We recently read a news report about the BBMP requesting for sanctions to convert a few of Bangalore’s oldest neighbourhoods into ‘smart city’ modules. The list includes areas like Shivajinagar, Malleshwaram and Chamarajpet. Apart from rehabilitation of markets and app-enabled parking spots, the plan also calls for cycling tracks, digital tourist information boards and ports to charge electric cars. We’re mighty kicked about the attention that these historic layouts are receiving, but with BBMP’s usual lack of preparedness, we suspect that the digital wave will mean months (years perhaps) of dug up streets, traffic pile ups and more protests against the felling of trees. Bark bigger than their bite?
And so we decided to mosey on over to Malleshwaram, returning to a few of our favourite spots before the five-year plan is initiated. Of course there’s always the compulsory stop at CTR, but we stick to the less beaten path with local resident Vishnu Ramprasad. Vishnu, who has lived in Malleshwaram for over twenty years, takes us through the crowded streets and old settlements, perplexed by the fact that local residents don’t visit Veena Stores any more. Think of it like the grandmother you haven’t seen in a while, and pop in for an idli-chutney. That’s how we started this tour.
Apart from rehabilitation of markets and app-enabled parking spots, the plan also calls for cycling tracks, digital tourist information boards and ports to charge electric cars.
And now from one sacred spot to the next: 7,000 year-old Nandi Tirtha temple, which until a few years ago was yet to be excavated and labeled a heritage site. Here, a beautiful Nandi sits atop a kalyani, spouting water on an idol of Shiva below.
While we wait to cross the chaotic street outside, we quickly dash into Asha Sweets to get a box of Horlicks Burfi that makes us nostalgic for post-detention drinks.
After the sweet comes the savoury. We head up to 16th Cross where Kumar, who ran the famous Chinese Corner near MLA, has shifted. We keep away from the ‘killer’ gobi Manchurian and order chips masala chat and Bun Nippat Cutlet at Sri Sairam Chats, who shows off because his chaat counter has 99 flavours. But a ‘wich ain’t one.
When the green chutney sets your tongue on fire, look up to the sky for help. It probably won’t rain down on you, but set your sights at the top anyway and take the elevator to the highest floor of Sairam’s building. Here you will find a rare Bangalore beast – a circulating library called Just Reads. As we thumb through the surprisingly large book catalogue, Vishnu tells us that the neighbourhood’s most popular bookstores are the ones that sell photocopied college textbooks at a fraction of the cost, and also buy them back from students. Talk about batch mates.
When you go over to Seva Sadan – and you must - you’ll realise that Malleshwaram dances like no one’s watching. Gaze at the gorgeous kathak and bharatnatyam dancers in their artcentres and stay for a Kannada play. Along the street, earthen water dispensers offer respite to weary walkers, who land up at Sri Mokambika Khara Shop to buy the deep fried, super crispy Iyengar snack, Thengul. A man at the counter tells us he is a fourth generation owner, and that nobody makes thengul like they do. We believe him.
All the walking around means we need liquid alert, and Vishnu knows just the place for it. We take a detour and head to Railway Parallel Road. In front of the quiet Malleshwaram Railway Station is Sri Raghavendra Stores, a tiny kitchen selling idlis, shavige bath, vada and coffee. “This is the locals’ Veena Stores,” says Vishnu, as we dig into a plate of soft idlis submerged in the best coconut chutney. We grudgingly agree. The robust filer kaapi converts us into Raghavendra devotees.
At the end, we ride through Sampige Road past old bungalows, more darshinis, temples and markets. Sipping on a cold beer while we wait for our Bellary Spicy Chicken at Rasa Lounge, Vishnu tells us how this was almost an entirely vegetarian neighbourhood in the past. Not any more though, which means the new smart city app won’t filter any non-veg jokes.
Getting there: Veena Stores, 15th cross, Margosa Road. Nandi Tirtha Temple, 15th corss, Vyalikaval. Asha Sweets, 8th corss, Sampige Road. Kumar's Chinese Corner, Sri Sairam Chats & Just Reads 35/1, 16th cross. Seva Sadan, 14th cross. Sri Mookambika Khara Shop, 4th cross. Sri Raghavenrda Stores, 11th main, Vinayaka Layout.
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