Thursday, May 13, 2021

Stupid questions (Repost)

This is a post I wrote on December 13, 2004

This afternoon I went to the Barton Centre. (That's a commercial complex housing shops and offices on M G Road in Bangalore.)

As I was coming down the lift from the seventh floor, I overheard this conversation between two young women who were standing beside me.


(I have disabled comments here. Please key in your comments on the original blog post page.)

Monday, May 10, 2021

Movie - 10 Jours En Or

Image from Netflix

I recently watched this 2012 French comedy-drama, 10 Jours En Or (10 Golden Days). It's about the road trip of a man and a young boy that becomes a turning point in their lives. 

Marc Bajau's (played by Franck Dubosc) stressful job as a sales professional involves a lot of travelling. He is a carefree guy and indulges in one-night stands during his road trips. 

On one such occasion in a hotel, the woman he was with mysteriously disappears. Not only she is gone, but one of Marc's pair of shoes is also missing. 

There is a note in the other shoe that the missing shoe is in a particular room of the hotel. He goes there and finds a young boy, Lucas (Mathis Toure) with Marc's shoe.

(The preview is in French only, but the film has English subtitles)

Marc goes with Lucas looking for his mom. But not with any success. And he has no option but to take the kid along on his road trip. During his journey, he meets an elderly man, Pierre (Claude Rich) as well as a young woman, Julie (Marie Kremer). 

The journey changes the life of Marc as well as Lucas. 

Though the film packs a lot of funny moments during Marc's road trip, the underlying theme is a serious contemporary issue, which you will realise at the end.

Worth watching.

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Pandemic facts and emotions

Everyone is trying to distract themselves. So I didn't want to do a post on this. But then the dominating theme has been -- for now almost one and a half years -- what else!

There have been numerous calls and messages asking us how we are doing. So far so good. Thanks. 

Well, as you might know, things aren't looking good in India. 

Here are some figures drawn from Worldometer, an independent research group based in the US. Figures are as of 1310 IST today.

India reported the maximum number of new cases in the world yesterday -- 355,828; followed by the US -- 39,767; Brazil -- 36,524; Turkey -- 24,73 and Iran -- 20,732. India is way ahead, and that says it all, why we are currently in the spotlight.

As of yesterday, the US had the most number of active cases at 6.7 million and India was the next with 3.4 million. Brazil, France and Iran followed. 

The fact that India is the second-most populous nation in the world with 1.39 billion people, after China with 1.43 billion, and ahead of the US with 332 thousand, gives a different perspective to the numbers.

In India, there are 14,573 people in one million who are infected in comparison to the global figure of 19,779. Slovenia has 116,336, the US 99,903, Sweden 95,903, and France 86,490.

WHY INDIA IS IN THIS STATE NOW

Before that, we must remember that every nation has suffered in the same way sometime over the past one and a half years. The only difference is the way governments have reacted at various stages.

Every nation has also gone through subsequent phases of the infection after its first encounter.

India registered its first case on Jan 29 last year. Daily fresh cases touched a peak of 97,570 on September 12, and it dipped to its lowest of 9,110 on February 9. (Source NDTV)

Like everywhere else in the world, here too people were waiting to clutch that thin straw of hope. And when it came within their reach, they did; in fact, they rushed into it, with a huge sigh of relief.

People rushed out to resume their "old normal" lives. Politicians declared victory. Everyone thought the worst was over and looked forward to the massive rollout of vaccination.

Except for one group of people. That was the scientists, doctors, epidemiologists, virologists etc. They warned of a possible second wave. They pointed to the variants that had surfaced in the UK, South Africa, Brazil etc., in addition to mutations happening within the country itself. 

They warned the people, and the state and central governments not to let the guard down. 

But to no avail.

People, with and without masks, began crowding public places. Cinemas allowed full occupancy. Buses and most of the train services resumed.

Campaigning for State assembly elections in five states and one Union territory went on as if nothing had happened in the world.

So we are back to square one, in a really bad state, battered and bruised.

STRANGE GOVERNMENT LETHARGY

We all knew India's medical/infrastructure won't be able to cope if there is a massive explosion of cases. That precisely was the reason why the Prime Minister ordered a national lockdown last year. 

National lockdown did hurt the economy and people's lives. So that's next to the last option now.

But there were many alternatives -- like local/ district/ regional lockdowns depending on the number of cases. 

And, everyone missed the point about the supply chain of medical oxygen to hospitals. That's at the crux of the oxygen crisis, mainly in Delhi, but in other states as well.

But for some strange reason, the sense of seriousness or urgency, which was evident last year, is sadly this year.

EMOTIONAL DRAIN

Most of the families in India are grieving because someone they know -- a blood relation, a friend or an acquaintance -- has left too soon or is in a hospital.

Last year, when there was a national lockdown, without any warning, the abiding images were of migrant workers left in the lurch, of them walking all the way to their homes.

This year, when there is no lockdown, the abiding images are of long queues of ambulances and mass cremations and burials.

There have been criticisms of the media showing these images. But then that's the reality.

All the news media are full of distressing information. Most people are not following the blow-by-blow account of the deteriorating situation. 

Bengaluru, where I am, is in the midst of a two-week lockdown. The situation is bad but the medical infrastructure is holding up somehow. The lockdown will end on May 12, if there is an improvement in the situation.

I hope we have learned lessons from the mistakes, and the government and the people will not let their guard down, at the slightest sign of improvement in the situation.

Friday, April 30, 2021

#AtoZChallenge - Zoomcar

This is the last in the month-long series -- Blogging from A to Z April Challenge -- one post a day, except the four Sundays. I was posting on features related to my current place of residence, Bengaluru, formerly called by its anglicised version Bangalore. 

A big thank you for stopping by and keying in your comments. I'll follow up on the blogs and posts that I have missed as we get on the road trip from tomorrow. 

See you soon! And take care!

Zoomcar is the first self-drive car rental company in India. It was founded in Bengaluru in 2013, not by Indians, but by two Americans, David Back and Greg Moran. It's like the Zipcar services in the US.

That was a time when many Indians, who had gone to the US for studies and then worked for some time there, were returning home with entrepreneurial dreams and founded startups. 

One of the early examples was Anshuman Bapna, who did his MBA from Stanford, later quit his job with Google in New York, and moved back to Bengaluru to start Mygola, a travel planner in 2009. 

Mygola in a few years was doing so well that some of the world's biggest venture capitalists like Blumberg Capital and Helion Venture Partners were pumping in money. After six years Mygola was acquired by Makemytrip and all its employees moved to the new firm.

Even Americans were moving to India to set up companies, and among them were David Back and Greg Moran, who had met at the University of Pennsylvania from where they graduated. 

This what David Back had to say in a programme on PBS in 2014.

You know, it's being separated from our parents. For me, it's being– separated from my girlfriend for a year and a half. I think that's the real opportunity cost. It's still worth it, though. The scale of the opportunity here, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Greg Morga said:

I mean, we are still young. We're both under 30. We're not married. But we were very fortunate in the fact that for us at least, it was the perfect time in our lives.

Two years later, David Back resigned from the firm and returned to the US.

Zoomcar started with seven cars and now they operate in 28 cities with over 6,500 cars, with an average of around 3,000 rides daily. 

There are many other players too: like Driezy, Carzonrent, Ola Drive etc. But Zoomcar is pinning its hopes high. In this interview last week, Greg Morgan says:  

We are already seeing a 400% rise in demand and we expect this to settle down at 200-300% over the next few months. People are now looking for shorter-term mobility access as opposed to a long-term investment. As people would avoid public transport to keep themselves safe from contracting the virus, the need for rental cars will only go up.

(This concludes the A2ZChallenge.)

Thursday, April 29, 2021

#AtoZChallenge - Y2K Bug

This month, each day, except the four Sundays, I will be blogging about interesting features associated with Bengaluru, formerly known as Bangalore, as part of the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge

Remember the madness, 21 years ago?

For the uninitiated, we are referring to the presumed computer glitch that sent the world into a tizzy in the run-up to the dawn of 2000.

The fear was that everything that is connected to a network of computers -- like banks, flight schedules, even actual flights, railway networks, all types of factory operations, telecom networks, etc. -- would grind to a halt immediately after the midnight of December 31, 1999.

The basis for this fear was that in computer programs, the year was represented by the last two digits. Like, 94 for 1994, 99 for 1999 etc. When the new millennium would dawn, after 99 it would be 00. Computers, it was feared, would read it as the year 1900. And also, 00 is not one more than 99, and that would disrupt all calendar-related operations.

There were many other software-related issues too. And all those gave rise to a huge global industry trying to reformat dates and calendar data. 

An electronic signboard in France
incorrectly displaying 2000 as 1900
Courtesy: Bug de l'an 2000 
In the late 1990s, big Indian companies like Infosys, Wipro (both Bengaluru-headquartered), TCS etc swung into action to make various systems -- of their Indian as well as their global clients -- Y2K compliant. 

A number of small companies came up in Bengaluru cashing in on the huge global opportunity. Education entrepreneurs jumped into the fray and offered 
short-term courses on this unique problem. 

Companies in the US and Europe turned to India, and in a way that set the stage for the BPO (business process outsourcing) industry. 

"Besides the war room in Bangalore, Infosys set up similar Y2K rooms in Fremont, Calif., and Boston and posted coordinators in Europe and Japan to resolve Y2K issues sent to Infosys by its clients," says this article in Computer World.

According to this paper by Devesh Kapur and Ravi Ramamurti, "By 2000, India's software sector's output had grown to $8 billion and exports had risen to $6.2billion ... The US accounted for nearly 60% of India's software exports, followed by Europe with 23.5% and Japan with just 3.5%."

Of course, nothing of those fears came true. Though there might have been a few cases of not much significance where computers miscalculated the date change.

(Tomorrow, the last post in this series)

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

#AtoZChallenge - XIME

This month, each day, except the four Sundays, I will be blogging about interesting features associated with Bengaluru, formerly known as Bangalore, as part of the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge

When one thinks of a course in management studies, it's the reputed federal government-owned IIMs (Indian Institutes of Management) that has multiple campuses in the country that come to mind. But there are many others in the private sector.

One of them is Xavier Institute of Management & Entrepreneurship. Next month on the 28th, it completes 30 years of its inception. From the day when eight founders met at the residence of Bangalore's Archbishop to take the first steps of setting up the institution, it has come a long way. 

They started off in a small building measuring 3,000 sqft within the St. Martha’s Hospital premises in Bangalore. Now they operate out of 165 thousand sqft campus in Electronics City. The second campus came up in Kinfra Tech Park in Kochi and the third one in Oragadam in Chennai. XIME says they are "the biggest private-sector B-School in South India".

Bengaluru is also a major educational hub. It was the Wadiyar family rulers in the 19th century who introduced Western education which then supplemented the existing schools run by religious leaders. Among the earliest institutions are Bangalore University set up in 1886 and University Visvesvaraya College of Engineering founded in 1917. 

An all-India survey conducted by the Union Ministry of Human Resource Development in 2018 said Bengaluru had the most number of colleges in the country, at 893. In 2nd place was Jaipur with 558 colleges.

(Tomorrow, we look at a strange computer glitch that sent Bengaluru into an overdrive) 



Tuesday, April 27, 2021

#AtoZChallenge - Wadiyar family

This month, each day, except the four Sundays, I will be blogging about interesting features associated with Bengaluru, formerly known as Bangalore, as part of the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge

This is a feudal dynasty that ruled the kingdom of Mysore from 1399 when it was founded by Yaduraya Wadiyar. 

From 1399 to 1565, Wadiyars ruled Mysore as vassals of the Vijayanagar Empire. Then from 1565 to 1761, they ruled independently. 

From 1761 to 1796, they ruled under Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan. From 1799 to 1947 they were under the British crown.

In 1947, when India became independent, the princely state acceded to the Indian union (to become the Mysore State). 

The Mysore Palace, the home of Wadiyars.
Image courtesy: Mysore Palace.
The website has a virtual tour of the palace

However, the then ruler Jayachamarajendra Wadiyar continued as the Maharaja until India became a republic and monarchy was abolished in 1950. 

He officially continued with the title of Maharaja until 1971 when Prime Minister Indira Gandhi abolished the royal titles and privy purse of over 560 maharajas across the country. The current head of the family is Yaduveer Krishnadatta Chamaraja, since 2015.

Dasara festival in October is a major event in Mysore, and it was started by Raja Wodeyar I who ruled the kingdom as an independent ruler from 1578 to 1617.

Needless to say, the Wadiyar family over centuries contributed significantly to every aspect of Mysore: administration, education, health infrastructure, irrigation, electricity etc. 

They played a key role in social reformation movements like the abolition of child marriage, and encouraging widows to remarry. Music, both Indian and Western, enjoyed great patronage from the dynasty.

Monday, April 26, 2021

#AtoZChallenge - Visvesvaraya

This month, each day, except the four Sundays, I will be blogging about interesting features associated with Bengaluru, formerly known as Bangalore, as part of the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge

Sir Mokshagundam Visvesvaraya (1860 - 1962), or more popularly just Visvesvaraya or Sir MV, is among the most renowned civil engineers of India. 

(Mokshagundam is a village in present-day Andhra Pradesh, but he was born in Muddenahalli on the outskirts of Bangalore.)

We are told that he was a man of very few words immersing all his time in academic and scholarly pursuits. 

Courtesy: News18
It's best illustrated by an anecdote from his 100th birthday celebrations in Bangalore in 1960. (He lived for another two years.)

At the function, apparently, speaker after speaker heaped praises on him. And when his turn to speak came, he just said, "Thank you."

This is how the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru described him in his centenary tribute: “Dreamer, thinker, and a man of action, not lost in the past but always thinking of the future, living an integrated life, bringing into existence and giving shape to dreams not for himself but for India and the people of India”.

He was also the 19th Diwan (an equivalent of prime minister) of Mysore from 1912 to 1919.

Sir MV with Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru
Courtesy: Deccan Herald

He steered several irrigation projects that not only helped provinces fight flooding during rains but also utilise water efficiently. His counsel was sought for the building of dams in various states, including Mysore's Krishna Raja Sagara dam.

While he was in the administration of Mysore, he pioneered the setting up of a slew of institutions from banks and schools to factories. Like for example, Bangalore Agricultural University, the State Bank of Mysore, Mysore Soap Factory, Mysore Iron & Steel Works (presently Visvesvaraya Iron and Steel Limited), University Visvesvaraya College of Engineering, etc.

He received the Knight Commander of the Indian Empire from King George V in 1915, while he was the Diwan of Mysore. 

Many educational and engineering institutions are named after him and his birthday, September 15, is celebrated as Engineers' Day.

(Tomorrow, again we go back in time to look at something historical)

Saturday, April 24, 2021

#AtoZChallenge - Ulsoor

This month, each day, except the four Sundays, I will be blogging about interesting features associated with Bengaluru, formerly known as Bangalore, as part of the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge

I moved to Bengaluru in 1999 from Hyderabad. Before that, I had been to this city only a few times for job interviews and as a part of college outings.

Ulsoor was the first locality in this city I got familiar with because in its neighbourhood was a friend with whom I stayed initially. An uncle and family too lived nearby.

Right on the next day of my arrival, I went to the Ulsoor Post Office to send a letter to my parents back in Kerala. (Those days, I used to post letters, most often postcards, twice a week, usually Monday and Thursday or Tuesday and Friday, just to let them know I am doing well. My dad also used to write to me twice a week.)

Ulsoor Lake. Courtesy: The Hindu

Ulsoor is also one of those very old areas of the city developed in the early 16th century during the rule of Kempegowda, the founder of the city. There is the Ulsoor Lake -- one of the largest in the city spanning over 120 acres -- built by his successor Kempegowda II. Nearby there is a park, a jogging track, a swimming pool and facilities for rowing.  

This area abuts the Cantonment the British developed. Even now, there are many Indian Army establishments in Ulsoor and its neighbourhood. The Madras Sappers Museum and Archives at the MEG (Madras Engineering Group) Centre is a rich treasure house of history going back to nearly two centuries.

There is a typical old-style market where one can get anything from clothes to books to provisions to household articles, especially traditional ones.

There are many cultural associations and Ulsoor is a hub of different religious festivities. On the banks of the Ulsoor Lake is the magnificent Sri Guru Singh Sabha Gurdwara.

The area underwent considerable change in its topography when the metro rail came up. There is a metro station at Ulsoor on the Pink Line that runs from the east to the west of the city.

(On Monday, it's about one of the most celebrated engineers of Karnataka.)

Friday, April 23, 2021

#AtoZChallenge - Texas Instruments

This month, each day, except the four Sundays, I will be blogging about interesting features associated with Bengaluru, formerly known as Bangalore, as part of the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge

This Dallas, Texas-headquartered semiconductor firm is just one of the big electronics and IT companies in the world that have offices here. 

But I thought of including it in this series because of not just the alphabet but it is also the first multinational company to set up a software division in India, way back in 1985 in Bengaluru. 

Many think this set the pace for the city specifically and India in general to become an information technology powerhouse.

Apparently, there was a lot of criticism regarding TI's decision to set up a full-fledged software R&D centre in India in those times when the nation's political, economic, social landscape didn't even have the faintest resemblance to what it is today.

One of those abiding images from those days is of everything from satellite dishes to servers being transported to TI's Bangalore office in bullock carts! (Photo below) The satellite dish helped the company to have a 24-hour communication network with its Dallas headquarters, something inconceivable in those days.

Photo courtesy: Deccan Herald

In an interview with The Times of India in 2010, the silver jubilee of TI coming to India, Bobby Mitra, then president and managing director, who was among the first recruits, on being asked why the firm chose Bangalore, said: 

One reason was the science and engineering institutions. We wanted to collaborate with public sector units which were the important companies of the time. ... They were building electronic systems. We worked very closely with them and many of them have over time launched very sophisticated and innovative systems.

(By the way, in 1991 -- a couple of years after the Berlin Wall was broken down and the USSR crumbled -- India, which then had a minority centre-left Congress government, in a pathbreaking move, allowed large-scale privatisation of the economy.)

After Texas Instruments came in, a slew of multinational companies followed suit. Now of course every big IT company in the world has an office in India, and some of them are the biggest outside their home country.

(Tomorrow, we visit one of the oldest localities in Bengaluru, also the area I lived in first when I moved into the city in 1999).

Thursday, April 22, 2021

#AtoZChallenge - Someshwara Temple

This month, each day, except the four Sundays, I will be blogging about interesting features associated with Bengaluru, formerly known as Bangalore, as part of the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge

This is one of those very old temples in Bengaluru, dating back to the Chola era, and is located in Halasuru (formerly called Ulsoor), within the CBD. 

The Chola Dynasty is considered to be one of the longest-ruling dynasties in the world -- from 3BC to the AD 13 century.

Not much is known about the origins of this temple where Lord Shiva is the deity. Most people say it was built by Kempe Gowda, who is considered the founder of this city sometime in the early 16th century, during the Vijayanagar empire period. But it's generally believed that it has been there for many centuries before that.  

The temple has impressive pillars, carvings and inscriptions. Here are some photos sourced from Wikipedia.

Temple entrance.
Courtesy: Dineshkannambadi/Wikipedia 

Inside the temple.
Courtesy: Dineshkannambadi/Wikipedia

The pillars.
Courtesy: Dineshkannambadi/Wikipedia

(Tomorrow, we look at one of the major IT companies, which has a bit of historical significance associated with it.)


Wednesday, April 21, 2021

#AtoZChallenge - Raagi Mudde

This month, each day, except the four Sundays, I will be blogging about interesting features associated with Bengaluru, formerly known as Bangalore, as part of the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge

This is perhaps one of the simplest meals and very popular in Karnataka, and parts of Andhra Pradesh. Raagi is finger millet and mudde is a lump.

It's made by adding water to finger millet flour and steam cooked and later rolled into soft lumps. Though it sounds simple apparently you need some experience to get the right consistency for the mixture.

With good content of fibre, calcium, phosphorus, potassium and iron, it is considered quite nutritious and is commonly had as a wholesome meal along with some curry like sambar or chutney.

It's claimed that it helps in controlling diabetes, anaemia, improving bone density, etc.

Interestingly, this was once considered "the poor man's breakfast cereal" but now is a very popular dish across social strata.

There are plenty of websites that tell you how to make it. A couple of them are this and this


Tuesday, April 20, 2021

#AtoZChallenge - QSRs

This month, each day, except the four Sundays, I will be blogging about interesting features associated with Bengaluru, formerly known as Bangalore, as part of the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge

Quick Service Restaurants. That's the food industry term for what is popularly called fast food joints.

They are of course not unique to Bengaluru. They are all over the world -- the likes of KFC, McDonald's, Subway, Burger King, etc.

There now numerous Indian versions of these that can be found wherever there is a good gathering of people. Some of them are big chains but a vast majority of them are very small outlets doing business in only a particular area. 

The first QSR in India arguably came up in Bengaluru, long before the city transformed itself into a crowded metropolis. 

An entrepreneur named Prabhakar R -- who got inspired by the fast-food chains during his trips abroad -- incorporated the QSR model at his brother-in-law's Cafe Darshini in Jayanagar in south Bengaluru in 1983, says this article in The Times of India.


It later closed down and then came the Upahara Darshini. The word Darshini later became synonymous with fast food joints in Bengaluru. So we have Indira Darshini, Amrutha Darshini, Vaibhav Darshini, Ganesha Darshini, etc.

Ever since that there has been a revolution of sorts in the Darshini sector, especially from the late 1990s, when the IT boom struck the city. And now there are many that don't have the word Darshini in the name of the restaurant.

The menu in a Darshini is a vegetarian fare -- generally, idli, dosa, vada, upma and other rice or wheat-based dishes, plus tea or coffee; and they are served quickly and are very affordably priced. 

Most of them have very limited seating capacity, and you will have to have the food standing at a table that is shared by others. 

It is also a sort of social leveller as one can find people from all social strata at a Darshini, quickly grabbing a bite and moving on.

(Tomorrow, we look at a very popular wholesome meal.)

Monday, April 19, 2021

#AtoZChallenge - Palace, Pete, Pensioners' Paradise

This month, each day, except the four Sundays, I will be blogging about interesting features associated with Bengaluru, formerly known as Bangalore, as part of the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge

Before I start today's post, I must thank everyone who has been not only reading all my posts but also taking the effort to key in interesting and elaborate comments.

I must also tender an apology for one, not being able to acknowledge all their comments and two, not being able to make a return visit to all their posts; and even if I have, not being able to post a comment. I hope you would understand that this month has been really hectic.   

The city has a massive palace too to boast of. The huge 45,000 square feet mansion belongs to the Wadiyar family, the erstwhile rulers of Mysore. The Bangalore Palace is one of the major tourist attractions of the city and it has an interesting history. 

The property was bought by Chamarajendra Wadiyar X, the 23rd maharaja of the Kingdom of Mysore in 1873 from Rev J Garrett, principal of the Central High School, now known as Central College.

(The following three photos were taken by me when I took my friends from England and Germany to the Palace in 2014.)

The maharaja was then a minor, and he used to come to Bangalore for various training activities in the run-up to his ascension to power in 1881. The property was refurbished into a palace for him to stay during his Bangalore sojourn.

REGAL SPLENDOUR

The 35-bedroom mansion was built in Tudor Revival style architecture. There is an open courtyard, a ballroom, and a durbar hall, where the king used to address the assembly, besides a number of articles and furniture used by the members of the royal family. The interiors are adorned with highly artistic lamps of various sizes and shapes, and the walls sport many paintings.

Here's a description of the palace by Late Srikantadatta Narasimharaja Wadiyar, 26th head of the erstwhile royal family and a former member of Indian parliament, in an interview in 2007.

My great grandfather lived in the South-West wing of the palace and my father lived in the North-East wing. I also grew up in the rooms on the first floor in the Northern-Eastern wing.

Standing in the heart of the city, near Vasanthnagar, the palace is a regal slice of medieval England and its architecture. The structure has fortified towers and its interiors embellished with elegant wood carvings and Tudor-style architecture, complete with aesthetic Gothic windows, battlements and turrets. The interiors have awesome floral motifs, cornices, moulding and relief paintings on its ceiling.

MUSIC CONCERTS

Near the mansion is what is now known as the Palace Grounds, which is a popular venue for cultural programmes. There is an amusement park called Fun World here.

A number of famous international music bands have performed here, like Iron Maiden (2007), Black Eyed Peas (2007), BoneyM (2008) Backstreet Boys (2010), and Lamb of God (2010). 

The performance by Metallica in 2011 was the last musical event in Palace Grounds as the government shifted such mega concerts to the outskirts of the city.

PETE AREA

On another side of Bengaluru is one of the oldest commercial areas, the Pete, which means market in Kannada, the regional language of Karnataka of which Bengaluru is the capital.

It refers to a large swathe of land set up and developed by Kempegowda, a chieftain of the Vijayanagara empire, who is widely believed to have founded the city in 1537.

It ran 2.5 km from east to west (called Surya beedi or what is now the Chickpet Road) and 1.5 km from north to south (Chandra beedi or what is now the Avenue Road). It was protected by a mud fort wall and a deep trench around the perimeter.

The Pete was divided into many smaller areas known by different names depending on what was predominantly traded. For example, Akkipet (rice market), Cottonpet (cotton market), Kumbarpet (clay/pot traders), Upparpet (salt traders) etc. (The -pete suffix has got anglicised to -pet.)

Chickpet last year soon after it was reopened
after the lockdown. Courtesy: The News Minute 

After the Kempegowda rule, came the Adil Shahis of Bijapur and then Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan of Mysore. During this time, Pete suffered from a lack of attention and finally lost out to the Cantonment set up by the British.

With gradual urbanisation, the mud walls and trenches around the Pete vanished. 

According to Dr S K Aruni, Deputy Director of the Indian Council for Historical Research, Bengaluru, in an article in The Hindu, "Amazingly, all the houses of the old capital town are now shops or commercial establishments. Nowhere else in South India can such an example be found of an entire old city being converted into a commercial area."

Even today, in a sense, Bengaluru continues to be a commercial hub, trading in everything related to the ubiquitous Information Technology.

PENSIONERS' PARADISE

This is one of the many sobriquets for the city. That's because of the salubrious climate the city has, owing to its unique geographical location: somewhat halfway between the east and west coast on the Deccan Plateau, at an altitude of 920 meters above sea level.

That combined with the extremely quiet, laidback pace the city had made it an attractive destination for many people post-retirement. 

However, since the late 1990s, the city has rapidly transformed into a fast-growing burgeoning metropolis with concrete structures chipping away at the greenery the city was always known for. 

In spite of this, the city is still a very popular destination for students, various professionals, entrepreneurs, besides, of course, tourists and senior citizens.

(Tomorrow, we turn to food again.)


Saturday, April 17, 2021

#AtoZChallenge - Obbattu

 (This month, each day, except the four Sundays, I will be blogging about interesting features associated with Bengaluru, formerly known as Bangalore, as part of the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge)

Obbattu is a very popular sweet dish. It's known by different names depending on the State. Here in Karnataka, it's also called holige. In Kerala, it's boli, and in many other places puran poli.

It's a sort of flatbread, made of wheat flour or chana dal (chickpea lentils) or maida (refined wheat flour). Other ingredients include turmeric powder, grated coconut, jaggery or sugar, cardamom powder, salt, cooking oil, etc.

There are so many regional variants of this.

Image courtesy: The Times of India

 Though it can be made and had at any time, it's a very common dish during festivals or joyful occasions like weddings. There are plenty of websites that tell you how to make it. Here's one - Archana's Kitchen.

(In the next part in the series, on the 19th, we again go back in time and look at something historical.)



Friday, April 16, 2021

#AtoZChallenge - Nandi Hills

(This month, each day, except the four Sundays, I will be blogging about interesting features associated with Bengaluru, formerly known as Bangalore, as part of the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge)

This is not in Bengaluru. But I am including it in this series because Nandi Hills, a hill station around 65 km north of the city, is perhaps the most popular getaway for Bengalureans.

This was a fortress built by the rulers of the Ganga dynasty (350 - 550). It's spread over 90 acres and around 5,000 feet above sea level. It was developed during the reign of Tipu Sultan from 1782, and he used it as a summer retreat. The British stormed it in 1791 during the Third Anglo-Mysore War.

There is a botanical garden with some rare plant species. One can get a breathtaking view of the surroundings. It's a favourite of trekkers too. Many people come late in the evening, camp there, to see the sunrise the next morning.

Atop the hill is a spot called "Tipu Drop". One of the stories is that during Tipu's reign, any rebellion was quelled by pushing the rebels down the cliff. The uprising petered away as the rebels just disappeared. The place is barricaded now for safety.

The three photos here are from what I took during an outing way back in 2006.



Can't believe it's been so long since the last visit. 

(Tomorrow, sit down with me for a sweet dish)

Thursday, April 15, 2021

#AtoZChallenge - Mayo Hall

(This month, each day, except the four Sundays, I will be blogging about interesting features associated with Bengaluru, formerly known as Bangalore, as part of the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge)

This is not a hall but a building. It gets its name from Lord Mayo, who served as the fourth Viceroy of India from 1869 to 1872. He was christened Richard Southwell Bourke, 6th Earl of Mayo, and he was generally referred to as Lord Mayo in India.

His tenure as viceroy came to a tragic end when he was stabbed to death, while on a visit to the jail in Port Blair in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, by a Pathan prisoner named Sher Ali, to avenge the death of his father in the First Anglo-Afghan War of 1839-1842.

Image courtesy: Bangalore Tourism

The two-storied Mayo Hall was built in 1883 and stood all alone in regal majesty atop an elevated plane giving people a panoramic view of the surroundings in the east of the city. It has since undergone multiple renovations. 

In 2011, a museum in the memory of Kempegowda, the 16th-century chieftain of the Vijayanagar Empire considered to be the founder of Bangalore, was opened on the first floor. But two years ago, it was temporarily shut following a dispute over which government department should administer and maintain it. Most of the lower floor of Mayo Hall houses the city and civil courts.

Here is a description of the Mayo Hall by Meera Iyer, convenor, INTACH Bengaluru, and a researcher, in The Hindu, Sept 27, 2019 

One characteristic of Renaissance Revival is the lavish ornamentation of windows. Each of Mayo Hall’s first-floor windows is a delicious confection. Each has either a triangular or arched pediment, with mouldings supported on curved consoles or brackets lovingly decorated with acanthus leaves. Each window is framed by decorative pilasters, a small floral scroll on top, and a balustraded ledge below. Ground floor windows are differently treated with flat hoods, simple pilasters and unpretentious consoles. The division between the floors is accentuated by a belt course decorated with a Greek meander, a popular geometric motif in Western art.

Today the building is overshadowed by the 25-floor commercial complex Public Utility Buildings on one side and the elevated metro rail running in front of it.

(Join me tomorrow, we head to a hill station)

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

#AtoZChallenge - Lalbagh

(This month, each day, except the four Sundays, I will be blogging about interesting features associated with Bengaluru, formerly known as Bangalore, as part of the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge)

The nearly 1 square kilometer (0.38 square mile) expanse of green space in the south of Bengaluru is an island of tranquility.

Lalbagh was set up in 1760 by the ruler of Mysore Hyder Ali as a private garden on the lines of Delhi's Mughal Gardens. His son Tipu Sultan developed it further by bringing in seeds and saplings from abroad.

It was named Lalbagh in 1856. From the next year, flower shows began to be held. Even now, there two, one on Independence Day (on Aug 15) and the other on Republic Day (on Jan 26), to showcase the large diversity of flora that the garden boasts of.

It's said two mango trees that are over 250 years old, planted during the time of Hyder Ali, are the oldest in Lalbagh today. There are now 2,150 species of plants belonging to 673 genera and 140 families.

I will let some photos speak. Here are some that I took during a visit in 2016.



This is the famous Glasshouse erected in 1889-90, apparently
modelled on the lines of London's Crystal Palace.

The lawn clock.

The tree fossil.
Description below


REFERENCES:

Karntaka Government's Horticultural Department

The Hindu

The Economic Times

(Tomorrow we head to Bengaluru's city centre and look at a 19th century building.)

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

#AtoZChallenge - Karaga

(This month, each day, except the four Sundays, I will be blogging about interesting features associated with Bengaluru, formerly known as Bangalore, as part of the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge)

This is a very old festival of Bengaluru, probably dating back at least two centuries. 

Celebrated with pomp and enthusiasm on the full moon day in March-April, it commemorates the annual return of Draupadi (one of the central characters in the Indian epic Mahabharata) to visit her warrior sons. 

Though originally it began as a festival of the Tigala community (of gardeners), today it cuts across all sects. 

THE PROCESSION

One of the main elements is the procession in which the priest balances the floral pyramid atop the Karaga (an earthen pot), the contents of which is believed to have divine powers. The centre of the festival is the Dharmaraya Swamy temple at Tigalarapete, one of four shrines in the city dedicated to Draupadi and Pandavas.

Dharmaraya Swamy Temple.
Image credit: Wikipedia

The priest carrying the Karaga.
Image credit: The News Minute 
The carrier, who is selected six months before the festival, is a man who is dressed as a woman symbolising Draupadi. In fact, during those six months of preparation, he disassociates himself from his family and undergoes strict training.

There are Karaga festivals in other towns but the one in Dharmaraya Swamy temple (also knowns as Bangalore Karaga) is the most popular. The procession passes through various parts of the area where large crowds of people worship the Karaga.

COVID SHADOW

Last year, for the first time living memory, the Karaga celebration -- which normally sees hundreds of thousands of people take part -- was curtailed to a few rituals within the temple with just 13 people in attendance.

It's not going to be any different this time, with the country and more specifically Bengaluru seeing a huge spike in the number of people testing positive.

(Tomorrow, we head to one of the most popular and historical gardens in Bengaluru.)


REFERENCES

Bengaluru’s Karaga Festival: Folk Origins and Rituals, by Roshini Muralidhara

Monday, April 12, 2021

#AtZChallenge - Japanese Language School

(This month, each day, except the four Sundays, I will be blogging about interesting features associated with Bengaluru, formerly known as Bangalore, as part of the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge)

Considering that Bengaluru is a melting pot of cultures and a technology powerhouse driving businesses around the world, it's only natural that there many foreign language schools and teachers in the city. 

A random online survey showed at least 10 institutes in the city each for language like French, Spanish, German, Japanese, Italian, Chinese etc. Besides, there are many who teach small groups of students at their homes.

In 2014, there were around 200 Japanese companies in Karnataka and the Japanese population was about 600. Five years later, the corresponding figures were 530 and 1,300, according to Deccan Herald. There are around 30 Japanese restaurants too in Bengaluru. 

We are on J today, therefore, Japanese Language School. It was established in 1984, which its website says is "the first organized Japanese language institute in Bangalore". 

The entire course was designed especially for the Indians by an Indian educationist and Japanese expert late H Ganesh. According to him, the pronunciation and grammar aren't tough; it's the vocabulary that is difficult since it's very different from Indian or European languages.

Images from Japan Habba (Festival of Japan 2019)
Source: Consulate-General of Japan, Bengaluru

The course is stuctured keeping in mind the Japanese Language Proficiecy Test certificate which is recognised world over. The levels of learning range from the basic N5 to the highest N1. Besides grammar and vocabulary, students are also taught basic Japanese culture like etiquette.

My son studied at the Japanese Language School and cleared the elementary level. He couldn't continue the course as he had to move to Sydney. We keep telling him to keep in touch with the language in some way so that he doesn't forget what he learnt. Not sure if he is getting the time for it.

In the city, the other two very popular foreign cultural centres are the Alliance Francaise (for French) and the Goethe-Institut (for German), which in India are called Max Mueller Bhavan, in honour of Friedrich Max Müller, who specialised in Indian languages and culture.

(Tomorrow, we go back in time again - it's about a centuries-old festival.)