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Early Bangalore as seen from Bus Route # 11

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BusPublic Transport

Bangalore in Fifties and Sixties was still a Pensioners’ Paradise and very much a sleepy town. It was mostly divided into City and Cantonment with Basavanagudi and Malleshwaram well known among its residential areas. Jaya Nagar or its famous mosquitoes had not made their debut yet. The City Market was really a conglomeration of various Petes- Chikkapete, Balepete, Tharugupaete, Akkipete, Cottonpete holding the business community. Dandu or, Cantonement (‘Contrumentru’ as villagers would call) was still a very far off place for most Bangaloreans, almost as far as London itself.

 One got a fair idea of the City on a tour in the city’s transport service - the Bangalore Transport Service, BTS; The other modes of transport for a common man being Jataka Gaadi (horse driven covered cart) or Nataraja Service- local lingo for footing it out. The word ‘Autorickshaw’ or the contraption was yet to arrive on the scene.
  Those who worked in Athara Katcheri before Vidhana Soudha was conceived, or those who worked in A.G’S Office started their walk to their offices after an early meal at 9 A.M. After chewing Mysore viledele with sughnadhi betel nuts, most of them changed in to their Kucche panche with marriage coat some wearing Mysore Peta as crown  set off to their office holding a tiffin box for afternoon snack- couple of idlis, Uppittu etc. The same bag was used to bring Mysore mallige in the evening along with badami Halwa for the waiting wife. During monsoon only addition to the gear was a half-sleeve sweater and a full length umbrella which sometimes doubled as a walking stick.
Bangalore looked almost empty during the day as most of the eligible Science and Engineering graduates or Diploma holders were herded in to buses at unearthly hour of 6.30 in the morning and ferried to HAL, HMT, BEL, LRDE, ITI, NGEF, Kirloskar, BEML etc. The city suddenly perked up after the factory hands returned to their favorite haunts like Yagnappana Hotlu opposite National High school Grounds or Bhattra Hotlu in Gandhi Bazaar for the mandatory ‘Three by Four Masale’ or ‘Two by three coffee’ in the evening.
One way to see Bangalore and get an idea of what was happening in the city was to travel in BTS Route number 11 from Basavanagudi to Tata Institute at Malleshwaram 18th cross.
Bus Route Number 11 started from Gandhi Bazaar opposite Vidyarthi Bhavan and took you to Tata Institute (Now IISc), after eons of time spent amidst chatter, sleep and fights over annas and paisa. Morning visitors to Vidyarthi Bhavan would already be waiting for the delicious Masale Dose after eating Rave vade when the conductor asked the last of commuters to get in to the bus and shouted ‘Rrighhtt!’
The bus initially coughing and moving in fits and starts, would go past the only Taxi Stand in the City and take its first left turn at K.R. Road and pass through Basavanagudi post office and enter Dr. H.N.’s National College circle and stop at Diagonal Road opposite Dr. Narasimhachar’s dispensary. Here in the evenings, Ghokale –a Maharashtrian sold ‘Brain Tonic ‘- A tangy Kadalekai concoction – (Ground nut mixture) with the goods atop his bicycle carrier. Light from his dynamo illuminated the area for you to see what you were eating and for him to check whether he has not been palmed off with ‘sawakalu’ kasu. (disfigured  coin) . Gokhale claimed students of National high school and National college figured in the State Rank List (and hence dubbed ‘Kudumis’) only because his brain tonic was their staple food!
Everything was laidback – issuing of tickets, getting in and out of the bus and the bus ride itself. At the end of Diagonal Road you entered the sanctum sanctorum of Shettys or Komatis of Bangalore who sold anything and everything that could be sold from gold to Pakampappu, Gulpavatte and Gunthaponganalu. The Sajjan Rao temple and choultry by the same name was much sought after for society weddings. The Sathyanarayana Temple came much later as politicians became more and more crooked. Kota Kamaksahyya Choultry was opposite to the best Bakery in Bangalore and may be the whole of South India – the V.B. Bakery. Dressed in spotless white panche and banyans with sleeves , the staff looked as if they were running on  skates taking and fetching orders for Chukli, kodubale, vegetable puff, Om biscuit, Kharada Kadale kayi , ‘Congress’ kadalakayi and ‘Badam Haalu’. V.B. Bakery’s stuff was made for Gods who, I suspect, had descended on Bangalore not only for this for also for the weather, the doses, mallige flowers etc.
Next, after passing Modern Hotel and New Modern hotel where the whiff of SKC - Sweetu, Khara, Coffee hit your nostrils, was the Stop opposite Minerva Talkies, which mostly showed Tamil Pictures for all the three shows and wore a culturally superior hat with Bengali Movies and that too only Satyajit Ray for the morning shows! I suspect most Bangaloreans got introduced to Pather Panchali, Aparajito and Apur Sansar and Rosogulla only thro’ Minerva Talkies.
A 200 meters dash from Minerva took you to Mavalli Tifin Rooms in a dingy lane, which morphed into MTR and moved next to Lalbaug rubbing shoulders with KFC and McDonalds as one of the best eateries in town.
After Minerva, the next stop was another theater ‘Bharath’ which took you to the world of ‘Spartacus’ and ‘Robe’. Only Bharath and Vijalakshmi in Chikpete showed English movies in the ‘City’ side of Banglore.
Next came’ Shivaji’ theater, the abode of Tamil Films with a statue of Shivaji the warrior riding a horse on the top of the Building.( MNS Leader Raj Thackeray or for that matter the original tiger Bal Thackeray would have been pleased to see a Shivaji statue in Bangalore ). Kannada films were nonexistent or a rarity those days- except for an occasional ‘Bedara Kannappa’, ‘Sadarame’ ‘ Rathagiri Rahasya’( the song ‘ Amara Madhura Prema’ was a craze) or ‘School Master’ – it was all Shivaji Ganeshan and MGR who ruled the Tamil films. For a Shivaji Ganeshan film taking 2/ 3 kerchiefs was mandatory because he made you cry in buckets after the interval, while MGR film was all about romancing Saroja Devi on a Full moon night or chasing villain Nambiar on a horseback in a dark black or deep scarlet outfit. ‘Gemini’ Ganeshan came around the same time in to Tamil films after quitting as a chemistry lecturer!
Then the bus entered Puttanna Shetty Town Hall, a marvelous building - where most of major functions, felicitations took place.  Kengal Hanumanthayya, was seen often here before he started planning construction of Vidhana Soudha . When Kengal used convicts from nearby Bangalore Jail to do the cumbersome job of breaking stones in to jelly, the story goes, one of them slapped Kengal when he came for his daily rounds!
 MS sang many of her kutchheris in Town Hall so did Flute Mali accompanied by Mysore T. Chowdian on violin.
Buildings like Ravindra Kala Bhavan had not come there yet, but there was United Mission High school with a very large play Ground. Even the nearby Canara Bank came much later.
After crossing Silver Jubilee Park Road and Narasimha Raja Road the bus would hem and haw climbing the slope towards George Oaks building opposite Bangalore Corporation office and enter Cenotaph memorial which was pulled down when some local patriots thought it depicted days of our slavery to British.
Then the bus would cross the Police Commissioner’s office; the commissioner – lucky fellow- had his residence right opposite to his office! Yet when he drove in his car to his office in style, the police constables gave a guard of honour for him standing on either side of the gangway. This happened everyday and a sizable crowd collected to watch the ceremony.
 At the Government Engineering college ( which became UCE and finally  UVCE) bus stop, those who took bus to Attara Kaccheri ( 18 Offices ) of the government would get down and loosen up their stiff limbs as also the students of  Jayachamarajendra Occupational Institute started by Vishveshvarayya from his lifetime earnings. Those who wanted to stroll down to Cubbon Park would also get down there and if it was a Sunday they would go with their family to listen to the various orchestras who played and sang old Hindi songs.
 Much later, those who helped God to do His work went to Vidhana Soudha. They are still partners in His unfinished work.
 At the next the bus stop at Maharani’s college, the young and old woke up and cranked their necks  to have a look at the sari clad demure beauties getting down. A modern college for girls- the Mount Carmels’ came much later which was the hep, hip Girls’ college of those days. The Hockey stars-Britto sisters, most of Bangalore’s athletes came from there. Shantha Rangaswamy came from Maharanis and captained India’s women cricket team.
In the excitement of Maharani’s bus stop, I almost forgot I took the bus an hour back in Gandhi Bazaar which now picked up some nerve and speed, drove past Central College and to the Law College Stop. Behind Central College was the Central College Cricket Grounds which hosted all the international matches as well as the Ranji Matches. It was here a ball from fearsome Roy Gilchrist hit A.S. Krishnaswamy on his chest and flew off to boundary. Col C.K. Naidu played here when he was past 70 along with his brother C.S. Naidu and so did Lala Amarnath. Central Colleges Grounds was the place all the test cricketers from Mysore / Karnataka cut their teeth playing State B Ramachandra Rao shield, Rohington Baria Cup for University and finally the Ranji.
In the history of Indian cricket, very rarely or it has never happened, one player refusing to play for India and accompany the team to West Indies because his much revered and admired colleague was not picked in the team. This is precisely what happened when Speedster G. Kasturiranagan (Presently a member of the KSCA Governing Body) refused to join the team as L.T. Adishesh was not selected in the team).Along with Varadaraj, L.T. Subbu, Balaji Srinivasan (who played in an ‘unofficial’ test for India) and later with B.S. Chandrashekar, Erapalli Prasanna, Kunjumani V.Subramanyam, Karnataka was a formidable Ranji Team.
When our bus took a left to enter Majestic area, you wished you had eyes, like your ears on both sides of your head. The only place in India or any where for that matter so many movies houses stacked together. Prabhat, Sagar, States, Kempegowds, Himalaya, Majestic, Geetha, Jai Hind, Alankar and Kalpana theatres starting from Mysore Bank dotted the Majestic area, where most of Hindi movies would be released with quite a few of them doing their silver jubilees ……..
After gorging people going to Railway Station – there was no bus station there! The    empty space between Majestic Bus Stop and Railway Station was Subhasah Nagar Grounds used mainly for political speeches by likes of Jawahar Lal Nehru and Ram Manohar Lohia .
It was in Subhash Nagar Grounds, Master Hirannaiyya first staged his famous play ‘Lanchavathara’ lampooning corruption in politics. During the inauguration of the play, Hirannaiyya told the audience that their livelihood depended on those who came in after buying tickets and not on the front row dignitaries who were invitees. J.B. Mallaradhya who was the chief guest got up, walked to the counter and bought a ticket for himself and entered the theatre!
I have digressed here like my bus going all over Bangalore.
 From here the bus developed wings as it were, and flew past, Ananda Rao circle, Sheshadri puram High School, Central Theater, and entered the citadel of Mallehwaram. At Malleashwaram circle, it took a left and after taking a right at Margosa road (on its return journey the bus took the parallel ‘Sampige’ Road) started its journey towards Tata Institute. Malleashmawaram Tiffin Rooms where people waited for its Mysore masale, and Ganapathy temple at 8th cross.
 By the time the bus entered 16th cross most of the commuters had emptied the bus, and because of the steep gradient, the bus behaved as if it was doing Nandi hills with the conductor holding the bar with both hands with a prayer on his lips.
On the 17 cross Road, students of Malleshwaram School got down with a stoop looking couple of inches shorter since they boarded the bus. Then the bus went for its home stretch to the Tata Institute which came about because of the foresight and visionary of Jamshedjee Tata who thought India should produce its own great scientists and chose Bangalore instead of Bombay to set up the Institute. Nobel Laureate Sir C.V. Raman started his own Institute, Raman Research Institute after his differences with Tata Institute.
Bangalore of those days was a place filled with fewer people but one had lot of choices to choose from for entertainment like Binny vs. Blues football, Mirza Shield cricket match between Bangalore Cricketers vs. BUCC, MEG vs. HAL hockey, MTR vs. Vidyarthi Bhavan dosaa, City Institute Ramanavami Celebrations vs. Sehshadripuram Sangeetha Sabha , Lal Bagh vs. Cubbon Park, Aa Naa Kru vs. Tha Raa Su , G.P. Rajaratnam vs. Bichhi , but P. Kalinga Rao stood alone, but sang with Sohan Kumari and Mohan Kumari, with his brand of ‘Yaaru Hithavaru Ninge Ee moovarolage ‘ and ‘Baaraiyya Belabingale’.
It is a pity BTS ,now BMRTC, have changed the   numbers of various bus routes in Bangalore unlike in Bombay, now Mumbai, where Bus Routes have the same numbers for over 50 years. Thus, 165 still goes from Sion to Prabhadevi, 8 Ltd goes from Chembur to Flora Fountain and so on. But that is a different story.


Vasanthkumar Mysoremath's picture

Nostalagia well described..Route 11 was lifeline....

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Nice to recollect what we have lost, at least once in a while.  I was one of those regulars who used Route 20 for a long time - starting point Rajajinagar Electric Power House to Ulsoor via Majestic -

- enroute it would touch the 'Contronment' area - Brigade Road - Opera Theatre bus stop - for those of us who were trying to ape the western modes of living - those were the days of Beatles, Hippies, Rock Bands, Fox Trot, Shake, jiving, (unfortunately, no Salsa) but came along a little later - dirty dancing and  go for window shopping - imagining ourselves in those trendy trousures and boots and all eyeing those fair ladies who occasionally hyped their maxi short skirts. 

Can we dream of our old  Pinchinidaarara swarga?

One of these we will have to gather somewhere and give Thilaanjali to old Bengaluru and with a silent procession mourn and shed a tear or two.

Good things do not last for a long time.

-Vasanthkumar Mysoremath

pathykv's picture


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I visited B'lore a couple of times in the fifties and can gel with the above sentiments.

Subsequently from seventies, I have been watching the decline of the culture of Bangalore riding on BTS/BMTC buses.


idontspam's picture

Nostalgia and mathematics

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"The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function." - Prof. Al Bartlett

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silkboard's picture

wow, had missed reading this

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Feels nice to read such recollections. I was thinking that if were to write such piece few decades from now, what would that be about!? The exciting events like "When Metro opened"? Or nostaligc stuff like "Remembering K R Puram jams" because by then we would have passed the phase that we are in.

I know one thing for sure though, I wouldn't be writing a peice like this from a house in Bengaluru. It'd certainly be a Tier-3 city of today in Karnataka. 100 Rupees, if anyone is willing to take a bet.


s_yajaman's picture

My own memories

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I used BTS extensively from 1978 to 1992.  Here are some routes that I used a lot.  (And boards used to be bilingual!! ;) )  Lived in HAL Colony and so could choose between Marathahalli buses and JB Nagar buses. JB Nagar was 1 km from home but did not think much of the walk. 

138 - Jeevan Bima Nagar to Bangalore Bus Station (as KBS was called).  Get off at St.Joseph's (called 'College' stop).  Bus used to be packed almost always.  We school kids used to be real pains with those huge bags on our backs.  Return - catch the bus at New Opera cinema.  This was my staple.  Even remember doing the footboard routine quite often.  

333 - Marathahalli to BBS.  It also had a lovely "Express" service painted in blue vs. normal red.  Phenomenal - stops were at Corporation, Bangalore Club, Mayo Hall, Kodihalli and HAL Main Gate.  25p more than normal bus.  But Mayo Hall to HAL Main Gate in 12-15 minutes.  Used to bypass Ulsoor as well which was a major plus. 

34/37/32 - from Richmond Circle to National College.  When I used them it used to be 50p (2 fare stages was minimum fare then).  32 had a double decker.

Some of my friends lived in Malleshwaram and used to visit them.  So 139 to Shivajinagar and then 93, 93C to Malleshwaram Post Office.

Visiting cousins - 7D from JB Nagar to 4th block and this got extended all the way to Banashankari.  Else special treat was to be dropped to HAL II Stage and then take the 7 double decker to Jayanagar4th block and then walk.  Or else 139 to Shivajinagar and then 13 to Banashankari. 

190 everyday from Ashram to JB Nagar when I was in BMSCE.  Very punctual if infrequent service. 

Then there were a host of buses going from Market to HAL - 322, 323, 324, 325, etc. Red board.  Lots of vegetable baskets inside, etc. 

As a young boy I remember going to Shivajinagar walking around to find the bus I had to take.  Never thought I was in mortal danger (unlike now). 

And who can forget how a double decker on 39 (Gandhi Bazaar to KBS) had fallen on its side near Ashram with lots of school kids inside.




Drive safe.  It is not just the car maker which can recall its product.

s_yajaman's picture

Double deckers - another memory

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Some more stuff from the past.  BTS had quite a few routes with double deckers on them

4 - Jayanagar BS to BBS

6 - Jayanagar BS to SBS

7 - Jayanagar BS to HAL II Stage

12 - Banashankari to BBS

25D - BBS to Jayanagar East

32 - NR Colony to SBS

131 - HAL II Stage to BBS

134 - Ulsoor (later Doopanahalli) to SBS

135 - Ulsoor to BBS

150 - SBS to KR Market

315 - BBS to KR Pura

Still don't know why BMTC scrapped double deckers.  Much more space efficient than the trailer buses.  And given how trees have been cut down even that excuse is not valid!


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