Exploring Cantonment with Kids

 

Cantonment

A tale of two cities in Bangalore,” says Aryan in our walks. The 10 year old kid was surprised to find two different cultures existing in the city-one the old pette and the other, towns of Cantonment.

Away from the buzz and traffic of the city we took school kids to Richards town, Cleveland Town and Frazer town and here is what we learnt from them.

Fraser Town

 

How do you have photographs of Mr.Frazer,” asks Ankita after she sees a couple of mobile pictures of him. I say, from the net and she is not impressed. She was in truth trying to find out who had photographed Frazer and were there cameras back then?

There were barrage of other interesting questions too.

Hazi Ismail Sait who did so much for the community, what business was he in? Why did he care so much about the education about girls? Krumbiegel  has contributed so much for the city. How is he remembered? Are there any roads,statues or establishment at least named after him?

These kids aged between 10-12 sure could think was what I thought, listening to their flurry of questions.

Why are British statues still here?,” a somber Anurag asks and adds quite politely, “We should remove them“. He is not impressed with Queen Victoria’s haughty statue inside Cubbon Park.

Cantonment Bungalow

 

Seeing the different Bungalows in the walk, the would-be investors wanted to know its present cost.  And they started with the initial price of 10 crores going on till 100!

“Are there any ghosts from British era?,” asked one smart alec. I had to invent some. Peter Colaco’s book came in handy as well. The headless beauty and faceless man stories flowed from my tongue.

It pays to walk with kids. They are always eager to learn more, especially if it is stories. And history is very easily conveyed through stories. The importance of heritage is also communicated.

“The fort that existed should not have been dismantled madam. I wish there were some laws to protect heritage in our city,” says Kiran seriously. I convey to him gently that Bengaluru has not yet got the heritage tag. For these innocent questions and more, I love going on walk with these smarty-pants.

Check out our school programs page if you are interested in sending your kids to an educational tour with us.

Disclaimer: The names of the kids have been changed to protect identity.

Usha

 

 

 

 

 

VV Puram -blissfully delightful

I bite in to the soft Congress Bun and I am in the seventh heaven. This is the first time I have had this, that too in one of the oldest bakeries of Bangalore-the VB Bakery.  And there is only one word for this bun filled with spicy peanuts and butter-exquisite!

Congress Bun

For more than a decade I have lived and worked in Bangalore but I never did visit VV Puram eat/thindi street. This week I had an opportunity to do so but unfortunately it was midday when I visited this place. So the popular shops that dishes out Avarekalu dosa and curd Kodubale(crispy snack) had to be skipped. But there were still a couple of shops open and I was content sampling that.

VV Puram thindi street

My first stop was of course at the VB Bakery. After gorging on the bun and the pleasant fruit cake I bumped in to one of the proprietors. A quick chat with him revealed that the bakery was gearing up to celebrate its 70th year in Bangalore. ” “We are busy making preparations for the event. Ours is the oldest bakery to be opened here at VV Puram,”recalled the owner proudly. They used to supply Garlic bread to Pizza outlets. Khara bun Congress was their avishkar! The sweet damrot prepared with pumpkin is not to be missed either.

Holige

A quick cross over from VB and I had a hot bite of freshly prepared Holige(sweet flat bread) at the outlet- Shree Vasavi Condiments. With dexterity the cook was filling yellow gram, Jaggery stuffing in to the holige ball, patting it skilfully and dropping it in to the flat top grill. 12 holiges in less than a minute, beats the 2 minute maggie ad any day:-)

With the Averekalu(Hyacinth Beans) season beginning, the Belle Nipatu(crispy snack) with generous dose of this beans is also a worthy bite. I wanted a pack of 10 but I didn’t get any. The reason ” Hot illa madam, swalpa kaya beku(The goodies are not hot madam, wait for sometime),” was the shop’s response. Ever been turned out because a shop did not have freshly made stuff for you?

After that I did not get the popular curd Kodubale or the Avarekalu dosas anywhere. The shops all serve these delicacies after six.  But I was not disheartened.

Gulkand at VV Puram:

Gulkand

I got my favorite Gulkand with a dollop of ice cream and fruits at the Shivanna Gulkand shop. U mm…. heaven  with dates, sweet gooseberry, banana, cherry with a generous dose of vanilla flavored ice cream. Sinfully wicked I say and you gotta try it. ” Madam we export our Gulkand and the masala mix to other countries,” said the owner proudly as he counted my change. The Pepsi and other drinks you get here has a twist. The masala mix is generously sprinkled on it making it a Pepsi Masala.

There is of course the Dosas, Thatte Idlis, corns,noodles and chats. A person visiting this little street can happily spend 2-3 hours gorging on the snacks. But if you wish for some long, short tales to go along with it then join Unhurried Food walks and you will not be disappointed.

–Usha

 

 

Three reasons to check out the Military Hotel

Messy,dingy, unhygienic- if these are the words you associate with Military hotels then it is high time you change this notion. A Walk last week with Vidya soon changed my concept of Military Hotels.

Military Hotels were something I stared at while driving through highways. Small tables and chairs crowded in a single room giving a non assuming appearance,  the meat and egg dishes affordable and fulfilling for all the travelers who were cool enough to overlook its appearance. My thoughts about such outlets were not always good, I am ashamed to say. But things changed with a visit to Banashankari.

urundai-curry-or-kaima-unde-curry

After a quick visit to the Banashankari Amma temple we set out on a good 3-4 hour walk and here is what I discovered.

–>The origins of Military Hotel of Bangalore is shouldered in a mystery. There are several versions floating out there, each more captivating then the other. But the stories are definitely interesting from the Maratha’s to the Tipoo Sahib.

naidu-biryani

–>There are huge variations in Hindu and Muslim Military styled hotels. You can clearly distinguish this in their cooking and the dishes you are served with. With a food blogger with me who tastes each grain of the food as if it was her last on the earth, I come to know these subtle differences quite forcibly:-)

–>Military Hotels are not just meat and egg dishes. Each hotel I am taken to has a large range of dishes from Ragi Mude, Paya soup to Mutton Biriyani and Kheema. The owners take pride in talking about each dish. And many seem to be regulars here with the waiters at ease with the customers, serving them their favorites which they routinely  ask for.

chilly-chicken

Today these hotels are no longer hole in the wall eateries. The popular ones have merged with the times dishing out hygienic healthy varieties in air conditioned rooms or at least in wide sunlit rooms reflecting a fresh ambiance. So go check out some of these traditions of old Bangalore before they too disappear in this burgeoning city. Or come with us on a Military Hotel walk and discover the joys of eating.

–Usha

 

 

 

 

Basavanagudi and its charms

Basavanagui is full of secrets. The town looks sleepy but it isn’t. Looks are deceptive I discover as I trudge past its numerous tree laden streets,old homes, bungalows, bazaar and temples.

As I walk down the Bull Temple Road I hit the Nandi temple. I ascend the stone steps and greet the huge granite statue of Nandi the bull.

Bull temple

Bull temple

One of the largest idols of Nandi in Karnataka, the black Nandi idol is impressive. Poornima later tells me that the granite idol has been rubbed constantly by charcoal and oil to keep it dark. As I circle the  Nandi there is another secret I discover.   Beneath me runs a stream that is a part of Vrishabhavati river. Ya the same dark murky waters that you see in Mysore Road sullied by the city it flows through.

bugle rock

I exit the temple and take a right towards the Bugle rock park. This place has its own set of secrets and it keeps it well hidden. One corner of the park has a 3000 million year old rock formation that holds one of the watch towers of Kempe Gowda. I climb the rock mound towards tower and gaze upwards. And what do I see? Two twinkling eyes of the bat stare right back at me. It is hung upside down as usual from a tree. That is when I realize that it is not alone. It has hundreds of companions, all lazily hanging down from the nearby Gulmohar and Eucalyptus trees. The Bugle rock is the abode of fruit bats.

As I slip out of the park I see a laughter club in action;senior citizens all laughing aloud, holding hands and stretching delightfully in this precious green space. As I walk out of this park I realize another thing. This park was an important part of history. During the 3rd Anglo Mysore war a section of Mysore army had collected here and had made their clandestine plans before they went on to attack the British.

I leave behind the tall shady trees and head to DVG Road towards the Bazaar- the go to place for all kannadigas or otherwise. Gandhi Bazaar is a bit like google. You want anything,you get it right there in its criss-cross colorful lanes.The grandma looking for the particular shade of blue for her royal silk saree, the mami looking for an exact kundan piece, the tired laborer looking for a hot cup of coffee and the school boys looking for their favorite ground nut ladoo and congress kadle- Gandhi Bazaar is a delight for people of all ages.

Gandhi Bazaar

Gandhi Bazaar

As I reach the Bazaar circle I head towards Srinivasa Stores, popularly known as Subbama stores. This small outlet is no secret though. With the shop getting featured regularly in a number of magazines and newspapers, people queue up here rattling of various delicacies like Chakuli,Kodbale, Khara, kadle, happala,unde etc.

As I have something more calorie filling in mind, I skip this place for now and drag my feet towards Vidyarthi Bhavan. This again is no secret. The crispy Dosas or the delicious Kesari Bath or the filter coffee you order, everything is done to perfection. This again is no surprise- the eatery has years of experience, say 1943.But what is surprising here is that most of the benches not to mention almera, is decades old so that the old timers feel right at home.

Masala dosa

With a satisfying breakfast that is easy on wallet I head for home with a light heart, the traffic, noise and the pollution no longer bothering me- Basavangudi has that effect on you.

There are more such hidden  nuggets in Basavangudi. But you will have to come on our Unhurried Basavangudi walks to discover that:-)

–Usha

A tryst with flowers

What would our cities be if not for our trees? Without the blooming Cassia flowers, the fiery yellow Tabebuias, the bright purple Jacarandas and the myriad hues of the blooming flowers there would be no warmth in our modern concrete structures, the busy streets and the dull pavements. Thanks to the Arboriculturists thoughtful planning of the city there is no dearth of parks, shady trees and blooming flower trees all through the year.

cassia-spectabilis

A bangalorean can never be deprived of blooming flowers in the city. There is the blue bell shaped Jacaranda in the spring months, then the sheer yellows of Tabebuias.

tabebuias

As if to say that good things don’t last forever the sheer yellows disappear within a week and are slowly replaced by Peltophorum, Mangoes, Dolichandrone etc.

Summer is welcomed by the bright Gul Mohar or the May flowers, then pink Cassias pop up and Pagoda trees blooms. If you are lucky you still find Jacaranda popping up till May.

jacaranda

The wet seasons don’t hamper the blooms of Pagoda and Cassia Javanica. Sweet smelling flowers pop up more during this season like the Champak and the Akash Mallige. The autumn is the time to see orange-red blooms of Tulip Tree, and the winter there are the early blooms of Jacaranada and Tabebuias.

cork-tree

The list is by no means exhaustive and there are more than 100-200 exotic varieties and much more local varieties that grow profusely in the pleasant climate of Bangalore. And we need to thank Cameron, Krumbiegel,H.C Jayaraya,Mari Gowda and Sir Mirza Ismail for this.

caesalpinia-pulcherrima

Krumbiegel laid the foundations of city garden. He had very good support from Krishnaraja Wodeyar. H.C Jayaraya took over after Krumbiegel as superintendent of State Gardens. He was trained at Kew Gardens of London and he was responsible for planting flowering species such as Cassias in Bangalore. Sir Mirza Ismail and Mari Gowda were two others who were responsible for planning of gardens. The National Horticultural library in LalBagh is named after Mari Gowda.

The rocky barren Bangalore earned the title of Garden city due to the efforts of these arboriculturists. So the next time you walk on the traffic laden streets of the city, take time to ponder over these avenue/shady trees and savor a moment of gratitude to these visionaries.

Seven tidbits about Tipu Sultan

 

Tipu sultan

What do you know about Tipu Sultan? That he was a Sultan, famous as the Tiger Of Mysore? Or that his father was Hyder Ali or that there is a fort at Devanhalli that is his birth place, Nandi hills was his summer retreat etc etc…… Though there are a lot of controversies surrounding him, one thing however stands true – he was a great warrior.

A couple of years ago I got my hands on the book – The Sword of Tipu Sultan by Bhagwan S. Gidwani. This book evoked strong emotions in me as the writer describes him as an enlightened ruler. So to learn a bit more about him, I visited his Summer Palace in Bangalore . And here is what I learnt.

tipu-palace

Tipu’s Sufi Connection:

Tipu had a Sufi connection. He was named after a 18th century Sufi saint- Tipu Mastan Awliya. Hyder Ali and his second wife had visited the tomb of this saint for the safe delivery of their child.

Tipu coins with letter H:

Tipu Sultan’s coins most often had the letter ‘H’ in them. It could be the initial letter of his father Hyder Ali’s name or could even refer to the Prophet’s cousin Ali who was known as Haydar. The letter was most often there, either in the center or a small inscription of it somewhere on the face of the coin.

Tiger motifs

The Summer palace has tiger motifs on the walls. Tipu’s love for tigers is universally known. Apparently he had tigers in Srirangapatna too guarding his treasury and the palace. The tiger motifs are seen in his weapons, helmets, embroidered in textiles, on palace walls, coins,Tipu’s throne and in Hyder Ali’s tomb as well.

The musical tiger toy:

The notorious musical instrument ‘Musical Tiger’ struck a lot of chords when it entered Britain after Tipu’s death in 1799. The instrument had the figure of a tiger attacking an European officer. When the handle of the instrument was turned it mimicked the cries of the  soldier coupled with the roar of the tiger. This instrument was the key attraction at the Museum in the Leadenhall street for years.

Tipu’s  Rockets:

Tipu’s rockets in the palace are not very big, an iron  case containing the projectile, tied to a bamboo or wooden pole. But the havoc it caused in Poliur war was tremendous. It could be fired horizontally, projected upwards and it could frighten the horses or set fire to ammunition. Such was its success that after the Anglo Mysore wars the English set about studying these.It was also an inspiration for the first solid fuel rockets.

Tipu’s Treasury:

After his death in the fourth Anglo Mysore War the palace, his treasury, the houses in the city were looted and plundered. Most of his treasures were sent to London.Gold, swords, bales,jewels, silver artifacts, rich carpets- items like the throne made of pure gold was knocked to pieces and then sent. Details of these items can be found in the book Tipu’s Tigers by Susan Stronge.

Tipu and his dreams:

Tipu documented his dreams and he interpreted some of them as well. The 37 dreams recorded were mostly about his enemies and wars – the victories he desired etc.The diary was hidden as Tipu had no inclination to show it to anyone and was later discovered in his bed chamber by Colonel Kirkpatrick after Tipu’s death. The dreams depict what was foremost in his mind- to free his city from the clutches of foreign rule as is indicated in the book The Dreams of Tipu Sultan.

Love him or hate him, but do visit the lovely Summer Palace of Tipu Sultan. Alternatively to hear more about his exploits join us on our Unhurried Walks or register for a private walk with us for a Tipu Trail.

–Usha

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of Memories and Sacrifices- The Hero Stones

A sense of wonder envelops me when I gaze at these stones. Lying neglected under the harsh sunlight at Cubbon Park, they tell a thousand stories of centuries gone by. No amount of dust and years can mar their value. These are the hero stones of yesteryear dedicated to brave men or women who laid down their lives while protecting others.

Hero Stone

The story of the hero:

Also known as Virrakal, these belong to a period between 3rd century BC-18th century AD. Such stones are common in Karnataka and have been found in Tumkur, Shimoga, Bangalore etc. They tell the story of the hero, the battle he fought, the cause of his death and ultimately his union with God. There are 3-4 panels sometimes more, on such stones depicting each event in detail.

Various panels of hero stone:

The bottom panel shows how a hero died. He is shown larger than the others and his cause of death can be understood from this. Bows, arrows, swords, soldiers, horses -a typical battle scene may be described here if the hero died during a battle defending women or livestock. The middle panel shows the hero being taken to heaven by the angels and the top layer shows him being one with God. Inscriptions could also be written sometimes on the stones, narrating the act of bravery done by the person. A hero stone could be dedicated to a man, woman or even an animal. A hero stone for a hound that had killed 70 boars  can be seen in Kolar district.

hero stone

Types of hero stones:

The hero stones are of different types. Some are Sati Stones also known as Masti that tell the stories of women who immolate themselves  on hearing their husband’s death. The widow enters the pyre either with her husband’s body or without. The widow is worshiped as a goddess thereafter and is shown with her right hand rising upwards conveying her blessings to all.

Some are religious like the Nisidi stones that depict Jains who have taken the last vow of Jains- the Sallekhana where they have  voluntarily left the body by reducing food and water. The Pendirudeyurchu hero stone is where the hero died protecting women, the Turugol is where the warrior died defending cattle, the Gadi Kalaga is where the champion died defending border, forts or territories.. The bottom panel generally depicts these scenes in detail.

The era of these stones may have long gone. Yet their heroic deeds, sacrifices cannot be put aside. Dead in any form should be respected and those who gave their lives should be honored, be that centuries may have passed. So the next time you see them, don’t just pass. Pause, take a look at the panels, show them to your kids. Let knowledge transfer happen so that these stones don’t bite the dust over time.

If you wish to see these stones come for an Unhurried Walk with us. The walk schedule is put up here.

Usha