A few off-beat delights in a vibrant city
Bangalore looks, at first sight, like an unruly city with little for the tourist to see or do. If you are looking for attractions like the Taj Mahal or The Gateway of India or The Caves of Ajanta and Ellora, then this is not the place for you.
Bangalore is a city that slowly reveals itself to the patient viewer. Hidden in the hustle and bustle of this hectic place, there are sights that will delight the sympathetic visitor to India. Although a modern city, it contains aspects of Indian life some of which are century's old: from the roadside shoe-mender to the roadside necklace re-threader; from the flower markets to the meat markets; from the remains of British colonialism to ancient temples.
Travel by auto-rickshaw to feel the city's pulse, and make sure that you drink South Indian 'FILTER COFFEE' rather than the newer and trendier espressos and lattes!
FILTER COFFEE - Bangalore's life-blood!
This is a description of the way coffee is made in South India.
A few hours before it is needed, hot water is put into the upper chamber of a coffee filter (see illustration). The water filters through a layer of finely ground coffee, producing a dark brown filtrate known as 'decoction'.
The decoction is far too strong to drink
When a coffee is ordered, a little decoction is put in a cup, and freshly boiled milk is added to it to produce a highly delcious coffee. Be sure to specify whether you want sugar or not (ask for 'sugar-less'). Watch my video to see how it is done:
Sometimes, the coffee will be served in a cup with a bowl.
The idea is that to cool the coffee you pour it from the cup into the bowl, and vice-versa. Watch other customers to see how to do it!
Bangalore is full of places that serve this traditional South Indian coffee. The Malleswaram area is a good place to find such a café, but almost anywhere in Bangalore will do. Just don't expect to find it in modern chains such as Coffee Day, Barrista, and Costa.
Address: Most cafés in Bangalore
Here are a few 'off-beat' things things that I have found in Bangalore
WRESTLING WITH THE GODS
NB: This is very difficult to find. I was shown it when going on a guided walk of the Nagarathpet district of the oldest part of Bangalore, which was organised by the excellent BENGALURUBYFOOT www.bengalurubyfoot.com Our guide told us thast this particular place was called "Kunjanna Garai".
The original city of Bangalore was a tiny proportion of what the city is today. A tiny cluster of narrow streets protected against attackers by a thorny hedge surrounding it and a huge fortress attached to it did not provide much space for games that required large open spaces. It was in the confined city that men kept fit by wrestling. They trained in special buildings known as 'akhara' in Hindustani. One of these may be found (with great difficulty) in the heart of Nagarathpet. When we reached it, the wrestlers had already long finished their daily practice session. The caretaker unlocked the building to allow us to enter.
CAR PART MARKET
I last visited this in 2007, so I hope that it is still in existence. There are still plenty of references to it on the internet.
Various alleyways lead into what at first sight seems to be a giant animated scrap heap containing a seemingly random selection of car and motocycle parts. Well, I suppose that is what it is in reality. Numerous dealers display their wares in a large open space. I suspect that there is no car for which you cannot find a spare part in this market. Wend your way through piles of lamp-housings, spare wheels, engines, gear-boxes, carburettors, dynamos, seat-belts, radiator grids, and a multitude of assorted motor engine parts, and 'snap' away with your camera. This mechanical mayhem is a real Indian experience. What appears to be total chaos at first sight is really a highly sophisticated market place. It is almost an allegory of India.
It is always polite and wise to ask first before taking photos.
May be a little difficult to find at first, but be persistent and ask around!
Address: ASK FOR: 'Stephen’s Square', OR 'Shivajinagar gujri' OR 'gujri gunta'
A SHOP IN AN ARCHITECT'S HOME
FABINDIA is a chain of stores selling a variety of goods, all supposedly exhibiting the best aspects if Indian handicraft. You can buy anything from soap to saris to sofas! And, on the whole, the quality is good.
The branch in Koramangala is unusual. It was the house of one of India's leading architects, CHARLES CORREA. Designed by him, it is a series of interconnected spaces, some of which surround small internal courtyards, which are open to the elements.
There is a small but beautifully designed café attached to the shop. Although this post-dates Correa, I am sure that he would have approved of it.
Stroll arund this attractive shop to appreciate its architecture
FABINDIA,House No. 54, 17th Main Road, Opp. Madivala Masjid, Koramangala 2nd Block, Bengaluru, Karnataka 560034
Phone: 080 4254 9000
A SMALL MARKET
This market at the beginning (Richmond Town end) of Hosur Road specialises in food mainly.
Much smaller than the more central Russell and KR (City) Markets, this mainly indoor market is shady and therefore cool to explore on the hottest of days. Wander right through to its far end, along a shady corridor lined with vegetable and dried fish sellers, to see the beef butchers and fishmongers.
Next to the market is Fanoos (restaurant), which I have not tried, but it has a good reputation for grilled meats, kebabs, etc. Also, close to the market there is an attractive new mosque with a large golden dome.
Built in 1929, this attractive market building has some 'heritage' value in the city of Bangalore, and I hope that it won't be demolished as so many buildings are in this ever-changing city.
Best to visit in the morning.
Address: Hosur Rd, Bangalore, Bengaluru 560025
In other blogs, I will describe more of the delights of Bangalore