A walk down Fraser Town

A Christmas Eve Photo-walk down Fraser Town evoked a lot of nostalgic memories of the Bangalore of yore – a city of endless greenery dotted with lovely bungalows. The photo-walk led by seasoned photographer and photo-journalist Vivek Muthuramalingam attracted a motley crowd from all over the city. The idea of the walk was to soak into the Christmas revelry this part of the city has long been known for.

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The starting point of the evening walk was the iconic Saint Francis Xavier Cathedral in Fraser Town. The majestic church with its vast courtyard is a lovely place to visit. A lot of chairs had been put in front of the church which was all set to welcome huge crowds for the midnight mass to be conducted by the Archbishop of Bangalore.

Our next destination would have been Saint John’s Church but we had to leave disappointed because the security guard wouldn’t let us in 😦

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In the vicinity of Saint John’s Church I noticed this fruit cart loaded with an assortment of fruits and alongside it a man selling fruit salad.

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It was hard to miss this lovely vintage bungalow with a large courtyard. Wonder how it looked years back when it was constructed. Today it lies neglected and crying for attention. ‘Philomena Pavillon’ constructed around 1865 has seen many owners and very beautiful days and is currently under litigation. It originally belonged to General John Wheeler Cleveland after whom Wheeler Road and Cleveland Town are named. It was then called Cleveland Lodge. Multiple owners later it was sold to Rajasabhabhushana T. Thamboo Chetty in 1940 and the current owners belong to his family. I really wish the place undergoes a makeover and is preserved for posterity.

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Thom’s Bakery on Wheeler Road wore a festive look and was crowded to the hilt and the air was filled with the aromas of freshly baked cakes and goodies which made me feel very hungry. The counters were stacked with cakes and other delicacies and shoppers’ baskets were loaded with a variety of foods. I managed to get a bite of a soft-as-butter muffin thanks to a fellow photographer who had the patience to wade through the crowds and buy some grub.

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As we left Thom’s my eyes caught hold of a towering skyscraper that seemed to be shooting through the skies. Surprisingly, some of the roads hardly showed signs of life in spite of it being Christmas Eve. Someone in the group pointed to a plaque commemorating Fraser Town. The plaque in spite of its historical significance is hardly noticeable. Maybe it can be surrounded by a tiny flower garden to make it more prominent.

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We had a pit stop at Albert Bakery on Mosque Road, one of the oldest bakeries in the neighbourhood. The bakery has been running since 1902. Though the bakery belongs to a Muslim family, it was named Albert because of the pre-dominant British population that resided here in the early 1900s. Check out this video which I found on YouTube:

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We made a surprise halt at a charming bungalow belonging to Miss Tracy, a venerable old Anglo-Indian lady, to greet her with a Christmas cake. Going by her expression, Miss Tracy was as surprised as she was pleased.

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A house constructed in 1953

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A charming vintage bungalow

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Bethesda Assembly Church

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As the evening wore on we came across some more subjects and beautiful vintage buildings. I was particularly enchanted by the Bethesda Assembly Church.

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Outside a medical shop I came across a rather peculiar advertisement.  Back home I googled Petrol Uncle thinking it would be a brand of medical footwear. Well! I was wrong! Petrol Uncle is a Santa Claus-like figure in this part of the city. More about him here:

http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/bangalore/petrol-uncle-is-santa-for-motorists/article5466856.ece

After a final pit stop at the Dil Pasand Tea House it was time to wind up and say goodbye to a wonderful wintry evening of photography.

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4 thoughts on “A walk down Fraser Town

  1. I LEFT BEHIND MY HEART AT HOME

    by Jacqueline Colaco

    “Life takes its course, and one must move on ‘in sync’ with it!” But this is easier said than done, and so I grieved as I recently left my home of four decades. Permit me to assuage the pain, with a trip down a happy ` memory lane’ known as 4, Ahmed Sait Road, Fraser Town.

    It was in June 1958, after Dad retired, that we moved lock, stock and barrel from Bombay to our new home in Bangalore, My parents and six of us seven children (still to be settled or educated), started on a new chapter of our lives. My eldest sister who had married a few months earlier, continued to live in Bombay where her husband worked. The house in Bangalore was selected for us by one of my future brothers in law. He already had his eye on one of my sisters, and wanted her to live in the same area as he did!
    Our home was called `Deer Lodge’ because of two stone deer that graced its portals. Soon however, the rather unappealing deer (and the house name) were dispensed with, to allow for extension of the house for it’s numerous occupants. I the youngest, at eight years of age, shared my parents’ bedroom in one wing, my three sisters occupied the other, and my two brothers took over the back cottage, which they named ‘The Pavilion’
    (My brother Joe is a great cricket enthusiast!) Like typical Bangalore houses, this one too had a large airy verandah, which led to the central wing consisting of a drawing cum dining room and kitchen with attached storeroom. High tiled ceilings kept the need for fans at bay, for many a decade. The garden had its fair share of fruit trees – banana, papaya, guava, star gooseberry and mulberry; also enough space for everyone to indulge their gardening fantasies of colourful flower beds, which soon became a reality. Next, we hired a maid named Rosemary Ammal , who served us for a long, long time, producing mouth watering delicacies. A dog called Fido and a rooster and some cackling hens were added, thus making the household complete, in true Bangalore style!

    My sisters settled into the teaching profession, while my brothers and I continued our studies. Fun, laughter and music flowed through our home as did streams of relatives and friends. The first decade was one of many joyous occasions – the first grandchild was born and many followed. My other sisters all got married. These were real fun times – preparing for and enjoying the special milestones in our family. My brothers and I used to have great fun at the expense of their suitors, and often would pile on to the romantic expeditions, like picnics and boating in Ulsoor Lake, because the poor chaps would find it impolite not to invite us out too! When my first sister got married I was `flower girl’ at her wedding. By the time my fourth sister did, I graduated to being `bridesmaid’ – a sort of ‘coming-out’ for me at seventeen, dressed in a saree for the first time and trying to behave `grown up’! I was now the sole occupant of the other wing of the house and continued to remain so till the day I left, as I chose to stay single and live in the parental home. Soon after, my brothers moved out too, to work and live elsewhere. But they would often pop in by surprise, while my sisters and their families continued to visit for confinements or holidays through the seventies. Grandchildren began to grow up and enjoy the warm simplicity of their grandparents’ home in Bangalore. Plain bread and butter and coconut muffins from the local bakery at tea-time satisfied their hungry little stomachs, and till today, widely travelled as they all are, they still want to eat the same fare, as do ‘their’ little ones. “The food in this house has it’s own special touch”, they say. Simple pleasures like cycling on the road , or rides on our scooters, boating in Ulsoor Lake and picnics to Cubbon Park and the family farm on Mysore Road thrilled them as they did us, in earlier years.
    My parents disciplined us in a nice manner. “Why can’t your parties be from 4p.m.to 10 p.m.” said Dad. However, if we were home by midnight, he would not protest too much. If it was later, you could be sure he would be standing right behind the front door looking out anxiously for us to return. It irritated us then but now I understand the wisdom of his concern and also wish that parties that I have to attend now could end at 10:00 pm! When grandchildren reached their teens, it seemed to us that they were given a few more liberties. Thus life went on for us through many happy decades during which a highpoint was my parents golden wedding anniversary. The family converged for the occasion and we had much fun sharing in the celebrations which were repeated in the same church and my maternal grandparents house, where they had taken place fifty years earlier, in 1933. My brother Peter documented their lives and times on slides prepared from old photographs, and we had a whale of a time viewing those fifty golden years and earlier, during our family gatherings.
    We were a blessed family, with sad times too few to remember. Our parents passed on -each at the age of 86, having lived their lives to the full, and having inculcated in us the values and principles they lived by. It was a difficult time when the seven of us had to decide to part with our ancestral home. But the bonds of unity that our parents had forged among us, took us through this process smoothly. Although I left with much sadness in my heart, I now look back at all the happy times, which I hope will sustain me through the years to come -wherever I am and whatever I do!

    Added in 2010 – Although I left ‘HOME’ in 1999 with much sadness in my heart, it gives me a warm feeling now to look back on those happy times. New memories of this decade are being created as the family grows and milestones continue to be celebrated. Like my eldest sister’s golden wedding anniversary earlier last year. These ‘happenings’ will certainly sustain me through the years to come – wherever I am and whatever I do! Moreover, Fraser Town has regretfully changed its face so much in this past decade,my grief at moving away is assuaged now.
    Added in 2013 – I recently wrote an article titled ‘Mosque Road Muddle’ which indeed it is, as is all of Fraser Town, the quiet Bangalore extension of my youth. During the recent pre Ramzan fasting period of 40 days, the evenings on MM Road were a maze of humanity and food stalls. Hailed during this period as ‘The Taste of The Town’,this area adjoining the Hajee Sir Ismail Sait Mosque, for residents and commuters there it was absolute chaos plus garbage flows galore. How much prayer and fasting too was possible I am not sure amidst this distraction. So much for the good old genteel Bangalore of yore…

  2. MOSQUE ROAD – MODEL OR MUDDLE?!
    by Jacqueline Colaco
    Swanky? Spoiled? What I wonder, would be your view of present day Mosque Road, located near Bangalore East Station? Depends I guess, on whether you are a newcomer who appreciates it for its present residential cum utilitarian value, or an old timer Bangalorean like me who misses it for its easy laid back pace of 1958. I was just eight then, when Fraser Town (now Pulikeshnagar) became my family home after Bombay till 1999 at Ahmed Sait Road which adjoins Mosque Road between inclines up towards Coles Road at one end, and the Hajee Ismail Sait Masjid at the other. Mosque Road then was very minutely the hub of the area’s commercial activities as well. Thankfully this majestic shade providing tree lined avenue, similar to others in various other parts of our city, is still lined with rainflower or ‘gum’ trees (Samanea Saman). Monsoon season they shed what we termed ‘gum coys’, which would get crushed under the wheels of passing vehicles and be embedded into the road, or ‘God forbid’ into our footwear soles if we unknowingly stepped on them! We’d get our kicks from de-seeding their pods and rubbing the beans against our clothes till they developed an intolerable degree of heat, just so we could press these on unsuspecting friends faces, to evoke their shrieks! On view are also plenty of Spathodea Campanulata trees named ‘piss coy’ in local lingo, being very descriptive of its fruit that squirts a liquid when squeezed.
    The Mosque, which gives the road its name, was a humble structure in my youth. We were attuned to the muezzin’s call at dawn and dusk each day, as we were to the ITC factory sirens across the railway tracks. The mosque stands at the corner adjoining Madhavaraya Mudaliar (MM) Road, and just beyond it is the railway overbridge connecting with Pottery/Clarke Roads. These led to the then outer limit of Bangalore (1950s/60s) – Richards Town and da Costa Square, with Lingarajapuram the ultimate periphery! Beyond was Silver Lake, a popular picnic spot and one for a romantic rendezvous! After that it was considered the back of the beyond – Hennur Road and its parallel Banaswadi Road with vineyards, mango groves, granite quarries, cashuarina groves etc. etc. Also quite a few water bodies to boast about. No garbage or effluent dumps like today, as is the condition of the Mosque road drain. These were the pristine wilds or the countryside of our adventurous youthful hiking and biking trips.
    The beginning of Mosque Road, linking it to Coles Road, connecting to the older Bangalore, was actually at A.M. Bakery and Café, which was much patronised by us during schooldays. Japanese cakes and Cream horns were its speciality. Most schools were located on Promenade Road, not far away. Shops for daily provisions were A.M. Stores and Circle Stores. ‘Drain Vadais’ were famous, especially on rainy and wintry evenings, and were sold by a woman seated under her umbrella in the drain alongside Circle Stores, located opposite the Mosque. Cycling was our mode of transport during school and college days, with few cars, hardly any buses, no autos and mostly cycle rickshaws to contend with. My mum used to move around in one, with faithful Muniswamy (dressed in shirt and lungi hitched up over striped cotton underpants) pedalling her to St. Francis Xavier Cathedral or Holy Ghost Church, or to Russell Market and Richards Square in Shivajinagar, the latter two for procuring monthly provisions and other home needs. Albert Bakery delivered bread and biscuits to homes everyday at tea time, hot and fresh out of a trunk carried on a bicycle.
    Baking of our Christmas cakes each year was done in the large ovens at the home of the same baker, who lived on the parallel Robertson road. We’d carry across the trays filled with the raw ingredients which had been blended in our own home with a generous dose of the festive spirits!
    Our earliest friends were a mix and match of caste and creed and remain so till today. The Mistry sisters lived at the Mosque Road junction of our road, the Pintos and Dattatreyans on Mosque road, and our immediate neighbours were the elderly Smith couple and Mrs. Stephens. My particular friends were the youngsters Naseema Begum and Inayathullah Khan, Tony and Clive Stephens. Later, Rupert and Rayonette Stephens were always the first to visit on special occasions and to lend a helping hand as my parents grew older. The Bethesda Assembly, Seventh Day Adventist Hospital and Dr. Chander’s Clinic catered to soul and bodily health respectively. Later Mubarak Laundry, Thomson Bakery and Balaji Tailors and the UCO Bank and SBI expanded the commercial activity in the area that showed the first signs of making Mosque Road and Coles Road of today resemble downtown New York…
    Designer stores, eateries and glittering mini malls have replaced the earlier humble looking family enterprises. MM road is the ‘toast of tastes’ at Ramzan Roza – to break Iftaar with water, grapes and more sumptuous delights well before dusk was a hot pursuit the last two years, with the roadside stalls and restaurants full of ‘foodies’ from all castes and creeds, rich and poor alike, who came from far flung areas of Bangalore to sample its offerings. The Masjid has turned posh, flaunting grand embellishments with glow signs proclaiming The Prophet’s preachings. I still hear the plaintive chanting at dawn and dusk, as I have all my life which keeps me in touch with the familiar. A call for blessings and peace among mankind that I hope will never cease, and carry more practical meaning in these communally divided and torn lives we live. Many of the gracious homes on Mosque Road are gone, including my parental one. Many good neighbours and friends from before are no more. The Bethesda Assembly still stands firm in faith, as does Albert Bakery. Its business has grown, handled by three generations, and thrives in renovated premises, with standards still maintained but prices astronomical in keeping with the times. The bakery’s renown thrives too, on rumour that a local IT bigwig purchases ‘gutlis’ here, considering them the only ones a worthy substitute for his favourite Mumbai ‘daily bread’.
    Thus Mosque Road in 2014 sings a tune totally contrary to the one I first learned in 1958. Business is its theme song today as MONEY RULES THE ROOST! Sadly, the old Bangalore spirit of ‘laid back’ holds for nothing anymore. Pace and Space jostle side by side, as traffic flies by fast and thick, thoughtless of who gets hit, while stores attract with materialistic mantras and prices that match! So much for our Mosque Road and its adjuncts, Coles and MM Roads – truly a MODEL MUDDLE NOW!

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