Sunday, December 30, 2007

GLOBAL BANGALORE - IN A HISTORY TRAIL IN MG ROAD

Bangalore Victorian Walk on 23rd December 2007

MG Road Today

HighTech Bangalore

Hightech Bangalore

Occupation in British Bangalore

Occupation in British Bangalore

Occupation in British Bangalore

Occupation in British Bangalore

Life in colonial Bangalore


Hunter dogs readying for hunting

Bangalore's colonial legacy

Bangalore- Lady Curzon Hospital

Bangalore - MG Road

Main Street, Bangalore in 1890s

Main Street, Bangalore

The North gate to Tipu's Palace


The army of Lord Cornwallis, encamped near Bangalore

Plan of the fort of Bangalore by Claude Martin in 1792

Plan of Bangalore by Robert Home in 1791

The Mysore gate of Bangalore in 1804

The northern gate to Tipu's fort in 1804

Fort of Bangalore, from a village outside the maingate in 1792
February 2004…the Pulitzer Prize winner writer Thomas Friedman visits Bangalore to shoot a documentary on Bangalore's global connection. He visits Nandan Nilkeni, the CEO of Infosys at Infosys's campus and discovers the title for his best selling book on globalisation 'World is Flat'. Nilkeni shows him a massive wall-sized screen, the largest in Asia, which could hold a virtual meeting of global clients at any time. He says: "We could be sitting here, somebody from New York, London, Boston, San Francisco, all live. And may be the implementation is in Singapore, so the Singapore person could also be live here. That's globalisation".

Today, Bangalore is truly perceived as a global city providing a platform where intellectual work and intellectual capital could be produced, processed and delivered to anywhere in the world. Keeping apart the knowledge capital, Bangalore is also a global outsourcing hub. Today, 'Bangalored' is a popular American slang, which means youare 'outsourced'.

Bangalore's connection to the wider world is not a recent phenomenon. In 1781, Lord Cornwallis was defeated by a combined American and French Force at the seize of York Town, widely considered as the end of the American revolutionary war. He regained his pride more than a decade later in 1793 when he promulgated the permanent settlement between the East India Company and the Bengali landlords, paving the way to a larger occupying story by the British in India. Imagine if the fog had not descended on Boston harbour and if the British had defeated General Washington – the histories of America and India may have taken a different turn.

Lord Cornwallis arrived at Madras on 12th December 1790. On the 29th of January, he assumed the command at Vellout, where the army had been assembled a few days before, and on February 5th 1791, moved towards Vellore. His intention was to besiege Bangalore. On the 5th of March Bangalore was invested, and seized, from the hands of Tipu. In this successful operation, great military skill was exhibited which animated the whole army with confidence.

Bangalore's cantonment, especially today's Mahatma Gandhi Road (MG Road) was a hilly terrain then. It is said that Cornwallis's army marched on this patch of Bangalore for the attack. In 1799, Tipu was defeated. The mosquitoes drove the British out of Srirangapattana and they barracked Bangalore cantonment.

The seed of Bangalore’s globalisation had been sown even earlier to this event. Hyder Ali, the ruler of Mysore was a brave military genius and cunning. He was both forward looking and appreciator of beauty. He welcomed innovations in all quarters and therefore recruited Portuguese and French soldiers in his army to achieve better results at warfare with their help. He employed skilled Frenchmen to supervise stockpiles of sophisticated military equipment. Great quantities of gun powder, canon bullets and arms were kept busy making swords and brass guns respectively.

Hyder also created the beautiful Lalbagh garden in the city of Bangalore. Lalbagh was later stocked with flora from Kabul, Persia, Mauritius, Pakistan and Turkey. During the seize of Bangalore in 1791, Kirkpatrick writes: “They please me very much…and are laid out with taste and design, the numerous cypress trees that form the principal avenues are the tallest and most beautiful ever saw.”

Tipu also inherited his father’s quality; retained Hyder’s faiths in French mercenaries and weaponry. Under Tipu’s rule Bangalore and its surrounding went through rapid industrialization. Factories in Chennapatna produced high quality glassware and sugar. Fine cotton cloths were being woven in Sarjapur. Tipu established trade links with many countries like France, China, Turkey, Iran, Egypt and Arabia. He even owned facilities in places such as Muscat, Jeddah, Basra and Aden. Under his rule, Bangalore became one of the important cities of the east.

Bangalore was founded by Kempe Godwa I, a chieftain of Yelhanka (now a suburb of Bangalore) under the aegis of Achyutadeva Raya, the ruler of the Vijaynagar Empire. Kempe Godwa I began the building of the city by constructing a mud fort of oval shape. He built temples, tanks and planned residential layouts. His successor Kempe Gowda II carried forward his father’s work; built watch towers for keeping guard over the city, vastly improved the irrigation facilities and made improvements to the existing temples.

On 23rd December 2007, I walked on Bangalore’s MG Road in a history trail with Rupa Pai of Bangalore Walk (
www.bangalorewalks.com) along with 16 other interesting souls. The morning was quite and pleasant. I got down at Trinity Church, which I was told to reach around 7 AM. I reached the gate around 6.30, was surprised not seeing anyone around for the walk. Ten minutes passed. Rupa came in and asked if I am for the Bangalore walk. I said ‘yes’ and shared each other’s professional identities. I discovered that Rupa is Arun’s wife, the one behind conceptualization and execution of Bangalore Walks. In the next twenty minutes, one after another dropped in. At 7 we all entered the premises of the Trinity Church.

Trinity Church was built in the year 1851 and was dedicated by the then Bishop of Madras. It was ready for worship in the year 1852. The church was the largest military or garrison church in southern India and could accommodate seven hundred people at a time. The church had been built to cater to the needs of British regiment stationed in Bangalore. The church possesses beautiful furniture and the great bell of the church was cast in the Mears Foundry of London in 1847. The church has a tall tower and unparalleled pillars, but more than that are the mural tablets and memorials inside – in memory of those who died whilst this unit was in Bangalore. Rupa guided us to the up stair to view the beautiful city of Bangalore.

At present, a few Christian Tamil families who live in nearby Ulsoor are worshippers in the church. They worship in Tamil.

Outside the façade, Rupa showed us an unusual left out – a slab over which written BL. We wondered what BL could be. It was the baseline for one of the most ambitious projects on mapping India carried out by the British. We walked straight on the M.G. Road, came across a large empty plot, beside the road, surrounded by swanky glass paneled MNC towers. Rupa explained: “similar sized plots were in great demand in Bangalore on those days.” We looked at some old secret remnants of colonial legacy on Bangalore’s posh M.G. Road. One of these is owned by a wealthy Tamil Mudaliar.

When the British established their cantonment they also encouraged the wealthy Mudaliars from Madras to settle around the cantonment, to provide services in business on day-to-day basis. There were also need of butchers to supply meat to the British regiment and therefore Muslims also migrated in large numbers and settled in the nearby Shivaji Nagar. Throughout the last two centuries Bangalore’s cantonment and its surroundings have been quite different from the traditional petas of Bangaluru on the other side of the town. “This side has been cosmopolitan through out the last two centuries”, told Rupa. Bangalore’s cantonment area went trough a complete transformation in the second half of the 19th century; a population of nearly 100,000 lived in typical colonial bungalows. Surrounding their settlements also flourished public offices, churches, parks, shops and schools.

The remains of colonial houses in Bangalore’s cantonment are a major evidence of 19th century middle class housing, not only in Bangalore but also in the entire country. The cantonment was laid out as gridiron with tree lined streets, regularly divided building plots and bungalows as the main housing type.

The design of British bungalows in Bangalore has dual origin – the detached rural Bengal housing setting in its compound (from the word root bangla – from Bengal) and the British sub-urban villa. It was a fusion of these two types. The bungalows also reflected the British hierarchy system, the typical residential bungalows for the wealthy, for example, was set back from the road by a walled compound. The amount of land enclosed was a symbol of status. The bungalows had low classical lines of detailing. The Gothic revival of England brought about a corresponding change in bungalow type – spawning buildings with pitched roofs, and richly carpentered details including the monkey tops.

English domestic life in India was full of difficulties. The houses would not have electricity, running water, refrigeration; it would have been open enough for insects, rats, snakes and in remote areas even wild animals to invade. It was found important to send children home to England for schooling, so that family members were separated. There were likely few other Europeans near by, so that people, especially wives with no official work, possibly no children at home, and only a ménage of servants to interact with all day – might feel very isolated. Indeed women also found interests – whether their husband’s work, local charitable pursuits or the outdoor life.

British domestic life in Bangalore was an exception. In 1906, Bangalore became the first Asian city to have electricity. After the plague epidemic in 1898, there was considerable improvement in sanitation and heath facilities developed dramatically. Telephone lines were laid all around. There were schools like St Joseph European High School which was founded in 1865. The school offered liberal education to the European and Anglo-Indian families. The native children also enjoyed the liberal English education along with their European counterparts. Above all Bangalore had excellent climate.

The British also had a rich leisure life in Bangalore. The East Parade Street and the streets like Infantry Road, Brigade Road were the main thoroughfares in this splendid town, always crowded with horse carriages. Hunting in neighbouring landscape was yet another past time activity. A large number of hunter dogs were specially brought to Bangalore for this. Evenings were spent with friends in pubs and parties. Today, Bangalore is called as the pub capital of India, and its origin can be traced back to the British occupation in the second half of the 19th century.

We ended our walk at 10 AM and moved to a terrace restaurant (13th floor) to have a sumptuous breakfast.