Once upon a time, life as it was in Basavanagudi


E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes from Bangalore: Basavanagudi and Malleshwaram are two of the oldest localities of Bangalore which are still in demand amongst those who seek houses to rent or to buy.

Located at  different corners of the City, there always has existed some kind of healthy rivalry between their residents. Both consider their area as the ultimate for culture and aesthetics, and therefore have a nose up in the air.

When Jayanagar came into being in the early 1960s, old-timers in Basavanagudi and Malleshwaram quickly dismissed it as a gawky upstart, a major breeding ground for mosquitoes, a sobriquet the “queen of localities” is unable to shake off what with dengue and chikungunya ravaging Bangalore today.


Basavanagudi has changed beyond description for those who were born and grew up there, but pockets of this locality like Benne Govindappana chhatra, Gavi Gangadhareshwara devasthana and Basavanagudi Club meant mainly for retired people still retain the old charm.

Basavanagudi, named after the temple for Basava or Nandi, has always been a sleepy little locality which made you sleepier the moment you entered Lalbagh , Bugle Rock or M.N. Krishna Rao Park, especially after eating a masala dose at MTR or Vidyarthi Bhavan, even if it was a vulgar fraction of 4 by 7.

You would still feel sleepy if you went to Parvathy Chandrashekara boulevard near Saalumara beside National high school, or Hanumantha Nagar Park (renovated by the then mayor Chandrashekar) for eating sippe hosa kadale kayi and bella, komrike hannu or ginimuthi mavinakayi with kharadapudi.

This sleep-inducing nature of Basavanagudi was attributed 30% to the genial climate in Bangalore, 40% to the fresh air in the parks, and 30% to the snacks that made Bangalore famous.

Gandhi Bazaar was the main market and one bought vegetables in any of the half-a-dozen shops near the “circle”, more so from the shop of father and sons Rama and Krishna who made sure you always came back by giving you a little extra menasinakayi or kottham bari soppu.

You would go for text books and notebooks to, M.S. Sons, L.N. & Co, V.S. & Sons, and for Kannada novels of Tha Ra Su, Aa Na Kru, Thriveni, Basavaraja Kattimane to G.K. Bros (Kalliah) opposite the chemist shop, Medico Surgicals.

Mostly people read B. Nagi Reddy’s Chandamama from Madras (Can you believe such a thing happening now?) and Balamitra before graduating to novels.

Basavanagudites were always ready for a  by-two coffee anytime, anywhere in hotels like Geetha Bhavan, a furlong from Gandhi Bazaar circle on the way to Ramakrishna Ashrama, Circle Lunch Home bang at the circle itself, Bhattara hotel in Nagasandra Road opposite Chandra Clinic run by Dr. Chandrashekar.

At night, most preferred badami haalu at Harsha Stores or Ganesha Stores with sweet bun or “congress” kadalekayi.

Come exam time, Ganeshana devasthana (now called Dodda Ganesha, not to be confused with the Karnataka cricketer) on Bull Temple road, next to Basavanagudi and opposite B.M.S. College would be so crowded with students praying for easy questions in their question papers, praying for a miracle when results would be out in a few days and praying for ‘seats’ in any of the engineering or medical colleges.

The only other time boys hovered around there was to catch sight of the beautiful girls who were always accompanied by a younger brother or sister in tow as some kind of ‘protection’!

You had National high school and Bangalore high school; but you also had Gurukulam where they taught you Amara, Bhagavad Gita and twitched your ears if you erred during recitation.

Abalashrama near Gurukulam looked after destitute girls and after giving education, married them off to eligible boys with the entire staff and inmates giving a tearful farewell to the new bride.

There were no malls those days. If you wanted pullangayi unde, kharada avalakkki or chakkali, you got it from Subbammana angadi on H.B. Samaja Road next to Hanumanthana devasthana. You would go to Grandige Angadi for most of your pooja material like sambhrani, oodh kaddi and karpoora.

You didn’t have Raymond’s, Peter England and Arrow shirts and pants then.

T-Shirt was not even heard of!

You went to Siddoji Rao & Sons to buy cotton pant and shirt pieces, and you gave them to Venkoba Rao at Reliable tailors or their brothers-in law at Elegance Tailors on Nagasandra Road. They would even call you for a trial marking the half-stitched dress with coloured chalks.

Later, after a wash you could get it pressed by a steaming iron box with burning charcoal inside!

You would buy Bata shoes or Flex ‘Pathan shoes’ worn without socks. There were no bewildering makes and certainly not jogging/ walking shoes. I doubt whether the word jogging existed then! You just walked barefoot or walked with whatever you wore. That’s it.

Basavanagudi and Gandhi Bazaar are really the grandparents of Koramangala, Padmanabha nagara, Basaveshwara nagara, Rajarajeshwari nagara, etc.

If you want to get a whiff of the old charm of Bangalore, the quintessence of Bangalore, you will still find it there!

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

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