It is always a pleasure walking along the roads of Basavanagudi dotted as they are with charming houses, temples and a lot trees. I have been to quite a few walks and a couple of treasure hunts in this part of the city and have never returned disappointed. A visit to Basavanagudi takes you to a Bangalore far removed from most parts of the city. A lot of heritage bungalows which once defined Bangalore’s cityscape can still be found here, some of them in mint condition and some others in a sad state. There are still traces of old world charm here and you often get to interact with senior citizens who don’t mind going any length to tell stories of the glorious past they have seen. Not surprisingly, tour and walk organizer Unhurried’s first ever Basavanagudi Heritage Homes Walk on Saturday evening (6 September) drew a lot of participants. Like me, I’m sure most of them wanted to soak in the vintage charms of this beautiful locality. Among the motley group of walkers were architects (including the walk leader), a doctor, techies, a teacher, homemakers and businessmen.
August being a particularly wet month in the city, I was a little skeptical about the weather on Saturday. And a bus commute to Basavanagudi would take me at least two hours. In spite of that my enthusiasm got the better of me and I decided to go. My worst fears came true when it started raining cats and dogs even before I reached half the way. I had already changed two buses and decided not to take the third. Instead I decided to take a rickshaw. The driver seemed to be well-versed with Basavanagudi and I was confident I would reach the venue on time. How wrong I was! What would have been a 30-minute commute took way too long. I in fact I lost my way and irritated the walk lead with several calls before finally joining the walkers much after the walk had started.
Inside the bungalow:
I joined the group in a cream-washed bungalow with red accents and brick pillars. Mercifully, the heavy downpour had by then abated to a drizzle. The participants were all ears to Rohit whose great-grandfather once owned the sprawling property. The now uninhabited colonial building which was constructed in 1956 had seen far better days. Former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi stayed here during one of her visits to the city. Back then the property cost Rs. 46,000 (undoubtedly a lofty sum in those days). It was with a tinge of sadness that we moved from room to room. The interiors of the once-beautiful house were crying for attention. Complementing the bungalow is a large courtyard with trees on the sides. If renovated I am sure this once-prized possession will turn into a stunner.
As we gathered to move out I ran into Vandana my classmate at school. I hadn’t seen her for years. In fact we were meeting for the first time since we left school. During the rest of the walk we had a lot to talk about – school, classmates and blah blah 🙂 🙂 . For both of us this added to the vintage element of the walk.
Inside Nittoor’s bungalow:
Our next stop was at the Presto Restaurant on Kariyappa Road, which actually is a portion of the home of late Nittoor Srinivasa Rao, former Chief Justice of the Mysore High Court. One of the most famous personalities who lived in Basavanagudi, Nittoor Srinivasa Rao lived up to the ripe old age of 100 and passed away in 2004 just short of his 101st birthday. Nittoor’s lovely house is a perfect example of sustainable heritage and a complete contrast to the bungalow which we last saw. Nittoor’s relatives stay in the portion of the house behind Presto’s. Adjacent to the house is another heritage bungalow which belongs to Nittoor’s cousin. After a cup of piping hot coffee at Presto restaurant’s ThinDi Katte it was time to move on.
We were next shown the 97-year-old house of Mr. Ugrappa. We admired the bungalow from outside the gate and moved on to another old dwelling called ‘Om Bhagya Bhavan’. This one was a towering one and its beautiful façade covered with a blanket of greenery. It looked like a house straight from a fairy tale.
Our next halt was the backside of an imposing vintage building. This one was again crying for attention. Estimated to be over 80 years old, the house named Rajeshwari belonged to HL Narasinga Rao. On moving to the front of the house we were greeted by the yelps of an oh-so-cute boxer who just couldn’t contain her excitement on seeing so many of us.
Inside Dr Balu’s house:
After bidding goodbye to the adorable boxer we next visited Gitalaya, the house of late collage artist Dr V Balu. The pretty house with an equally pretty garden and courtyard has a very inviting look. While the ground floor and the staircase which leads to the first floor are adorned with a lot of artifacts, the first floor houses the studio of the late artist. The walls are enlivened with colourful artworks of his. A balcony gives a panoramic view of the greenery that surrounds the house. The floors of the house are covered with ornate tiles and adding to the colour are the stained glass windows. This was a very much a house that breathed art from every corner!
We could only admire the façade of the house of Dr Seshachalam, former Surgeon General of Victoria Hospital, from the outside and that too through the pillars of an apartment. However, we had a good view of the right side of the house. A bystander here tells us that the house will soon be razed and make way for an apartment. What! It looks too good to be razed down. Can’t we preserve beautiful heritage houses like these for posterity?
Inside Basava Ambara:
As we walked by we pictured another pretty vintage architectural gem before halting at Basava Ambara, an outhouse-turned-boutique at the home of Mr. M. Mahadevan. Like Nittor Srinivasa Rao’s house, this colossal bungalow, which was built around 1900, is another example of sustainable heritage. The outhouse is now home to Basava Ambara, a boutique that besides apparel and other things, exhibits and sells antiques most of which have been collected from heritage houses in and around Basavanagudi. The courtyard also houses a restaurant adorned here and there with antiques which have been very creatively arranged. A large black and white photograph of Mr Mahadevan and his family which included seven children adorns the reception. The text below the photograph mentions that the area beyond South End Circle was once upon a time a forest and peacocks could even be seen at Aramugam Circle!
Inside Diwan Sir MN Krishna Rao’s house:
Our final stop for the day was at the residence of Late Diwan Bahadur Sir MN Krishna Rao, another famous personality who resided at Basavanagudi. His is the only bungalow in Basavanagudi with wooden gates. We were greeted at the gate by his great grandson Mr Narendra, a renowned Kannada and English writer who has authored many books. Late Diwan Sir MN Krishna Rao is the father-in-law and uncle of Nittoor Srinivasa Rao and, as many Bangaloreans know, a park in Basavanagudi is named after him. The walls in the house are adorned by photos of the famous man and also a whole lot of sepia-toned photographs of other family members. Also occupying a pride of place on one of the walls is the certificate of Knighthood conferred on Diwan Krishna Rao by the British queen. Particularly eye-catching here were a large swing in the central hall of the ground floor and a huge vintage Scott radio encased in a wooden box on the first floor. My eyes also caught sight of an ornate straw sieve hung on the wall. A map of the future world by Gordon-Michael Scallion evinced a lot of interest among some of the walkers. One of the walkers who had read Mr. Narendra’s book ‘Pralaya’ was delighted at unexpectedly meeting the author. After a few conversations at the garden of the large bungalow it was time to move on.
Most of us ended our evening with a cup of coffee and a snack at Presto’s ThinDi Katte. I chose to have a Bread Roast Masala Dosa because the name sounded interesting and I love trying out new dishes. It turned out to be a cracker of a choice! Crisp, lip-smacking with just the right proportion of spices the dosa tasted out of the world!
On my way back to the bus-stop I enjoyed some night views of Basavanagudi. Truly, this was one helluva Saturday evening! If only we could preserve all the lovely bungalows for posterity!