wk 28 – bangalore bum, churchill & metro

And so to another mini holiday away from India, at least that is what purple lotus residency on Lavelle road feels like, in the midst of busy Bangalore; we are in a beautiful room, in a quiet oasis with waterfalls, flowers, lotus ponds, circling kites and surrounded by big old turn of the century (last one!) homes.

Thanks to facebook I discovered that one of my old friends Sema, from school in Rome, is now living in Bangalore and we had a lovely lunch in a hidden oasis away from the busy streets.

We were walking distance from a crazily modern exclusive mall, built by the “kingfisher” family, check out the LV elephant window, and the rather weird dance festival that ended up between the escalators due to rain ruling out the open air stage:

Without a doubt one of the most amazing things we’ve done in India so far, despite the 6am wake up call, is the Bangalore walk…so many people have been a little incredulous when we say we plan to spend 3 days in Bangalore, it has it’s own story, though you need to dig deeper; a young city with a fascinating past, all you need is an amazing guide to bring it to life plus a good imagination…and that is exactly what our guide managed and more, did you know…?

  • Winston Churchill started his military career here and fell in love with a girl called Pamela who he wasn’t allowed to marry as her parents didn’t think he had particularly good prospects (!) he also left a famous debt of 13 rupees, still outstanding, at the Bangalore club. He is back right in a Bangalore polo photo below:

  • The whole city was created around a huge military barracks and was sort of given to the British by Tipu Sultan in early 1800 as a truce of sorts, hence the road names, artillery, cavalry, infantry, fort, brigade and commissariat, Tipu also had to sign over two of his sons to the British, a human ransom of sorts…
  • India Pale Ale was specially developed to withstand the long boat journey to India and to try and get the soldiers off the vice of potent local arak and back to beer in Bangalore.
  • Most of the major highway of MG road, now covered by the brand new metro which finally opened only 4 weeks ago, was owned by only one extended family, with each house covering acres and acres with massive gardens at the rear, much of their money made from out-sourcing by the British and needs of the army. This is a photo of an amazingly green Bangalore and the brand new metro line:

  • Some houses still remain, and in a story that had ‘Castle’ parellels one man has held out and kept his house; the MG road metro station has been built in his front garden.

  • A huge map surveying project took place in 1870 across India, with equally huge numbers of surveyors killed by rather hungry tigers, with no appreciation clearly for workplace safety…

  • Buried in Holy Trinity church in Bangalore is a Doyle, a Dalrymple (maybe a relation of one of my fav authors who lives/writes about India?) and a man who died in Melbourne and is commemorated here…
  • The life-size toy tiger eating an Englishman made out of wood that we saw and giggled over in London’s V&A a few weeks ago, was actually made for Tipu Sultan, bit of an in-joke, as he was known as the tiger of Mysore and the toy makes growling noises as the Englishman shrieks!!

The palaces in Mysore and Sringapatnam are decorative and fancy, the celebration hall in the former is exquisite, peacock stained glass, huge ornate ceilings and beautiful tiles, and the latter was actually lived in first by Tipu, then by the Duke of Wellington after he defeated him, stunning surfaces all covered in decorative arts and large murals of battles, and a few old colonial sketches of the great victorious battles won…

The palace in Bangalore is worth a visit as well, in addition to the usual palace type things and an interesting audio tour, there were two other themes that caught our eye.

Firstly that one of the maharajahs collected paintings, mainly of nudes, with a clear connoisseur’s approach to breasts. Under the stairs near one courtyard are some quite explicit black and white photos as well, in any other country this would not be too unusual, in India it’s like finding someone stark naked frolicking in the palace fountain, the mere thought of wearing shorts or a slightly revealing t-shirt has been out of the question for the last month, unless I want multiple stares, so this was rather unexpected!

Secondly a strange contrast between the early days of the hunting lodges and shooting weekends, turned naturist with the maharajah deciding eventually to conserve rather than sport with his reserves. There were 4 disturbing stools made out of elephant legs and rather too many elephant head trophies, last of these I think from the 50s, the photos of tigers and description of the hunt also terrible; having just read about the region of the Sandarbans in a fantastic novel by Ghosh, I have a surface understanding of how threatening tigers were/are to lives, however when they are beaten out of a forest to certain death at the hands of the priveledged rich, it is hard to swallow, luckily no rugs anywhere to be seen…

Our next few days will be spent in a wildlife lodge, on the edge of Kabini lake, a sneak photo (blog writing a little late first wi-fi for a week!)

It’s just south of Mysore, as always we hope to see a tiger in the wild, project Tiger is doing their best to re-establish larger groups of them in India, however there are clearly difficulties and poaching continues.

Missing our little cats…have to make do with big ones perhaps?!!

On a final note, the many delights of bureaucrasy, twine, thread, queues and permanent markers, once again made it’s mark on us in our 2 hour visit to the central post office in Mysore, even Loc became frustrated, so you can imagine…first the queue to ask where to queue, then weigh, then get the parcels into a box, then wrapped in jute, then stiched by hand, then placed through a sealing device, then address writing, then address writing again (‘we don’t really have a ‘from’ address did not pass the mark, so our tenants might have a merrier Christmas than they thought!), then fifth queue to get form Loc asked for over an hour earlier….phew, well at least we have some Christmas pressies on the way, perhaps they will arrive this side of the new year…


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