Oct 13 2009

A little over 5.3 million people call the city of Bangalore (excluding the greater Bangalore metro area) home. This translates to an average population density of over 18,500 people per square mile in the city! While this is nowhere near New York City’s whopping 27,500/sq-mile, it is still a phenomenal number! Dallas and Houston in comparison both have densities of about 3800 /sq-mile.

Bangalore is a bustling chaotic city threatening to rip apart at the seams and has had to make to with crumbling infrastructure that is not being replenished at a rate sufficient to keep pace with growth. Consequently it requires a skill-set that is both fungible and adaptable to survive and to be productive in this city. As I noted yesterday, a 30 minute experience in the peak traffic hours here can be a horrendous experience for the uninitiated. The congestion and smog can be unbearable. The perpetual construction and sudden discoveries of one-way streets can be disconcerting in the extreme, not to mention the atrocious state of some roads that are yet to be repaired. As if all of this isn’t damning enough, the lack of anything remotely approaching zoning makes most areas almost unlivable owing to the haphazard co mingling of commercial and residential properties.The weather can be pleasant in the evenings, but the humidity can make the days unpleasant during certain months of the year.

And despite all of the above, it is a strong dynamic vibrant city that offers a multitude of compelling reasons to visit it again and again, as I have been doing for the past several years. I must of course confess to a fondness for the city, because my late dad was born here, grew up here and went to college at Bangalore university. It is my ancestral hometown. I am a Bangalorean.

Shielded from the chaos of the city centre, but smack dab in the middle of it, in a 300 acre wooded area known as Cubbon Park named after Mark Cubbon, the longest serving commissioner of Bangalore under the British.

The walkways of Cubbon Park are used by walkers, joggers, tourists and the occasional lazy canine that constitutes that dark path along the path! I could have stepped right over that shady mongrel and he couldn’t have cared less. It might be tempting to think of Cubbon Park as Bangalore’s “Central Park”, but that honour decidedly belongs to another of the city’s landmarks as we shall see presently.

This immense Texas-sized building of which I’ve onlay managed to capture a bit is the Karnataka State Legislature Building (Bangalore is the State Capital), called the Vidhana Soudha. It is the largest state legislature building in India.

VS_2The flag flying on the building is the Indian national flag. States do not have their own flags. Likewise the gold plated emblem at the top is the national emblem. Poor Rick Perry must be having a fit! By the way, the chief executive of the state is not the Governor, but the chief minister. He is the elected leader of the unicameral legislature. The state does have a governor, but he is appointed by the president of India as an overseer. He/She cannot suggest/promote legislature.

The light was simply not in my favour while I was attempting to take a picture of the famous red brick building that houses the Karnataka High Court directly opposite to the Vidhana Soudha. There are much better pictures in the wiki link.

KittelThis statue is that of the Rev. Ferdinand Kittel, a missionary with the Basel Mission in South India in the mid to late 19th century. You could be forgiven for asking why there would be the statue of an obscure German priest in a land some four thousand miles away. Well, Rev. Kittel compiled and published the world’s first Kannada to English dictionary of about 70,000 words in 1894. A consummate scholar of the language, his definitive book on Kannada grammar and his structured approach to reconciling phraseology from several dialects is in no small measure why people speak Kannada the way they do today. For his dictionary, he was awarded a doctorate by the University of Tubingen in Germany. Bangalore’s “Austin-Town” neighbourhood was recently renamed F. Kittel Nagar in his honour. While the flag that he is holding does eerily resemble the German flag (you might think that the black is tucked away) it is not! That is the so called Kannada ethnic flag. My mum pointed that out to me! I had no idea that such a flag existed. I hope it dosen’t become de rigueur. I am not a flag person.

Sadly not one person I asked knew where the statue was. I had read that it was on MG road, but couldn’t locate it. So I called my dear sister (I refuse to call her a cousin) Indira back in Mysore who googled it and told me exactly where to find it. This pic’s for you Indira.

This is Bangalore’s “Central Park”. Lal Bagh Botanical Gardens. This breathtakingly beautiful park is reminiscent of Paris’s Luxembourg Gardens in its layout and houses several thousand varieties of trees and plants from all around the world.

The famous “Glass House” at Lal Bagh is one of its prime attractions. Its more of a structure with a glass ceiling, so you could probably throw a stone from inside without any of the serious ramifications implied by the cliche, but I did not feel compelled to test my theory!

The gardens were commissioned by Hyder Ali and completed by his son Tipu Sultan. Fortunately however following the ouster of Tipu and the subsequent Rendition of Mysore, (remember, Mysore was the capital then), the Wodeyars proved to be no less than exemplary guardians of Lal Bagh. Modern administrations to their credit, have despite their myriad flaws in other areas, all seen to it that the gardens are well maintained.

I’m willing to go out on a limb and say that only in Bangalore will you find a Hard Rock Cafe next to a book soceity! This is just off of Bangalore’s famous M. G. Road. If you call it Mahatma Gandhi Road, you are announcing to every Bangalorean that you are from out of town!

The Bangalore Palace is a smaller replica of Windsor Castle and was bought by Chamaraja Wodeyar from the British in 1884. The palace has undergone some renovations and is definitely worth a visit.

Unlike the Mysore Palace and the stuffy bureaucrats in charge of it, the Bangalore Palace is delighted to let you snap away to your heart’s content for a fee of Rs. 500 (approximately $13). This is the “Durbar Hall” or Royal Court where the King would receive visitors. If I were the King, I would not receive people potentially hitting me up for money in the midst of such opulence. I’d have them come and visit me in a completely unprepossessing cubicle. But hey, its his palace. I was just trying to offer some much belated and much unsolicited advice!

BP_ElephThe guide informed me that this was a “rogue elephant” i.e. one that went completely out of control and had to be shot. I cannot personally vouch for the veracity of this, but I have heard it said that the kings of Mysore did not allow wild animals to be shot without cause and that the king personally would do the killing of the “man-eating tiger” or “rogue elephant”, if he felt it necessary, as was supposedly the case with this elephant.

BP_BelgThese are Belgian chandeliers.

PubI wouldn’t say that I guzzled, but I did nurse two pints of Kingfisher (or KF as Bangaloreans call it) while watching the highlights of yesterday’s cricket match between the Bangalore Royal Challengers (a team owned by the man that makes Kingfisher!) and the Otago Volts of New Zealand. This is a fairly posh pub but manages to retain a friendly neighbourhood atmosphere. Bangalore, by the way, is still known as the “Pub Capital” of India.

Jacques Kallis of the Bangalore RC cover drives for four. His 73 not out and a couple of wickets earned him the “Man of the Match” award as Bangalore demolished the hapless Otago Volts in a Champions League Match. Cricket, like soccer, has adopted a “Champions League” series picking the best clubs from half a dozen countries. Bangalore is now through to the next round. Its been a week of great sports news for me. First the New York Giants go 5-0 and now this!

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