start to wonder if you have finally discovered that mythical paradise (or an equivalent of it).
Opened in 2001 as a mere 200 sq ft shop, it has now grown to about 4000 sq ft with books filling bookshelves after bookshelves spread across 3 floors. With more than 200,000 books in the store, Blossoms has come a long way to be the largest second-hand book store India. You never know what you might find here, from collector’s editions to books that have long gone out of print.
Aastha’s happiness knew no bounds since the moment we had entered the place. She at once set off to explore the place with childlike curiosity. And walking the path of every person ever, I who never intended to buy a book that day, bought some as well. We took our own time going through different titles and genres. After a certain amount of time had passed, Aastha comes up to me and exclaims, “Prerana, you just wouldn’t believe what I found right now. It’s the very first issue of Superman Comics! I’m buying THIS.” She continued, “I absolutely love this place. Thank you for showing me around.”
Nothing could summarise the feeling of Blossoms better than this little hurrah moment we had on that day.
Having some milkshake at Lakeview Milk Bar
Walking along the MG Road, one can spot a relic right from Bangalore’s bygone days. Lakeview Milk Bar – a bit of calm in the eye of the chaos around – silently holds its ground for being the city’s very first Ice Cream Parlour. Our thirsty throats wanted the goodness of a nice milkshake or alike and what better place to go to than Lakeview!
Despite the humble beginnings in the 1930s as Ice Cream Carts that were cycled around Bangalore, it has considerably expanded since – with 3 outlets of the Franchise in prominent parts of Bangalore. The name “Lakeview” came from its original location overlooking the Ulsoor Lake – right where the 1MG mall stands today. Oh and you can cater to your midnight craving here, for they are open till 12 AM in the night.
I have personally tried out various thick shakes and cakes from the place, for I was thirsty every time I found myself in the vicinity of it and these guys definitely know what they’re doing. I have heard all good things about their ice cream, especially their signature “Honeymoon Special”, though I have yet to try it for myself. And you don’t even have to leave the comfort of your car to experience it. For people in a hurry, they provide spaces where you can park and let them cater to your need.
Bearing in mind their original modest menu of just 3 flavours of ice cream – vanilla, chocolate and raspberry while starting out, it now boasts of an extensive menu catering to the changing tastes of the citizens throughout the decades of its existence. Apparently, it was one of the very first places to start serving Pizzas to Bangaloreans.
Combining the enchanting mix of a modern menu with the inherited charm of the old Bengaluru, Lakeview offers its patrons a place where they can choose from a spread of fresh-baked cakes, continental breakfast, mouth-watering snacks and seductive ice creams. Generations have passed and it has been long embraced as a hangout, for casual foodies and serious connoisseurs alike.
This is a place that has changed with the changing times and grown as Bangalore grew – from a small town to the fifth largest city in India. And this is reflected in the whole vibe of the place – of something very old existing in the young; though it has been redone to look quite preppy now, adopting the colour pop trend.
Taking a walk at MG Road Boulevard and Rangoli Metro Art Centre
For being two friends who met after a span of 11 years, we decided to take a walk to converse and reminisce about our primary school days. Looking at the MG Road Boulevard as a great option for this, we increased our gait to cross over to reach the other side of the ever-busy MG Road. But alas, to our dismay, the beautiful upper walkway extending beneath green arches covered in vines was about to be shut down (it was just 4 30 pm).
We were quite unaware that the whole place shuts down by sundown, and the upper walkway about an hour before that; which sounded astonishingly absurd & unfair to my ears (Have you heard of the sun setting at 4 30 pm?). But thankfully the universe favoured us and all that walking wasn’t in vain (I was still walking with a walking stick back then). The Metro Art Centre below on the ground level was open for a while more.
If it wasn’t obvious above, MG Road Boulevard, a half kilometre stretch is divided into two sections – The Upper Walkway and The Art Centre Below. The Rangoli Metro Art Centre has so much for a visitor: from graffiti on the walls of the Rangasthala Auditorium, three Art Galleries, Art installations on the walls and the lawn, to a children’s play area referred to as Chillipilli and a multi-purpose open area.
Walking in the Rangoli centre, our attention drew quickly to the Bougainvillea shrubs hanging from the end of the roof. On your left, you’ll find art installations of various types adorning the public space while your right has a beautiful lawn with a variety of different plants growing parallel to the MG Road. There were several interactive exhibits and even human-scale chess and snake and ladders board painted on the floor wherein minutes we started hopping from one box to another as kids would.
Further down, we spotted the perfect place we could have a photograph together – The Friendship Point and thus we decided to bid adieu to each other and a memorable day. This was the moment when you look back and understand the power of a simple text message or email. More often than not, they manifest into days filled with joy.