Home is the city I grew up in
What is home? The house you grew up in, those who peopled that house? The city you live in? To me, it all of these. I have taken my home for granted, for the most part of my life. I grew up in the Bangalore of the Eighties, in a neighbourhood called Vijayanagar in west Bangalore, blissfully unaware of the larger Bangalore, or the many Bangalores that existed. Eighties Bangalore, when we’d tune into DD Kannada and listen to ‘giDa neDi giDa neDi giDaa neDi, maneya mundondu giDa neDi’ (“Plant a sapling in front of your home”), which was the then chief minister Ramakrishna Hegde’s campaign for a greener Bangalore.
It all feels greener and rosier when you look at the past with sentimentalism and nostalgia, and it is not as if Eighties Bangalore was utopia. It was just that we were children then, and we didn’t know of the larger churn in the city. One is sure, the Sixties kids felt the same way about Sixties Bangalore or that the 2016 kids will feel the same way about today’s Bangalore once they grow up.
All of us have a notion of what home is, and Eighties Vijayanagar meant home to me for the longest time, even though it was no longer physically home to me. When I left home and moved to Chennai, and came back to Bangalore on visits, images of what meant home to me came rushing back to me. The familiar tree-lined Vijayanagar Main Road, the bus-stand, the market on the other side, the water tank on 8th Main Road and then Saraswathi Nagar. Home. The New Public School grounds, the CPWD quarters, the trees, walking to school and plucking ‘gasgase hannu’. A stopover at a temple’s front yard full of trees where we’d quickly finish some part of the home work before going home!
When I returned to Bangalore and lived in Gandhi Bazaar, which I have come to love, and not just for Vidyarthi Bhavan, home became South Bangalore. Home continues to be South Bangalore as I now live in Uttarahalli (notwithstanding the ‘Uttara’ in Uttarahalli).
But home is not just one neighbourhood, it is my city, Bangalore. Every home has a unique character to it, and so does mine. Bangalore has a certain character to it, the hotels, streets, the buildings that make the city what it is. Home is the beautiful tree-lined Sampige Road or Margosa Road. Home is Queen’s Road and MG Road. Home is also Church Street. Home is Blossom’s, home is New Modern Hotel, home is Coffee House. So, when I heard that one of my favourite parts of the city, the area near Race Course Road, Chalukya Circle and Planetarium would soon have a giant steel structure, I didn’t know how to react. My parents, aunts and uncles, who grew up on Yamuna Bai Road in Seshadripura, have wonderful stories to tell about how they walked up to practically any part of the city on the footpaths under the shade of huge trees lining any road in that locality. I am envious.
I know that populations grow, the city expands, more people migrate here for jobs, and that there is need for better, faster transport. Yes, cities are about progress, but cities are also about its parks, its cultural hubs, its ‘grama devathes’, its tanks. And progress and retaining the ethos of a city can go together. All we need to do is consult experts — a bunch of specialists who care for the city and feel for it who can come up with sustainable ideas.
And no, we certainly don’t need a monstrous steel flyover snaking through the core of Bangalore. Can’t we slow down, ask people who love this city, care for it and who call it home if they want this steel flyover? Is it the only possible answer to our traffic problems, or could there be alternatives? Shouldn’t we think thoroughly and well before we make a change as huge as this, and in one of the most charming parts of Bangalore? Why are you reacting only now? What about other projects? What about trees lost to Namma Metro? These questions crop up. Yes, trees may have been lost, and trees will be lost. But what is it that we get in return this time? Excellent public transport? Not really. World over, cities are moving away from the culture of using cars.
We too must boost the culture of public transport. More people using trains may be one answer. Alternative routes could be explored, and more buses pressed into service. Surely we can do without a steel monstrosity in one of the city’s major lung spaces. Surely we can retain the character of the city and make it one of the great cities of the world. Before that we need to understand the unique character of Bangalore and what makes it special for most of us. The only home many of us have.