A walk down Richards Town

Lovely bungalows with large courtyards, the kind you read about only in fairy tales, cobbled footpaths broad enough to play a game of badminton, super-broad tree-lined roads amidst an air of nostalgia was what walkers got to experience during the course of a Heritage walk down Richards Town. This walk, was one of the many conducted by Unhurried.in, a company which conducts themed tours and walks in and around Bangalore and also other parts of Karnataka.

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Entrance to Richards Park

On a lovely Saturday morning, I made it to Richards Park (the meeting point for the walk), through an eleventh-hour registration. A few walkers had already gathered there and were engaged in conversation with Poornima Dasharathi and Pushpa Achanta who would in a little while lead the walk.

We listened to lovely anecdotes of life in the Bangalore cantonment before Independence under the canopy of Wheeler Pavilion, which interestingly is a water tank, even as we savoured views of the green expanses of Richards Park. Curious stares from onlookers most of them early morning joggers and walkers added an element of fun. A couple of them quizzed me about what was happening.

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The broad roads in Richards Town are typical of European Town Planning. The idea of building such broad roads was to facilitate movement of horse carriages.

The Cantonment area or Civil and Military Station came up on land given by the Maharajah of Mysore to the British military. Initially, the Britishers had set up the Cantonment at Srirangapatna after annexing the kingdom of Mysore from Tipu Sultan but they opted to move out because of the mosquito menace there. Bangalore was chosen over other possible locations because of the city’s salubrious climate.

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The footpaths here are broad enough to enjoy a game of badminton. Broad footpaths are again typical of European style town planning.

Frazer Town, Richards Town, Cox Town, Cleveland Town, Benson Town, Pottery Town, Cooke Town , Langford Town and the other little towns in this part of the Garden City were an extended part of the Cantonment area of Bangalore which stretched from MG Road and included among others Vasantnagar, Palace Orchards, and Agaram area on Old Airport Road. Among the towns, Frazer and Cox Towns are the largest. They were all residential localities and housed families of the British military with the earliest buildings having been constructed around 1809. Colonel John Blakiston is credited with designing the Cantonment.

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The Cantonment area has a sizeable Muslim population believed to be descendants of traders who worked in the Cantonment area before Independence.

Post independence, the population here was predominantly Christian, consisting of Anglo-Indians and Tamilians. There were a lot of Muslims too, all descendants of traders who ran their business in the Cantonment. Ali Asker after whom a road is named was a prominent horse trader who came all the way from Persia.

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This bungalow once a residence of Europeans now belongs to Prof. Usha Kumar.

Richards Town is believed to be around 100 years old and is an excellent example of European town planning. The stamp of the British is there everywhere. It is believed to have been built for pensioners. Most roads and streets here are named after British military officers – Davies Road, Cookson Road, Clarke Road, Hall Road to name a few. Our next stop was at a sprawling bungalow on Clarke Road built during the Raaj which over the years has passed hands and now belongs to Prof. Usha Kumar. Interestingly, all the houses in Richards Town are around Richards Park hinting at the possibility of Richards Park having been a square during the initial days of the Cantonment.

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A window with monkey top.

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The attractive doorway of the bungalow.

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A closer look at the trellis work.

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The kitchen is housed in a separate building.

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View from the side of the bungalow.

To our bad luck, the family was not at home and we were shown around the courtyard by one of the workers. The windows with their monkey tops, and the trellis work at the entrance to the bungalow caught the eye the most. The large courtyard around the bungalow was bordered by trees and plants and added to the look. Bungalows of that period had a verandah with dressing rooms on both sides. The verandah led to the drawing room (short for with[drawing] room) on both sides of which were the bedrooms. The drawing room led to the dinner room. The kitchen was housed in a separate building outside the bungalow. Right opposite to the kitchen building was another building which was the horse stable. Wow! the Britishers led a very comfortable lifestyle. We are told the house still has latches that were manufactured by the East India Company.

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A bungalow with a curved verandah.

As we walked by we noticed another bungalow; this one had a curved verandah.

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The Holy Ghost Church

Our next stop was at the Holy Ghost Church which is believed to look like an eagle from the skies. The granite building was constructed post-Independence in 1953. After admiring the architecture of Holy Ghost Church it was time to move on to another church. We reached the Mizbah Telugu Church on Pottery Road not before admiring three more bungalows on the way all of them belonging to influential families of Bangalore.

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The Mizbah Telugu Church

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The bungalow adjacent to the church.

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The verandah of the bungalow

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Ornamental tiles near a door

The Mizbah Telugu Church is estimated to be around 100 years old and initially belonged to the Ceylonese mission. In the adjacent compound is another lovely bungalow formerly the residence of the priest and now an office. Sadly we couldn’t explore much of the inside of the bungalow because it was locked though we managed to go as far as the verandah.

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The walk ended on a memorable note with a visit to Apaulogy, a cartoon gallery, which displays works of cartoonist Paul Fernandes. Mona Webber, the curator of the gallery took us around the works. Almost all the cartoons here feature Bangalore of the 60s and 70s and have a hilarious anecdote behind them. Look out for the cartoon of a drunken man being marched to the police station, another featuring a barber’s visit to a bungalow and the one which shows the cartoonist speeding on a cycle and knocking off the topi of a policeman. Our visit to the gallery coincided with the day Paul Fernandes was releasing his coffee table book “Swinging in the 70s” at the Times Lit Fest. Every one of us glanced through a copy of the book which has awesome cartoons on life in  70s’ Bangalore.  The gallery is a must-visit and the book a must-buy if not a must-read for Bangaloreans!

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Hark, hark! The tree festival is around the corner

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Gulmohr tree in full bloom at Lal Bagh – May 2013

The first edition of Neralu, the Bengaluru Tree Festival, is all set to take place on the 8th and 9th of February. A brainchild of a team of avid tree lovers of the garden city, the festival is purely a citizen-donation-driven one and aims to create a green awakening in the city once famous for its green cover. Over the years, numerous trees around the city have been felled mercilessly to make way for development without giving a thought to the environment.

As Mother Nature cries silently, the tree festival with its various tree-related events and campaigns, hopes to some extent wipe her tears. In the pipeline are tree walks led by eminent naturalists, tree journalling and ID-ing workshops, film screenings, talks on trees, a painting exhibition featuring works of renowned tree artist Rumale Channabasavaiah, photo exhibitions, story-telling sessions, games and a Hug-a-Tree campaign. The events will be held at Bal Bhavan and Venkatappa Art Gallery both of which are at Cubbon Park, Bangalore’s famous lung space.

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A young tree lover at Lal Bagh

Why the name “Neralu”?

“Neralu” translates to shade in Kannada. A very apt name I should say because shade is the biggest gift that trees have given us. There is nothing like a walk down a tree-lined avenue. It has a therapeutic effect and is a stress-buster and not to forget the shade prevents us from getting roasted on a hot sunny day.

Check out more on Neralu at http://neralu.in/

Tree-lined roads are always a joy to behold!

Once upon a time, the roads of Bangalore were abundantly skirted with trees most notably the Jacaranda, Pride of India, Golden Shower, Gulmohr, and Raintrees. When these trees were in full bloom, the roads wore a lovely look. Sadly we very rarely get to see such sights these days. Let us hope, fests like Neralu stir the tree-loving passion in all the citizens. As one of the organisers puts it, “the aim of the festival, titled ‘Neralu’ (shade) is to bring Bangaloreans closer to the environment, especially trees, which were the true heritage of the City”.

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Flowers of the Pride of India tree.

Scary findings

These graphical depictions of the depletion of Bangalore’s green cover that went viral on Twitter are a stark reminder  to all Bangaloreans to put their act together and save our trees from the saws and more importantly plant more trees. Else we could be heading for an environmental catastrophe a la Uttarakhand.

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Image courtesy: Twitter

Now these are only findings from the year 1973 to 2006. Wonder how the graph would look like in 2014.

Go Bangalore go! Plant more trees. We need more of them!

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Great example to emulate for tree conservation: This mango tree at Lal Bagh was planted by Tipu Sultan.

Trivia
– Did you know, Halasuru in Bangalore, now more or less a concrete jungle was once a Jackfruit Garden. That’s why the name Halasuru. And Hulimavu was a mango and tamarind garden.

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– The Banyan tree is a variety of fig tree
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– The tamarind tree is known to withstand extreme levels of pollution.
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– The shallow roots of the Gul Mohr result in some of these trees falling during early monsoon.
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– Two fully grown trees supply enough oxygen a year to sustain a family of four
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– The more the trees around your house, the cooler will be your summer
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– The more the trees, the lesser the chances of soil erosion
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Childhood reminiscences

I grew up with a lot of trees around me. I was fortunate to have spent a major part of my life in the lap of nature. And I have a lot of sweet memories which I cherish. Here are some of them:

– When I was a child I loved climbing trees. A favourite tree of mine was a rain tree with wide and low drooping branches. I would often sit on a branch and watch the world go by.

– In front of my home was a large open space which would double up as a playground. One day, a neighbour of mine, an old man, planted a pipal sapling and went on to nurture it. As years went by, the sapling grew into a little tree. Around the same time, plans were afoot to build an apartment on the open space. We felt terribly sad because we were losing our playground. The only consolation was that when the construction finally started, the pipal tree was spared and the building was constructed around her.

– Right in front of my balcony was a huge tree; I don’t know which species she belonged to. On windy days, I would love standing on the balcony and listen to the rustle of the leaves.

– I once planted a chikoo tree in the backyard of one of my childhood homes but she never grew during the seven years that I stayed in that house. Years later when I visited the place, to my delight I realised that the little sapling that refused to grow when I was around had finally grown into a tree.

– There was a small curry-leaf tree in my garden. Someone told my mother that pouring curd around the tree will aid its growth. My mother decided to implement the idea. She would always hand over the duty of pouring the curd to my brother. But the curd would never reach its destination because no sooner would my brother make his way to the garden, Hema Malini, the adorable street dog would jump on my brother and lap up all the curd. Hema Malini loved curds.

– Badminton was a favourite childhood pastime. We would either play on the road or in the vast expanses of grass around our houses. A neighbour of mine, a great soul I should say, would always watch us play and offered us a net which was lying idle at his home. We would tie the net to two night-queen (Raat ki Rani) trees and enjoy our game of badminton.

– A plantain tree in my garden was home to a family of bats. It was a joy to see little baby bats hanging from the branches.

– It was a practice in the place where I stayed to hang an old boot or sandal on a branch of a tree to ward off evil eyes.

– A guava tree in our garden was a favourite with an old lady who worked nearby. In spite of her age, the lady was full of beans. She would gatecrash and perch on the tree like a bird and pluck as many guavas as she could.

– One of the trees that bordered the roads bore large round fruit with a glossy texture. These fruits were not edible. I would sometimes add facial features (read as eyes, nose and lips) to them with a ball-point pen.

Memorable tree quotes

Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.
– Martin Luther

Someone is sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.
– Warren Buffett

I was in my yard and thought that the tree was a living being. We take trees for granted. We don’t believe they are as much alive as we are.
– Ziggy Marley

Trees are poems that the earth writes upon the sky.
– Kahlil Gibran

The planting of a tree, especially one of the long-living hardwood trees, is a gift which you can make to posterity at almost no cost and with almost no trouble, and if the tree takes root it will far outlive the visible effect of any of your other actions, good or evil.
– George Orwell

He that planteth a tree is a servant of God, he provideth a kindness for many generations, and faces that he hath not seen shall bless him.
–  Henry van Dyke

Why pay money for the horror movies? Just go to a street without trees!
– Mehmet Murat ildan

In a cool solitude of trees
Where leaves and birds a music spin,
Mind that was weary is at ease,
New rhythms in the soul begin.
– William Kean Seymour

A street without trees is a street only for the sick-minded people whose god is nothing but money!
-Mehmet Murat ildan

Lal Bagh Flower Show – Jan 2014

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Cute floral replicas of veggies and fruits greet visitors to the Republic Day Flower Show at the Glass House in Lal Bagh. They are a hit with children!

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I just loved Miss Garlic with her blue-tinted, pink-rimmed glasses and pink-shaded lips. If there was a prize for the best-looking gal at the Flower Show I am sure Miss Garlic would be the runaway winner.

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A close second in a medley of colours is pretty Miss Pineapple. And she has her hands spread as if to say, “Gimme a hug :)”. Awww! If it weren’t for the fence I am sure she would have got a zillion hugs.

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Miss Banana in her yellow robe looks cool and is drawing a lot of attention too!

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Miss Carrot is overwhelmed with all the attention she is receiving!

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Watch out! Naughty boy Coconut is at his mischievous best.

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Songstress Miss Mango seems to be singing, “When you are happy and you know it clap your hands…”

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And dancing to Miss Mango’s tunes is Miss Pomegranate. “Oh la la….”

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Poor Mr Cashew Apple looks all lost!

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The rabbit looks oh-so-cute with her cart of fruits and vegetables.

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Standing tall amongst all fruits and veggies is this majestic floral tower.

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A picture of poise are the floral mushrooms.

These are floral depictions of Amorphophallus Titanum, the largest flower in the world (left), and the carnivorous plant Nepenthes Lowii (right).

Visitors to the flower show coming from the Double Road gate of Lal Bagh would have first been greeted by the farmer and his wife with a lot of produce in their hands.

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A lovely kitchen garden outside the Glass House is among this year’s special attractions.

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This huge floral vase in the Bonsai Garden looks striking.

Like always the roses are the cynosure of all attention. There are so many of them in vivid colours and you can smell them from afar.

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The yellow marigolds looked dazzling as they bathed in bright sunlight.

And there are a lot of other flowers too! I was lost amidst all this floral grandeur! I am sure you will be too when you visit this spectacular extravaganza. The show is on till 26 January. Do not miss!

Going gaga over vintage cars

Though I don’t drive cars I have always had a fascination for them. So when Intach Bangalore announced an Automobile History Parichay (Vintage Car Heritage Walk), I was quick to grab the opportunity. INTACH [Indian National Trust For Art and Cultural Heritage] holds a Heritage Walk (Parichay) every month usually around places of historical importance. And when they announce a walk, seats get filled in no time. So I must count myself extremely lucky to have got into this first-of-its-kind walk.

Designed to mark World Automobile Day, which falls on January 29, the walk was at Kala Farms, home to one of the country’s largest vintage car collection owned by Dr Ravi Prakash, a cardiothoracic surgeon turned vintage car collector. A national racing champion in the 1980s, Dr Ravi Prakash quit the medical profession and car racing to pursue his passion – collecting vintage cars. It all started with a vintage car that was willed to him. Over the years, his fleet of cars has been steadily growing and he now has around 225 of them some of which are in mint condition. And he doesn’t stop at cars. In his sprawling estate, you will also find motorbikes, cycles, scooters, palanquins, pull carts, carriages, clocks, miniature models of cars, books and a lot of bric-à-brac most of them from a bygone era.

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A penny-farthing cycle

An emperor clock that displays 15 time zones

An emperor clock that displays 15 time zones

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A palanquin

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A cart

Dr Ravi Prakash’s wife Sabina and daughters Roopali and Shefali share his passion for all things vintage. They have participated in major vintage car shows around the world including the prestigious Pebble Beach Vintage Car Show and have as big a collection of trophies and prizes as the number of cars. Dr Ravi Prakash proudly recalls the moment when he was the only one at the Pebble Beach show who had two cars participating one of which was driven by his daughter Roopali. She was the youngest driver at the event and she drove the oldest car at the show.

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The slew of cars each of which belong to various periods of time is housed in large garages around the farm. Brands include Mercedes Benz, Austin Healey, Sunbeam, Peugeot, Rolls Royce, Lincoln, Ford, Alfa Romeo, Fiat, Willys-Knight, Mini Cooper, Plymouth, Austin of England, Studebaker and more. Some of the companies are now defunct. A team of mechanics are on their toes all the time tending to the cars and bikes. Not all the cars and bikes have come to the farm in good condition. A majority of them have been restored with restoration costs ranging from thousands of rupees to several lakhs. For many of the cars, parts have to be procured from abroad. So you see, maintaining these automobiles is no easy task; it involves a lot of hard work and patience and is a very expensive hobby.

A Lancaster Straight Eight

A Lancaster Straight Eight that once belonged to Motilal Nehru

A Sunbeam

A Sunbeam

A Mini Cooper

A Mini Cooper

Dr Ravi Prakash is at present busy with the construction of a vintage car museum in the city. The museum which when complete would be the first of its kind in the country and would showcase all the cars in his collection as well as cars belonging to other vintage car enthusiasts.

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The fleet of cars has also been the toast of film-makers. Many of them have been featured in films. The vintage cars in Kamal Haasan’s ‘Hey Ram’ were all from Dr Ravi Prakash’s collection.

Dr Ravi Prakash (extreme right) speaks to enthusiastic walkers

Dr Ravi Prakash (extreme right) speaks to enthusiastic walkers

Prominent among the cars in the collection are ones that were owned by famous Kannada poet Kuvempu, late Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MG Ramachandran, the former Maharaja of Darbhanga, and another by Feroze Gandhi’s sister.

This car once belonged to noted Kannada poet Kuvempu

This car once belonged to noted Kannada poet Kuvempu

This car was once owned by MGR. Don't miss the registration number!

This car, a Rolls Royce, was once owned by MGR. Don’t miss the registration number!

This 1967 Cararo once belonged to Feroze Gandhi's sister

This 1967 Cararo once belonged to Feroze Gandhi’s sister

This car once belonged to the Maharaja of Darbhanga

This car once belonged to the Maharaja of Darbhanga

The family also has a love for dogs. The gang of 20 odd canines in the farm include Mudhol Hounds and Labradors.The green estate is also dotted with plant nurseries.

A detachable dicky

A detachable dicky

Have a look at some more vintage beauties from the mesmerising and very colourful collection:

A Mercedes Benz

A Mercedes Benz

A Sunbeam

A Sunbeam

A Pontiac Silver Streak

A Pontiac Silver Streak

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Austin of England

Austin of England

Lincoln

Lincoln

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A Pontiac

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The Sunbeam Talbot, the car that was willed to him

The Sunbeam Talbot, the car that was willed to him

A Fiat car

A Fiat car

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An Austin Healey

An Austin Healey

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An Alfa Romeo

An Alfa Romeo

Willys Knight

Willys Knight

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A 1930 Ford

A 1930 Ford

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It is difficult to take your eyes off them 🙂

There’s so much to eat at Avarekai Mela – I

Just a month back I had been to the Kadalekai Parishe (groundnut fair). Little did I know that the city also celebrates a fair dedicated to Kadalekai’s lesser known cousin Avarekai (flat beans). I read about the Avarekai Mela in the newspapers and wanted to check it out. Image The Avarekai Mela is not as big an affair as the Kadalekai Parishe but it definitely showcases more delectable food. Over here you can savour  out-of-the-world Karnataka cuisine. There is so much food on offer that you will be spoilt for choice. Most of the preparations have Avarekai as one of the ingredients. Image Image Image Image I reached Sri Vasavi Condiments at Sajjan Rao Circle, the venue of the fair, at around 3pm. There was a moderate crowd then. After going through the large menu card put up by the organisers, it took me some time to decide what to eat. I finally decided on the Khalli Dosa. A couple of people had also ordered this dosa. Image I watched with interest as the cook spread out the batter with artistic ease. In no time, the dosas were ready. There were two on a platter with Avarekai sambar as the accompaniment. The soft and fluffy dosas just melted in my mouth. I was happy with my choice.

All the ready-to-eat foods were available indoors; the cooking was being done outdoors at the many stalls. The fair also had vendors and farmers selling Avarekai, Kadalekai and more. Image Image Image After hanging around the place for some time, I decided to have a go at something else. I have heard so much about Ragi Mudde but never got to taste it. Ragi Mudde, the wonder food of Karnataka is nutritious, wholesome, simple to make and very economic and so finds a special place in the dinner plates of many Kannadigas. True to their reputation, the Ragi Muddes on my plate were really very filling! As the afternoon wore on, there were more people thronging the place. Many seemed to be from the vicinity. I wondered how the atmosphere would be like late in the evening what with such mouth-watering grub around. The Avarekai Mela is a great event to soak into. A foodie’s paradise! I would definitely be back next year to binge again on these one-of-a-kind treats! The fair is on till 7 January.