Life, after the expansion of Avenue road in the heart of Bengaluru, will never be the same again. Vivek Vaidyanathan writes and Deepa Mohan photo-documents a heritage walk down this well known road.
Life on a road with all the hustle bustle goes on as usual. One fine day, residents and traders on that road wake up to the fact that there are strange markings on many of the properties which have appeared overnight. The President of the Traders Association gets a letter from the municipality that the road where they do business and reside is up for expansion. Reason: need for better connectivity from the city centre to the new international airport. A couple of days later, overcome with grief, the man suffers a heart-attack and passes away. Undeterred by the official notice, the residents of the road decide to fight back in their own innovative way. They rub off all the markings which the authorities have put up.
The above story is being scripted in our very own Bengaluru and the road in focus is Avenue Road, which stretches for about a mile from the head office of Mysore Bank (Yelehanka Gate) to Sirsi Flyover (KR Market). This road is amongst the list of 91 roads which have come up for expansion.
In order to make people aware of the history and heritage of this road and point out what they, as a city, will be losing due to the road widening program, Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) organized a heritage walk on Avenue Road on 8th February, 2009. The walk was organised with the collaboration of Environmental Support Group (ESG), an organization working for the preservation of Bangalore's heritage and environment, and The Avenue Road Commercial Association (TARCA).
While every road and every street has a story, Avenue Road has all that and much more to offer. Originally known as Doddapette, the road (area) came into prominence when the British army led by Lord Cornwallis camped in the area while fighting against Tipu Sultan and his army. The British were marching towards Mysore and Bangalore was an extremely strategic location in their effort to defeat Tipu.
While there is no historical account of how Doddapette became Avenue road, what is well documented is the fact that how this area, along with adjoining areas of Chickpet and Sultanpet, emerged as the trading hub in Bangalore. During partition, hundreds of thousands of refugees from Pakistan came to this area and made this their home. Over the next few decades, many more trading communities from the northern and western India (specifically Rajasthan and Gujarat) established successful business over here, not to forget trader communities from Andhra Pradesh. As one trader whom we spoke to (who came here during the partition) points out, if Bangalore has been built on immigrants, this is where it all began.
Slip into the lanes and by-lanes and you will find yourself being transported to different corners of India. These lanes teeming with activity are a microcosm of the places the people here originally came from. It is almost impossible to believe that ten minutes from the heart of the city lies an entirely different world.
Culture notwithstanding, there seems to be tremendous respect amongst different communities for one another and it almost seems that a synergetic web binds this place together. Also, the one language which is recognized and respected in these circles is the language of business and commerce. The inter-dependence of different communities for business and trade maybe the reason for the tightly knit web, whose termination is detrimental to all operating in that arena.