Bengalaru: the Forest Town no more

Portrait of Tipu Sultan once owned by Richard ...

Portrait of Tipu Sultan once owned by Richard Colley Wellsley, now in the care of the British Library. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Bengalaru now Bangalore, growing like a weed and like weeds it can be ugly, growing in the wrong place – not planned but thriving.

It is many cities and all are not yet completed.

Or are completed but falling down due to poor work or shoddy materials.

The road from the airport is reminiscent of those in Colombia – excellent highway by the airport that gets more and more rough as you get to the city proper. When will it be completed as one road with no diversions nor under construction? Well maybe three years.. that’s if you believe it.. more like more as in india one hour is usually two and so on.

And then there is the metro construction to contend with to. That has also dug the roads up. (See Colombia again)

The pavements are as bad or non-existent and you walk in the road. Where they do occur they are mostly all over the place and up and down. Very high of course off the roads due to the monsoon, which has also I think undermined a lot of the pavements. And then there are the huge gutters for the rain…

There is lots of rubbish and mangy dogs. It seems that a rubbish dump was forgotten by the city planners and as the city grew rubbish has got dumped all over the place. And this feeds the dogs of course and the cows too of which there were a few especially down by the market.

Roaming in the City

Roaming in the City

There are clearly expensive flat complexes going up, with swimming pools, duplexes, shuttle-cock courts, landscaped gardens and gyms as well as child-care, and at the same time shanties and some (but few) people still sleeping on the streets. I saw Nandos, Baskin robbins and all many of other Western franchises to feed the urbane population.

This history of Bangalore is interesting because it is relatively recent. There was not a real town there before a sultan came across the site when wandering about in a forest, as they did, being as there is no natural water. The water was need to be supplied by a reservoir which is now a lake of course, in the botanical gardens. The park is an interesting version of a botanical garden with monkeys – the first I saw in Bangalore.

Many of the trees were planted in the time of Tipu Sultan – who was famous for having defeated the British twice before being finally defeated himself. Tipu was so proud of having defeated the British that he had a mechanical tiger made – eating a red coated soldier – the British! This artifact is in the British Museum I believe and still works…

There was a lot of topiary in the botanical gardens and roses but the flower greenhouse was not a greenhouse as we know it. Rather it was an open, glass roofed area where flower shows could be held. One interesting item in the park was a clay sculpture celebrating peace and mankind etc. Unfortunately the clay had started to crumble and we were not sure if this was deliberate or not. There was a severe lack of flowers overall – unlike the university grounds that we visited.

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old reservoir now lake

The hotel clerk assures me that Bangalore is the safest city in India and that was certainly my first impression as I wandered out into a clearly middle-class area with two small parks, swings and flowers and a coffee shop. Luckily I am happily ensconced in this shop when the heavens opened – I had taken an umbrella with me but… so another cup (of good) coffee it was. Coffee is quite a favourite here especially as the young office workers in the IT sites not only drink it as a sign of sophistication, but also as many are UK and US educated with degrees and thus have become quite addicted. Luckily for me, as I am also addicted.

The soil in Bangalore is red and sandy and so doesn’t hold the water – luckily considering the amount of rain that falls – and there is a very fine type of grass that grows in the parks but not under the trees. There are some weeds in it including one that looks like black medic. The park paths are edged with what looks like a yellow privet. The only flowers are on shrubs and small trees.

Park flower

There is evidence of large ant colonies and we saw a termite (?) mound that was taller than me in the university grounds.

Such is the building frenzy around the town that all the empty spaces have the owners’ names and telephone numbers on them. high rents and prices are indicated as new blocks offer many facilities such as children play areas and nurseries, swimming pools, gyms, landscaped gardens, shuttle cock courts (clearly still played) and yet more for the duplexes that they offer.

The university grounds are wonderfully kept and are the true botanical gardens of Bangalore.

One is built in an old forest with protected trees and the other is a flower fest. With many butterflies.

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And yet there is little history left. There was never much of historical building as the area, as I mentioned it was settled late, but Tipu Sultan did build a fort and palace but they are largely demolished. The gates to the fort still remain and are massive as my photo shows (see the man for scale). Great heavy wooden doors. the palace was built of wood – timber that has largely remained intact through 3 centuries, but all that remains is the outside court where the Sultan would hold court and the womens’ gallery. Much of the building was made of mud bricks it seems, which is clearly not suitable in an area of massive rainfall. Especially as the local soil is very unsuitable for making mud! – although I did see a couple of men attempting to make a plaster for a wall out of soil and water – only – not good building!

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What remains of the Old Architecture

What remains of the Old Architecture

So, if you need to visit for work, then fine, but if you are looking for a holiday destination – then don’t bother. There is nothing there for the tourist apart from a craft shop!

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