“If you believe in tree fairies, this is the place.” - Vijay Thiruvady
I’m happy to announce that Project Bangalore has taken off. In baby steps, yes, but taken off nonetheless.
Last weekend I went on the MEG walking tour hosted by Vijay Thiruvady from Bangalore Walks. I learnt so much and met so many wonderful people, I never expected to – I enjoyed it more than expected. It wasn’t how I planned to start my exploration of Bangalore but that’s what happened and well, no regrets there.
On that walk I learnt that the Lalbagh walking tour, also led by Vijay, is an equally good walk to go on. So that’s where I ended up last Saturday morning, 6:30 am to be precise.
The Lalbagh walking tour is called the Green Heritage walk, and rightly so. Lalbagh is one of Bangalore’s oldest and most prime landmarks, and one of the few places that preserves our (lost) identity as the garden city.
Being a botanical garden, I, like many, have always associated Lalbagh with the flower shows that it is hosts twice every year. That is all I knew about it, and that’s all I thought there was to know.
Oh, but how wrong I have been.
Did you know that there is evidence of the Megalithic man having lived where Lalbagh is now? That the first potato in Bangalore, and possibly India, was planted in Lalbagh? That Tipu Sultan had a green thumb and that most of the plant life in the garden is exotic (and thriving beautifully)?
I did a lot of learning for a weekend.
Lalbagh (Hindi for red garden) is over 200 acres in area, so covering all of this in one walk was not a possibility. Not for us anyway, not on that day at least. When the gardens were commissioned by Hyder Ali, it was only as big as 40 acres.
The starting point for our walk was at the big rock that is found when you enter the garden from the East-side entrance. There are a total of four different gates through which you can enter the garden. We (my mother and her friend tagged along for the walk) got there half an hour early and to my non-morning person surprise, the garden was crowded.
For many Bangaloreans, Lalbagh is a popular choice of location to carry out their fitness regime – walking, jogging, yoga, you name it. On the weekends and when schools are closed – as they are now in India for the summer – families flock to the garden for some quality picnic time. As always, couples frequent the garden for their daily/weekly dose of coochie-cooing. What is it about trees and romance?
Still, it’s good to know that the beauty of the city’s most prominent garden is not lost on all Bangaloreans, not including the insensitive “litteratis” of course.
We sat there on the rock, waiting for the clock to strike 7 and Vijay to show up. My mother and her friend giggling like little girls at an old man exercising vigorously, and me doing what we all do best when alone in public – people-watching.
My day had barely begun but so many people were already well into theirs, right there in Lalbagh. Two men sold freshly made lemongrass juice out of the back of a Maruti van, a group of four youngsters had set up a badminton net and were playing what could have been their fifth-third set that morning, three old uncles, done with their obligatory morning walk, happily indulged in what looked like the start of long gossip session and some, just sat there in peaceful solitude witnessing the life around them.
Every day, Lalbagh is where hundreds of people start their day, share their stories and even make a living. I wonder, how many know its story and of all the life that has found a home in it.
More on my walk through Lalbagh in Part 2.