If you are a Bangalore an or if you love Bangalore and want to know about your Bangalore from Nineteen thirties onwards, close your eyes, imagine sitting in the Time Machine of Dr. H.G. Wells-and-Io! – You have started your journey!
Whatever may be the reasons for your visit to Bangalore, it will not be complete without visiting the Majestic area. As you get down from the City Railway Station, (not the present building with parking lots and all the old railway station started right from platform number ‘one’) you come across a big tank (lake) of about forty acres full of water (starting from the end of the present Bus Station at the south till almost the road leading towards Anand Rao Circle towards north and up to Sangam theatre area towards the east) which was called as ‘Dharmambhudi kere.’ You have to tread by walk only on the tank bund to reach Majestic area.
There were hardly half a dozen- city buses for the entire city. There was no Bus Station at that place and for all moffusil services; buses were stationed at Kalasipalyam near City Market. When you reach the area of the Majestic Theatre, you face a vast estate full of plants, trees, greenery and nothing else! Surprised? The estate ended at Mysore Bank square (the present State Bank of Mysore’s head office.) and Government Law College. That vast garden was called “Manorama Estate.” At that time, there were only a few theatres in Bangalore such as Select, Majestic, Variety and Doddanna hall.
(Which is now called ‘Paramount’ near Kalasipalyam Bus Stand.) The climate of Bangalore demanded wearing of some woolen clothing all through the year except during March and April. You could not make out whether it was morning, afternoon or evening. All the time the Sun was just managing to pierce its rays through the branches of the trees. The entire city was a gigantic garden. It was an ocean of great greenery with fantastic ambience. The mercury reached to as low a point as eight degrees centigrade on a peak winter day. The average was around fourteen degrees.
The winter months started almost at the end of October and lasted till middle of February. In the short summer of virtually two months, the mercury hovered around early thirties. The pre-monsoon showers in May resulted in the temperature going down to below twenty-five degrees. It rained on odd days even during March and April. It was more or less continuous rains from the middle of May till October. Again it rained on Odd days during November and December. There used to be misty mornings throughout November, December and part of January too. These were mainly attributed to Bangalore being situated at over 2800 feet above Sea level.
If it was a cyclone in Madras, the Bangalorean caught cold. If it rained in Mangalore or Goa, the people here felt the chill. If it rained in Kerala, the city would have drizzles. If it is a cyclone in Andhra, the Bangalorean would sneeze. There was no other city in India than Bangalore for the best and balanced weather conditions. It is one of the main reasons for people from other States to migrate to this great city. Unlike other cities, here it was a case of roads amidst greenery and gardens, than gardens amidst the roads.In the nineteen thirties, the population of Bangalore was just around 1,50,000. The city virtually ended at Malleswaram in the north, little beyond city railway station at the west, Basavanagudi in the south and Shivajinagar area and Mayo hall towards the east. There was no Rajajinagar area let alone Vijayanagar. There was no Rajmahal, or Sadashivanagar nor Hebbal or R.T.Nagar. For that matter Jayanagar was born only in the fifties. Hebbal was a village called Gangenahalli.
Yeshwanthapur was a separate hamlet. Hanumanthanagar was called Sunkenahalli. Ulsoor too was a separate hamlet. Most of the cantonment area belonged to the Defence Establishments. All the hundred odd surrounding villages became part of the city over a period and were christened Royal with new names.
For transportation and conveyance, there were hardly half a dozen private buses plying inside the city. Thee were Jutkhas (horse drawn carriages) mostly in the city area. At the cantonment area, human drawn carts and cycle rickshaws were popular. The autos made their appearance only in the late forties. Again there were a dozen taxis in the entire city confined to the city and cantonment railway stations. Most of the Bangaloreans preferred to walk it was not strenuous due to the fine weather conditions. There were hardly about two thousand cars in the entire city and most of them belonged to the British and the Anglo-Indians apart from few locals. Almost all the cars were of foreign make. Later, Fiat, Standard and Ambassador cars of Indian make made their entry. Scooters too were not invented by then. There were a few hundred motorcycles of foreign make like BSA, Red Indian and a few others. Enfield and Java made their annas only! petrol was below fifty paisa and crossed sixty paisa marks only during late Fifties. There were very few petrol bunks of Burma Shell and Caltex, which were foreign companies
There were no big hotels or restaurants during that period except a few small ones in each area. The cost of a cup of coffee or tea was six paisa only! Not the present six paisa but the old six paisa, which is equal to the present three paisa. At that time, a rupee constituted sixteen annas. Each anna was equal to twelve paisa, which worked out to one hundred ninety two paisa for a rupee! And for that 192 paisa, you could get 192 masal vadas with chutney! The cost of an idli or uddin vada was only three paisa, which is equal to the present one and a half paisa, so was the cost of the normal big sized sada dosa with chutney. For masala dosa lovers, you could have a big sized masala dosa made from pure ghee for just one anna only! Which is equal to the present six paisa. ( have said ‘pure ghee’ since the people were not aware of adulteration tactics at that time.) Three pooris with saagu too cost the same price. How great it would have been if it was the present salaries and the past prices?
Now that your stomach is full; how about some entertainment? You could watch a movie in any of the theatres from one ann a onwards and you will be the King of the balcony just for six annas only! (Which was equal to the present thirty-six paisa). After watching the movie, if you want to have dinner, you would get a good full meal for just three For people who decided to settle down in Bangalore, the rent of a house suitable for middle class, ranged from five rupees to ten rupees only! Depending upon the size and area. You could get twelve serus of rice or twenty serus of ragi for one rupee only! (A seru was little more than a KG in quantity. Eight chatakus cons~ituted a seru, two chatakus, a paavu, and four chatakus a padi, which was half a seru.) Again, a rupee could procure eight to ten serus of milk and one seru of pure ghee! You could buy a yard of cloth for pant or coat just for eight annas, which is equal to the present fifty paisa only! (A yard is slightly less than a meter, – three feet is equal to a yard). A good cotton saree of eighteen-yard length cost just three rupees and silk saree of same size was available for twenty rupees! A silk saree with big jhari border cost twenty-five rupees only! A pair of dhoti cost just a rupee only! Gold, Silver and Copper were very cheap. The cost of one sovereign of gold was thirteen rupees only! And one tola (ten grams) of silver cost only ten annas, which is the present sixty paisa! At that time one rupee coins were made of silver, which weighed one tola. Nickel was used for making eight anna, two anna and one anna coins. One paisa coin was made of copper.
Perhaps you have started to wonder as to what would have been the emoluments during those days if things were that cheap. The highest paid person was the Viceroy of India whose monthly salary were thirty thousand rupees. The Deewans in the States were paid five thousand rupees a month. Government employees earned a monthly income ranging from ten rupees to twelve rupees. A constable of police was paid just two rupees per month as salary.(Nowadays, do you think a corrupt cop would accept anything less than twentyrupees at a time?) A primary school teacher was paid ten rupees a month and a peon earned five rupees a month. During those days, a man who had assets to the extent of ten thousand rupees in rural areas was considered as a rich man and in towns and cities, a man with assets of over one lakh rupees was considered as a very rich man!
So, now you can make out that the income and expenditure accounts never tallied even during those days. The history of deficit budget was prevalent for individuals as well as for the State even then. No wonder; there was hardly anything to save in those days too, – of course! – For an honest man.
Bangalore attracted business people, mostly outsiders, as most of the locals lacked vision. The local people except a few did not anticipate the potential for the growth of the city. Mostly Gujarathi, Marwaris, Jains, and Sindhis from Gujarath, Rajasthan, Delhi and Bombay entered the scene. Do you believe that the stretch of an acre of land where the Alankar market complex is situated at the K G Road at present was purchased by a lucky man for just one hundred fifty rupees in the nineteen thirties? The land ofanother acre where the Gupta market is situated at present was bought for just two hundred rupees during the same period! Our friends in the Real Estate business now, will definitely wish they had started doing their business right from those days. Step by step the development took place and building activities increased after our country gained Independence. Many banks, theatres and other business establishments started appearing one after another. The all round growth was rather fast in the fifties.
The population figure crossed ten lakhs by the early fifties. The number of auto rickshaws, taxis and BTC buses (there were no BTS buses at that time) increased. The factory buses of HAL, BEL, ITI and HMT, added to the traffic. The car population too increased. For the first time we could see more of the three Indian cars on the roads and even then the vehicle population was hardly around 15,000 only. Tourist buses and Contract carriagesmade their entry for people who wanted to visit other tourist spots from the city. During those days, the auto fare from Majestic to Brigade road cost just sixty paisa and thus the autos for Bangalore became a necessary nuisance.
During the late forties and early fifties, theatres like Prabhath, States, Jai Hind, Sagar, Geetha, Kempegowda and Himalaya came up in the Majestic area. (Other theatres came up later) Apart from this, there were a few like Paramount near Kalasipalyam, Naaz and New City at N R Road, Liberty, Plaza and New Empire at the MG Road and New Opera and Imperial at Residency Road appeared. While a few others like Swastik, Central, Bharath, Shivaji, Minerva Super and Jayashree came up in the city area; Elgin, Everest and Shree came up in the cantonment area. All other theatres came up later.
Not to be left behind in the race, the hotel people too became active. Some of the oldest and popular hotels and restaurants were Anvari and Greenway, (two non-vegetarian hotels) which came up next to the Geetha theatre. (Geetha has been converted into a commercial complex now.) Some good hotels like Neo Mysore Cafe, opposite States theatre, Vasanth Vihar next to Sagar theatre, Vittal Vihar near the Law College and Vishnu Bhavan below Kempe gowda theatre catered to the needs of the growing population. Each one of these hotels had regular customers due to a distinct taste and quality aintained by them. Even in the later part of the fifties, a cup of coffee or tea cost just twelve paisa, an idli or vada cost six paisa and a masaladosa or a plate of poori cost just twenty- five paisa! A limited meal (which was called ‘plate meal ‘) with two chapattis or four pooris with a bowl of rice, a cup of curds, sambar, rasam, papad, pickles and three varieties of sabji cost just thirty-seven paisa! A full meal of the same contents but with unlimited quantity cost just sixty paisa! Some of the other popular and old hotels were, the New Krishna Bhavan at Mill Corner in Malleswaram, Udupi Krishna Bhavan at Balepet, Arya Bhavan at Chickpet, Bombay Ananda Bhavan at Avenue Road, Prakash Cafe at Chamarajpet, Vidyarthi Bhavan at Gandhi Bazaar, Kalyan Cafe near Swastik theatre and the famous Gundappa hotel near Dharmaraja temple at Nagarthpet. Mavalli Tiffin Rooms (MTR) near Lalbagh was the best and the most popular of all the hotels. The biggest government office was the ‘Attara Kacheri’, which is the present High Court building. There was not even a single multi storeyed building. There were very few places to visit, such as Lalbagh, Cubbon Park, Museum and Bangalore Palace. Kempegowda towers on the four corners of the city served as picnic spots. People visited these places during weekends.
The corners, which marked the end of Bangalore by the great Shri. Kempegowda has become central parts of the city now. Famous temples during that period was Kote Venkateshwara at the fort area, Anjenaya temples at Hanumanthanagar and Banaswadi and Kashi Vishweshwara temple at Bale pet. A few hospitals like City Hospital, Victoria, St., Martha’s, Bowring, and Minto EyeHospital were attending to the medical needs of the citizens.
Government Arts and Science College, Central College for science, St., Josephs College, Government Law and Medical Colleges helped citizens in the pursuit of education. There was one High School called Vani Vilas High School exclusively for women. Some schools like Fort High School at Chamarajpet. Malleswaram High School, Seshadripuram High School, and Western Mission were popular. Some great personalities like Sir. M Visweshwariah who had been awarded the Bharata Ratna, the Nobel Prize winner Dr. c.v. Raman, writers and poets like MIS. D.Y. Gundappa, Masti Venkatesh Iyengar, T.P. Kailasam, K.Y. Iyer, T.S. Venkataramaiah, K. Y. Putappa, Navaratna Rama Rao, Y. Seetharamaiah and G P Rajaratnam were motivating the patriotic spirit amongst the people through their poems, plays, peeches and writings.
That was the great Bangalore of thirties forties and fifties. There is no need to write anything about the present, as you are all well aware of them. We are all responsible directly or indirectly for the factors contributing to the present state of affairs and definitely we all have to pay the price for the present mess the city is in. However, some leaders, executives politicians and the present Government headed by Shri. S M Krishnahas made a great beginning to improve Bangalore and there is no reason not to expect better days at least in a decade or so. Finally, it is indeed great to note the interest evinced by the judiciary in the aspect of the citizen’s welfare. Of late, some citizens too have shown interest in the improvement of the conditions of the city and the formation of area wise citizen’s welfare associations is indeed a very good sign for the future of our great city.
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