When I think of the 70s, a sea of memories, all of them sweet, engulf me. A 70s child, I have spent all my life in what was once a ‘Paradise on Earth’. I am not speaking about Kashmir but our very own ‘Garden City’ Bangalore, the ‘air-conditioned city’ of India.
I was doubly fortunate to have spent a major part of my life, an entire 30 years, amidst the verdant greens of the NAL Colony campus, which is situated on what is now the Old Airport Road. My sweetest memories are of my childhood. Back then sparrows were in abundance, and crows cawed in gay abandon. Grey hares darted across at break-neck speed and mongoose would take cover at the blink of an eye. I would scream at the sight of these very large and neon-hued insects which I guess were a variety of grasshopper. A couple of times I even spotted foxes. There was an army of stray dogs around, all of them well-fed by the colony inhabitants. Pat, a handsome snow-white fella, was everyone’s favourite. Jimmi and her brood of puppies were much adored.
Hide-and-seek was a hot favourite with us children. The endless trees and lamp-posts were ideal hideouts. The roads that hardly saw vehicles doubled up as cricket grounds. We didn’t have any cricket gear. The concrete dustbins served as wickets. ‘Gilli-danda’, ‘lagori’, marbles and spinning tops were the other favourites.
Cycling to school was a pleasure. I loved the 3-km ride from home to my school via the Old Airport Road with the occasional breeze caressing against my face and blowing my hair. It would take me around 20 to 30 minutes to and fro. I must say I was not a very good cyclist yet I dared to take my bike on the main road. I have to thank the hardly there traffic for this. My cycle was a tad too small for me. Someone once screamed across the road, “Hey, the cycle is too small for you”, but I hardly cared. The size of the cycle hardly mattered to me; the road ahead was too fascinating.
I played hockey at school and was part of the school team. The matches were held at the Sullivan Police Ground on Magrath Road. After every match we girls (around ten of us) would cycle back home via MG Road even as we relished a Joy ice-cream candy. Sometimes we would occupy the whole breadth of the road and a couple of us would make way for the odd car, auto, scooter or whatever. BTS (which is now known as BMTC) buses were very few. Back then the public transport was very poor.
As years rolled by I gradually let go of cycling because the roads were no longer what they used to be. Traffic density has increased in the city making it impossible to cycle.
Like many, I miss my childhood and I miss the Bangalore of yore. With large-scale development, gone is what-was-once an enchantingly beautiful cityscape. The city’s famous green cover is no longer what it once was. Wonder where all the hare, mongoose, foxes and sparrows have gone. Only memories remain.