'I think the best word that describes Bangalore’s cool refreshing breeze is zephyr. And it's this wind and soft fragrances of Bangalore that will cradle you all through, during your visit to the Garden City,' says Sumit Ganguli.
Do the airports of India almost represent the character of the city that it serves?
When we land at the Bangalore airport, there is a sense of quiet efficiency.
Bangalore or Bengaluru airport with its glass, chrome and steel reminds you of the Zurich airport. It is decidedly compact and understated compared to the massive ostentatious representation of the New Delhi airport or the sudden grandeur of the Mumbai International airport that is still coping to bring order out of the chaos, or Kolkata’s airport that tries to mask its rather humble infrastructure with poetic vernacular etchings on the airport ceiling.
Once you come out of the airport, the first thing that engulfs you, is the cool fragrant breeze of the city, it is cool yet not distant and is largely because of the 3000 ft height above sea level.
I think the best word that describes Bangalore’s cool refreshing breeze is zephyr. And it is this wind and soft fragrances of Bangalore that will cradle you all through, during your visit to the Garden City.
When the airport was first conceived, almost 35 km away from the city and the fact that it took almost one hour to reach, there were lot of protests and rumblings.
But today, organised car parks, the steady stream of taxi cars at the exit, the smart dark glassed Taj Airport hotel, and the long stretch of drive with rolling manicured gardens and smart well-lit billboards, could make you mistake this for a not so distant country cousin of the Changi Airport. But after few miles the melee starts and you quickly drive over a flyover and hit the city.
A mud fort constructed by Kempe Gowda formed the foundation of Bangalore in 1537.
The Marathas, Mughals and then the Wadiyars, the British all ruled Bangalore, and the latter played a key role in shaping the Gardens, the cantonments and the edifices in Bangalore.
The industrial tribal story goes that when Texas Instruments wanted to set up an Indian entity, some of the executives preferred Bangalore for its soothing climate. That was followed by a deluge of US based multinationals setting up their offshore centers in Bangalore.
Either through serendipity, alignment of stars or through the foresight of key business leaders, Infosys, Wipro and many other Indian IT companies have established Bangalore as a leading technology center, outside of the Silicon Valley.
Today Bangalore has become synonymous with IT and BPO and this has transformed the sleepy, 'no fan required, cantonment area', an attractive retirement destination area into the teeming place for the young and restless with stock options and attitude.
But I relish the lazy, languid Bangalore and wanted you, my readers, to walk with me on few Sunday mornings through the meandering roads of Bangalore and stroll through the parks.
The roads are empty, traffic sparse and you could walk to either Lavelle Road or gleefully cross the Richmond Circle at the heart of the city.
You could peep through the massive gates of Bishop Cotton School and marvel at the vast expanse of the school’s playground and its history of almost 150 years.
Just beside Bishop Cotton is Bangalore Club, a legacy of the British with sentried guards, keeping a watch over non-members wanting to gape, and obsequiously fawning over member’s cars.
It is a world of its own, freshly painted, quaint, charmed blue buildings, chairs in the lawn, young and old members sweating it out at the tennis courts and ordering unique snacks and meals that are so endemic to the Indian Clubs.
The lazy, old ceiling fans try to feign effort at airing the halls and the Mrs Mansukhani, Ms Perriera and Mrs Swami are anxiously waiting to start off their card game. There is again the Bangalore’s zephyr slowing things down a tad bit.
There is a quiet dignity here, at the Bangalore Club, different than the high octave and stuffy gymkhanas of some of the larger western and northern cities.
Lavelle Road sees itself lined by the Parsi restaurant with the most curious and unforgettable name SodaBottleOpenerWala, and the Lamborgini dealership round the corner provide for an incongruous pairing.
You will not want to miss the towering UB City Mall, with the high-end brands, and dwell on the backstory of Bangalore’s own Richard Branson, Vijay Mallya.
His penchant to fly high, fueled by high spirits and how he has been literally grounded. There are a whole host of puns here, and they are all pun intended.
Go further up, you could see the newly laid pavements by the Bengaluru Nagarpalika, and the uniformly spaced, well-rounded metal spikes to deter vehicles and scooters to drive on the sidewalks.
And you come across Koshy’s restaurant, the bastion of old school Bangalore food, Mince Mutton on Toast, Liver on Toast and Chicken Shashlik.
KC Das is a food destination in Kolkata serving Bengali singharas, and Bengali sweets.
Somehow, in a sudden case of inspiration, KC Das opened an outlet many years ago in Bangalore, opposite Koshy’s.
If you would like to relish a heavy Bengali meal of luchi and aloor tarkari and top it up with sandesh, KC Das is the place for the Sunday warriors in Bangalore.
And then the parks, Bangalore has always been proud of its sobriquet, Garden City.
With its temperate climate and healthy share of rain, I am almost willing to believe my brother when he says, “In Bangalore, if you plant a thumb, it will grow into a tree, thanks to the great soil and weather."
But Cubbon Park and Lal Bagh are truly a great experience.
If you are planning on visiting Bangalore just for Cubbon Park and Lal Bagh, they are reasons enough to trek to South India’s Deccan plateau.
Cubbon Park which spans over 300 acres is the 'lungs' of Bangalore. It was named after Sir Mark Cubbon and has since been renamed as Sri Chamarajendra Park, in memory of the 19th century ruler of the state.
The progressive citizens of the city have worked hard to make this a vibrant morning therapy ground.
There are the Runners High members, weaving through the more laid-back walkers and strollers.
The trees are really old and knotted and the bamboo trees demonstrate real strength in their bunched numbers.
The red library and the hall, framed with the green foliage and the lush rose garden, does more to promote Zen, than the ardent group of Fallon Gong members, can ever muster. This is a cross section of Bangalore that is healthy, high-thinking and fairly committed.
The dog park has dogs of all denominations and the giddy dog owners socialising with each other and exchanging dog care tips. The most recent development are the cultural performances by the young Bharatnatyam dancers or the musicians performing at the Band Stand.
I think Cubbon Park and also Lal Bagh, represent the upswing at Bangalore, a community that is committed to uplift Bangalore, has focus on the environment, on health and a purpose. I am convinced that Cubbon Park and Lal Bagh of Bangalore can stand its own and more, against the Hyde Park of London, Central Park of NYC and Bois de Boulogne of Paris.
Lal Bagh was developed by Hyder Ali, father of the famous Tipu Sultan. The garden is built around an awesome rock formation that seemed to have emerged out of the ground. The glass house in the Botanical Garden has been highly influenced by the European gardens. There are lakes and an impressive natural walking and running tracks that invite a large number of residents, who take the time to glam up early for this morning soiree.
Spend some time taking in the splendour of the Vidhana Soudha, the seat of state legislature of Karnataka. This is a testament to the pursuit and effort of Kengal Hanumanthia, second chief minister of Karnataka and the architecture has been termed as Neo Dravidian.
Of all the other cities in India, Bangalore is one city, where you can actually walk around and take in the crowd and confusion.
You can jostle at the Commercial Street...see the actual evolution of the old to the new at the 100 ft road, where the old 1950s and 60s homes are being replaced by models with attitude, looking down at you from the glass facades of Nike, Adidas, Reebok stores etc.
I would also like to return to my favourite theme of tolerance. Bangalore is one city, where the two religions are much more integrated compared to some of the other cities.
While Commercial Street is getting its perpetual facelifts, new glitzy shops are taking over from the older homes and the roads are milling with the IT and BPO millennials, the row houses surrounding it are largely inhabited by the local Muslims who attend the local mosques. Bangalore has been relatively devoid of any sectarian violence, for many years.
Do not get deterred by the heavy traffic at Bangalore or dismiss it strictly as an IT, BPO destination.
Bangalore like its breeze or zephyr is a city with character, climate and cuisines, and do come for a canter and whet your curiosity.
But please do stay over on Sundays and walk with me through the languid lanes of Bangalore’s roads and parks.
Photographs: Sumit Ganguli
Sumit Ganguli is the CEO of GAVS Technologies and a General Partner with Basil Partners.You can follow him on Twitter at @SumitGanguli or reach him email@example.com