Lost more than we’ve gained?

Sheila Kumar
 Monday, February 11, 2013 

                                                                               PHOTO: AJAY GHATAGE

It was a balmy night. Up on the floodlit stage at the Kanteerava Stadium, Biddu Appaiah (he hadn't dropped his surname then) was belting out some good hard rock. The crowds were giddy with delight, and we were part of that singing, dancing crowd. When the show was over, we found that someone had goofed up. The car we had arranged to take us back to our homes near Ulsoor Lake was missing. So, we walked back, a merry motley crew, singing songs loudly and keeping a steady pace in what by then was the still of the night. The many-branched raintrees were in full bloom, there was that typical nip in the Bangalore air and basically, all was well.

I came to Bangalore in the mid-seventies. We were almost exclusively Cantonment kids. We hung out at Thom's Café, playing Tom Jones and Jimi Hendrix on the sturdy jukebox; we ate rava dosas at the Udupi Drive- In Café on MG Road, winding up at Lakeview to wolf down a banana split. If we wanted to sink our teeth into serious meat, it was the Only Place next to Nilgiris on Brigade Road where we all knew each other and where we got the best steaks this side of the Suez. Fats (Fatima Bakery) and Johnson's Market were regular haunts as was Rice Bowl, for its cheap- and- best fried rice. If we wanted to dance the night away, which was frequently, we would head out to Blue Fox on MG Road. Another rite of passage was scoffing Softys (not softies) at the lean- to stall next to Nilgiris. Actually, life's many pleasures were studded with such rituals.

And we cycled everywhere.  I remember cycling all the way from Banaswadi to Mount Carmel College Stadium in Vasant Nagar for cricket coaching. All buses started and ended at the ubiquitous Shivajinagar bus stand and the city's only tall tower of the time was Public Utility Building. It was arguably, Bangalore's first tall tower. The rest of the city/town was all about monkey-topped bungalows and neatly manicured gardens. Coms Street and Brigade Road were our open air malls. Back then, we fancied ourselves as sharp dressers. Chandru at Teen Shack and Vashi at Jean Shack saw to the more conventional jeans and the occasional pair of elephant pants.

We saw films at Naga, Plaza, Galaxy and Blue Diamond. We gleefully bought into the urban legend that the washrooms of the Naga were haunted by a bloody hand. And if we wanted to head out, we'd go picnicking in Nandi Hills where the simians terrorised us, or for coracle rides to Muthyalamaduvu.

Afternoon jam sessions were all the rage; we'd brown-paper windows, set up a stereo system and dance to our own unlikely EDM mix: Fleetwood Mac followed by Led Zeppelin, tailed by Pink Floyd.  

I now live in a Bangalore drastically different from those days, but I am not one to deride change.  However, when the dust settles, I wonder if we have lost more than we gained. And I heave a sigh for the days of innocence.
— Sheila Kumar is a writer, journalist and book editor


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