I was born in Bangalore, and though I’ve never lived there, I do share a special bond with the city. Summer vacations were spent making some amazing childhood memories visiting my grandparents. Being from a hick town in South India, these annual Bangalore visits were our exposure to culture and refinement.
In recent times, we have been finding excuses to visit Bengaluru (strangely enough, I seem to have grown comfortable referring to the city by its ‘new’ name!), mainly because of the plethora of good South Indian food joints which are sorely missing in my home city.
The last two times in Bengaluru were within the span of a couple of months, and both the times, I got some good exploration in, visiting some amazing eating places as well as other interesting nooks and crannies. I wrote about my food adventures in Bengaluru some time ago, and here I present a few random snapshots of non-food experiences.
A Winter Wedding
My good friend and Bengaluru fanatic Abhinav got married in November, and that took us back to Bengaluru. This was my first time attending an Arya Samaj wedding, and what a delightfully simple affair it was. We had a fantastic time at the wedding and the party after that, with the couple and our amazing hosts, Abhinav’s parents.
Mecca Book House – End of an Era
As my friends were opening a new chapter in their lives, in another part of Bengaluru, a long and storied chapter was coming to an end. Mecca Book House in Frazer Town, a lending library that had spent more than 40 years shaping the minds and reading habits of Bengalurueans was closing down, and was selling off its books. We dropped by and spoke to the owner, Fareed Ahmed – a delightfully interesting and fatalistic gentleman who was quite matter-of-fact about the closing down of his beloved library. After spending some time among the remaining part of the collection (the best part of it was long gone, having been scooped up by bibliophiles and bargain hunters), we picked up a few titles and bid adieu to the last lending library in Frazer Town.
Sapper War Memorial
We were back in Bengaluru less than two months later, this time for a few more days, and with more time for me to explore.
I came across this as I was walking along Residency road, and was immediately pulled in. The memorial has a different theater of war mentioned on each side, and commemorates the Pioneers of the Indian Army for their contributions to the first World War. The regiments mentioned in the memorial all have colorful histories, and still exist in some form or the other in the present-day Indian Army.
For all its significance, the War Memorial doesn’t seem to be very noticed, and serves as the backdrop to a bus stop at a busy intersection.
Select Books – Used Books Goldmine
I am fascinated by used books – not only do they represent a treasure trove of often out-of-print beauties, the marks of ownership by previous bibliophiles give them a certain character and cachet that new books, however well-produced and marketed, can never have.
I was delighted to fine three used-book stores within walking distance of where I was staying, and the most character-filled one was Select Books. Tucked away in an alley off Church Street, it was a bit of a challenge to find at first. But doggedly following the Google Maps directions bore fruit and I found myself on the threshold of a small apartment in which all three rooms were stuffed floor to ceiling with books. Within this nest sat an oldish, bespectacled man at a tiny metal desk. The desk was also overrun with books, as I would discover that every single surface in the place was. He had a smile on his face, as if to say, “Oh! You found us! Well done!” When I said I wanted to look around, he nodded his head and went back to reading his book.
This Aladdin’s cave of books was awesome, I lost myself within it, emerging a couple of hours later clutching my prize of a couple of old books. If you are a bibliophile, Select is a must-visit.
Just Another Autorickshaw Ride
One of the days, I found myself in an autorickshaw, traversing the less fancier parts of Bengaluru. This was quite rare, since I walked most places. Riding in an auto, i realized there were many photogenic moments passing me by – so I whipped out my phone and shot a bunch of pictures of regular people going abut their everyday lives, and the result was fascinating.