Saturday, December 02, 2006

Bangalore - From an Air conditioned city to a city with air conditioners

We are almost into December and are still using the fans throughout the day and night and are sweating. When people away from home ask us how the weather is, they expect us to say, it is cold, or atleast, it is pleasant. We can only say it is hot. Is this the same city which was once known as airconditioned city?

Time was (this is only as recent as the early 70s when we moved to this wonderful city, the natives of Bangalore will have even more shivering tales to recount) when Bangalore had a salubrious climate. It was a pensioners’ paradise. It was a city which went to bed early and woke up quite late, because of the chill.. Unlike many other cities of India, no milkman rang the doorbell at 5.30am here. He would come only at 7.30am. People with little kids who need to be given milk early morning did not have to fret about not having a refrigerator. The whole house was like a refrigerator. No food went bad here. The vegetables remained fresh in room temperature. Not many people had a fridge. Fridge was more of a status symbol.

There were no fans fitted either. When we came from Delhi on transfer to Bangalore, our fan boxes remained unopened for years together, as we did not feel the need for a fan. If the Chennai residents say, Chennai has only three seasons, hot, hotter and hottest, we Bangaloreans were proud to say, we also have only three seasons, cold, colder and coldest. We did not have summers. Ours was a summer resort. If we had to make "vattal, vadam or karuvadam" we could not afford to be complacent. We had just 2 to 3 weeks from Sivarathri to make these things, between our winter and monsoons, which started by the end of March. Our monsoon would start with some pre-monsoon showers before Ugadi and go on till December.

Bangaloreans sported a monkey cap all through the year. They also a wore a woolen vest throughout the year. It was treat to watch the elderly Bangaloreans (the proper Bangaloreans who owned most of the agricultural lands/residential properties here) moving around on a rickety bicycle wearing a black coat and a turban. People went to vegetable shopping with a coat on. Early mornings were very chill. Bangalore women made the rangolis in their front yards in the evenings as mornings would be quite foggy and chill. We had green covers wherever we went. Ulsoor was the city limits during those days. No city map showed any place beyond Ulsoor, except a winding road from Trinity church towards airport called airport road, which was almost always deserted. You take a turn towards the airport road, the temperature dipped further as the roads were lined with trees and casurina forests.

During late 70s when we were allotted a residential plot along the airport road, we came to visit the place and were unable to find our way to the proposed site as the area around it was marshy and wooded.

Knitting enthusiasts like me could knit all year around. It was a pleasure to get out the house on weekends with kids to go to Lalbagh or Cubbon Park and enjoy the warmth of the sun. If Chennai had a cyclone, Bangalore just had downpours. The only industrialisation Bangalore had was some Public Sector undertakings with their own transport system to carry their employees. These were the only buses which crowded the roads during their shift changes. Otherwise public transport was very sparse. Bangaloreans were happy cycling around. People belonging to slightly elite class used scooters/motor cycles/mopeds. It was quite safe to travel by two wheelers, even for ladies.

With the 1980s came the boom of small scale industries in around Bangalore and there were more mopeds on the roads. City started expanding beyond Ulsoor towards the airport and all around. We still had winters which were quite cold.

With the software boom Bangalore exploded with people, private entreprenuers, multi-storied buildings and cars. The single and two storied skyline gave way to huge apartment complexes, mostly built on converted agricultural lands. They mostly depended on deep bore-wells to quench the thirst of their residents. The green covers started depleting, the ground water level went down further, lakes started drying up and in the new century, Bangalore started becoming warmer and warmer with very hot summers and next to nil winters. The whole city is dusty and polluted with motor exhausts and the city these days does not sleep. The once sleepy airport road is always congested with traffic and one cannot cross the road any time of the day.There are multi-storied building lining the airport road representing almost all software companies from all around the globe. The air conditioning business is thriving.


Ravi said...

Very interesting to read post from you. Looking forward to reading more of your thoughts on Bangalore.

Anonymous said...

I totally agree. It is indeed a very nice article, takes one down the memory lane.


Indira said...

I was searching for Indian recipes on You Tube videos and found your link and followed it to here.

What a treasure! Loved reading your articles and recipes. Added your blog to my foodblog list.

- Indira

renuramanath said...

i too had lived in bangalore during the early 80s, when the city was not yet 'developed.' it was beautiful beyond anything. it was the first city i had seen in my life. the air was crisp and clear. the mornings smelled of eucalyptus.
in 2007, bangalore has become a hole in the hell. returning after three days in bangalore, the exhaust of vehicles in kochi smelled like perfume. the crisp edge of air has disappeared. now, there is a film of dust everywhere, on the remaining greenery, on buildings, on the people, everywhere. if the cold bangalore climate was not conducive to lung diseases earlier, now its worse, and worser. the air hangs heavy in the chest.
will the city regain at least some of its lost glory anytime in future ?