- a retrospect of the last two Millenniums.
Sitting in Bangalore, perched up on her 3000-feet-above-sea altitude (12deg 57' N. Lat and 77deg 35' E. Long.), feeling chilled and important, surveying all around, and presuming that we are at the center of the universe, only the fear of isolation brings us back to reality, to find that in today's mad-rush world, we are but a 'dot' in a sentence of time. And if anyone had to put down the things that Bangalore was famous for into a 'time-capsule' and bury it till someone from the 'fourth millennium' finds it and wonders how we ever survived for the period we have already crossed. Let them wonder, we know we are living now in the present and that's counts. I am not going to deal with the name of the City of Bangalore, although some are curious about it. Perhaps in print it is well known, but on the Net, it is something new. Let us say that there is a story about a King Vira Ballala who was lost while hunting and turned up at an old woman's hut. She offered her hospitality of shelter for the night and also offered him the only thing she had that was beans to eat. These beans were called 'bengalu', and the story took root so that when the Chief of Magadi, Kempe Gowda set up his Capital, it was referred to as Hale Bengaluru, and corrupted to Bangalore!
When we enter into the new millennium (Y2K! as it's so called!), we tend to get into a philosophical attitude, and we like to do retrospection on the last century, that's the longest any of us could have lived. But there are also memories that go way beyond that, some happy and some sad. India being an old land has many faces of culture that has trickled down the ages, through her local inhabitants (Vedic Age and the Epic Age, Buddhism, Jainism, Guptas, Rajputs, Deccan and Gujarat, and the Maratha and Tamil Kingdoms), and some added through her invaders and visitors. Going back to the first millennium, we find that the trade between India and the rest of the world was in coarse materials, like jute, spices, silks, and basic labour intensive handicrafts. What was introduced into India from the Middle East (then commonly referred to as Persia), China and Europe, was the methods of life styles and communication of Islam, Judaism, Buddhist and Christian cultures. We do need to remember those who have gone before us, fighting for the freedom of our lands, fighting for justice, fighting hunger. Some imprisoned wrongly, some killed for what they believed, some for because who they are, some even make to wear a broom behind them so that they have to sweep away their footprints. Don't we all like to forget these sad days? What about those innocent women, men and children who were killed by tyrant rulers of our lands. Is it poetic justice that we bring in the new millennium with all the blowing of whistles and sounding of horns without pausing for a moment in time to remember to remember? The soldiers who died in a foreign land, just because they followed their adventurous spirit. For those foreigners coming to our lands, there were options for soldiering to be taken as a trade. What is so remarkably unnerving is that the very people who sent them here, would not pay for their way back, so many just drifted around, losing their identity, their families who accompanied them, had no resource to go back, were poor and either the widows took to remarrying or become part of the orphans that were so numerous, that orphanages were more in number than churches. If you really want to step into time, 200 years into the past, all you have to do is visit the Agram Cemetery, and you can read the headstones of the graves of those who died here. Not all died of wars, many died of sickness (cholera, diptheria, malaria, dysentry), children if they were alive after 4 to 5 years would somehow survive till their 30's to 40's. These were the people that actually developed our city called Bangalore. They imported ideas on sanitation, fighting the sickness, establishing proper housing, roads, transportation, welfare, education, and so many positive points, but because some of us who are narrow minded enough to forget that we are what we are today because of them. I am not saying that the other locals did not do anything, it was only after the arrival of these people and their way of life that the others stepped in to do their share. We have a fortunate heritage that brings with it goodness like intellectual learning, religion, culture, but at the same time we tend to forget that some of these same intellectual beings practiced and practice casteism, indifference to the sufferings of the poor, the homeless, the dying, the aged. Somehow, we Indians have kept a certain tradition of looking after the aged because of joint families, but soon that is disappearing as more and more young people are going their own ways. There is the call to new futures overseas, to the so called lands of 'milk and honey', where you are always the 'second class citizen', yet you love to go there, leaving behind your heritage, your culture, your way of life, your food, your families, your freedom
Looking at India from the Southern approach, Education was one of the primary visual imported outputs. Introduction of trade, the new methods of manufacture, the later influence of the East India Company, the Forts that were established to safeguard a small population of expatriates. In Cochin, there is the influence of the Jews, in Kerala and Madras the influence of St. Thomas and the Christians, also the Dutch and French. The Mysore and Bangalore areas were later under the influence of Hyder Ali and Tippu (Tipoo). Small individual kingdoms of the South. These small rulers alienated themselves to the Portuguese, Dutch, French and the British depending on the political need, and advantage that it brought to them. The Portuguese had lots of influence in the early period when the Jesuits were the advisors at the courts of many a Raja. The Dutch could not hold much sway, being chased from the East coast to the West and then finally out, not before leaving a legacy in Cochin (Kochi). The French somehow had a longer span, opening trading posts at Surat and then in Pondicherry, till finally they also moved. But one must also have a background that India was used as a chess board between the European countries, as it reflected the wars and alliances of European powers. Sometimes they were allies sometimes they were forced to be foes. The Portuguese after their hand at the East coast, took up a strong bastion at Goa till recently they handed over to India their property rights.
Bangalore being more or less between the coasts, had a certain amount of stability, but at the same time there was much to guard from the local chieftains who would try their hand at anarching the city. Mysore being the principal city, the capital of what we call today as Karnataka, soon found that it was not much to look forward to, and the British handed over the rule to the local rulers, and moved from Seringapatam (after the defeat of Tipu Sultan on 4th May 1799) to Bangalore (around 1800, the British were in control of the Fort in the Pettah for Administration, thereafter, they occupied the Cantonment a few years later. This is evident from the fact that burials at the Agram Cemetery start around 1809, and the earlier ones would have been around the Fort.) apparently for health purposes and maybe closer to Madras. Just a impish thought … wonder what the state of Bangalore would have been if the British had not defeated Tippu?!! … just imagine our 'beauties' of Bangalore in purdha!! Thinking of what happened at Mysore during Tippu's rule, it's quite a reality. Our 'dance' villages would have been of a slightly different sort, remember that there were dancers at the Persian courts…. the ones that could be popping rubies from their navels!! Nothing serious, lets have a giggle for the millennium!!
Back to Bangalore, I really must have more control on my ramblings, but this is the last time I am doing so for the century, so why not! I was told to 'go for it!', wasn't sure what to go for!! There are some areas that I have not done justice during the last three years, but I will do so now, in this presentation for the millennium. I have had the time to photograph new areas of my city of Bangalore, meet new people, such beautiful people, and what is more striking is that the older generation are so concerned about their city, and caring enough to invite me to visit them to capture time.
Come along with me now, to these areas, to meet some of these people, and share in the memories of Bangalore that they treasure still and now you will see a little while more.
In August 1898, Bangalore suffered a set back in her healthy climate. A plague broke out and the residents where forced to spread far and away form the areas that were most affected. The Administration decided that the cultivation lands around the Basavangudi Temple which lies to the South of the Fort is ideal. It is open, it is the highest part of the City, and so this was the place that needed to be immediately set up, with temporary sheds for sheltering people. At first this area was for a few houses, but gadually the demand was pushed for more and more settlements day by day. Before this got out of hand, the Administration decided at once to lay out a permanent extension of the City to meet the demand that had risen due to the people leaving their original homes, avoiding contamination. This resulted in the acquiring of 440 acres of dry cultivation land at the source of the Vrishabhavati, and laid out as a suburb, named after the Temple of Basaveswara (Bull God, also referred to as the Bull Temple), erected by Kempe Gowda. Another suburb, named Malleswaram, after the Temple in that area was also established, and 291 acres of land were acquired for this suburb. These two areas made up around 731 acres, compared to the City which was around 500 acres. It was said that when the extensions would be completed, they would prove to be model hygenic suburbs, and are expected to more advanced than some of the more affluent towns in British Colonial India. In fact, it is reported that for symmetry, for regularity of street frontages, for accessibility by the shortest routes, for air spaces and public squares, for convenience of conservancy and perfect drainage, there can be equalled to some of the recent cities in America at that time, which was around 1900.
A few more areas that have to be updated are the suburbs on the Eastern side of Bangalore about 100 kms, and another I hope to do shortly is Mysore. Of course the Flowers of Bangalore have always a place in my heart, and on my page. Whenever I see a beautiful flower or a garden I try to capture it on film and share it with others.
There are other areas that I have photographed and which have not yet appeared on India Hello Bangalore Walla Namaskara! I tried to get some photographs of beautiful bungalows that I wasn't able to cover in my early pages on Towns and Houses, but ran into some walls like, Tenant - Landlord tussles, which leaves the poor building in a status quo condition. This is probably the case in quite a lot of old bungalows that were leased out under the Rent Control Act, and today when the lease is over, the Landlord cannot get the house back. I don't envy the Landlords, because some of these properties are very large, and beautiful, and probably on a ridiculous rent! At the same time, but for the Tenants, these houses would have fallen to the builders because of the boom in property rates and artificial advertised claims. Bangalore really fell to the axe due to unscrupulous builders who just went about demolishing old bungalows and today quite a few buildings have not been completed because the bubble burst on the climbing rates, and everything was exposed.
Before I leave you to visit my Bangalore, I would like you to pause for a moment, and bring before you all the tragedies during the last century. We have the Titanic, the Great War that is referred to as the World War One, than there was peace for a long time from 1918 to 1938. Than the Second World War, which brought out the worst in human nature, the holocaust, when 6 million Jews were put to death for no fault of theirs, on the order of one mad man. The loss of the HMT Rhona in the Mediterrian Sea where over a 1200 soldiers died in the cold waters. Normandy beach, the Malaysian peninsula, Burma and Singapore. The Korean War, the Vietnam War, the African Civil Wars, the Indian Sepoy Mutiny, the American War of Independence, the Boat People being gunned down, the Eastern Block wars, and the Indo-China and Indo-Pakistan Wars. There is so much of turmoil, there is so much of distress, there are the catastrophies that have over come many a city. Wiped out from the face of the earth, take Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Bihar, Orissa, Turkey, Iran, name the place and there is always a reminder that once upon a time the land was turned around. In this fleeting thought, while the sky is lit with crackers and fireworks bringing in the new Millennium, let us hope that it brings in a new dawn of tomorrow and with it Peace, Joy, Love and Happiness. Where people are recognised as the human race and not by just numbers, where brother will remember brother, where a child will remember his or her father or mother, where a neighbour will know his neighbour, where a child will not have to starve, where a cripple will not have to crawl, where a blind man will not have to stumble, because there would be a helping hand stretched out to give that healing touch.
We celebrate the beginning of the third millennium, but we forget the beginning of the first. A babe wrapped in swaddling clothes was lying in a manger in Bethlehem, out in the cold, because there was no room in any Inn, has caused this mark in time. The babe that is loved and hated by so many. The babe that is to be the symbol of our helplessness in the present day. The babe that many have died for, right from the time of Herod. The babe who was visited by shepherds guided by angels. The babe that the wise men of the East went in search for after seeing the sign of the star. The baby who is to be the symbol of Peace, Joy, Love and Happiness. Two thousand years ago that child was born. As I quote from the Holy Bible, Isaiah:96 "For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shounder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." Some call that Child Saviour; Some call the child Emmanuel, I just happen to call Him, Jesus, a name that I call on when I need someone to listen to me in my trying times. We do not have to go back two thousand years to see this Child. We do not have to be converted to Christianity to believe in this Child. We do not have to give up our Faith to believe in the Child. We have just to believe in ourselves in our hearts. We need to know that there is a Child in everyone of our brothers and sisters, our neighbours and friends. Our relatives and foes. The Child is in the rich and poor, in the sick and dying, in the hungry and oppressed, in the imprisioned and scorned. Mother Teresa brought this Child to everyone by her way of life, by her service to humanity, she brought Christmas to the dying, lonely castaway, the destitute everyday.
Our skin is only an outward sign that the sun has been near us or further away from us, but inside we are all the same. We are all created by the one God. The God who created the Universe. The God who put a spirit within us, a heart that beats with not only love, but also fear, jealously, hate, envy. This is the cause that man will strike man to make another bow before him. To show superiority and vanity. This little child will also bring together those who are lost in the fast moving world. The little child will also come to heal the wounds caused by the ugliness of selfishness. These are my thoughts, you may agree or may not, but I do wish you the Peace, Joy, Love and Happiness of that little Child they call Jesus, and that is the meaning of Christmas. Sharing what we have with another.
As we enter the millennium, I wish you safety in your journey into the unknown. I wish you the safety that covered the baby in Jerusalem in your future. I wish you the Peace, Joy and Love for you and your families, your friends and loved ones, your children and your old ones. May you experience that warmth that can only come from the heart, and can be experienced only from within. May you experience the child they call Jesus, today and always. Good wishes my friend. Good wishes to you all, from the Bangalorewalla!
Happy Christmas 2003 and a Joyful New Year 2004!
Please send your comments and mail to Ronnie Johnson, the Bangalorewalla
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