Those were the days when red coloured double decker buses ruled the city. Sitting in the front seat on top, it was a roller coaster ride as the bus swayed and leaned precariously while the driver squeezed around circles on the narrow Central Street in Shivaji Nagar.
Life, in general, rarely went past the second gear during the 70s, perhaps the last decade that had two distinct lifestyles of the ‘British’ Bangalore and the ‘Indian’ Bengaluru. The book ‘Bangalore – Swinging in the 70s‘ focuses mostly on the ‘British’ Bangalore which was centered around Cantonment. Entering the Cantonment area was almost like stepping into a different country and culture with only border control and passport missing. It would not be wrong to say that, for about two or three decades after Independence, Cantonment was still in the grip of a colonial hangover. Even today, when you find yourself walking on streets named after Davis, Hutchins, Cline, Lloyd, Lewis, Standage or Charles Campbell it seems like you are stepping back in history and time.
Barracks, bungalows with hedges, bakeries, cafes, clubs, churches and convent schools dotted the Cantonment countryside that was exclusively designed and built for the sahib and memsahibs.
Entertainment hotspots were generally found around MG or Mahatma Gandhi Road (a paradox of sorts considering the simple, unpretentious lifestyle of the person it is named after) and Brigade Road. Cool evenings were meant to take a walk on the MG Road promenade, sit on a bench to watch the Ambassadors, Fiats, Vespas and Lambrettas cruise by. Then one crossed the road at leisure with no fear of being run over and ate ice cream at Lakeview or a bread n jam at Indian Coffee House.
Matching the lifestyle and culture, this was the hub of English movies. A balcony movie ticket cost ₹3.50 and a samosa was a princely 35p (paise not pence) at Rex. Lido theatre seemed a long way away from the Cantonment limits even though it was just about a kilometer from Brigade’s. The last bus departed around 10 pm and then the area became quiet. In fact, if one went to see the ‘first show’ at 6:30 pm, the movie ended around 9 pm. Then, it was a race to catch the last bus and not be left in the dark!
There were no ‘traffic’ police simply because there wasn’t much traffic. The most reported traffic offence was probably double riding on the bicycle or riding without lights. The punishment was severe – the air was let out of the tyres so that the offender had to push it for the remaining journey.
A unique coffee table book by Paul Fernandes and Chicku Jayadeva, in which the glory days of the 70s burst into life, Paul’s mastery of colours and attention to detail is simply fascinating. Every window, roof, stone wall, sign board, tree, car, scooter, bicycle shop, policemen, horse, cow, tonga, dog, school, movie theatre, hotel, bird, waiter and a million other aspects of life is painstakingly captured.
Even though the book is only about 150 pages long with little text content, connoisseurs of art will be lost for hours. There are about 60 full sized watercolour illustrations, plus hundreds of smaller drawings spread across pages like fallen spring flowers. What is also noteworthy are the portraits of people dressed in the fashion of those days with oddities of the 70s such as Bobby bike and Badal car. The former was a product of Escorts made famous by the namesake movie starring Dimple and the latter was a car made by Sipani that wobbled on three wheels. As a side note, for those who may have not seen it in real life, there is a hilarious scene in the Hindi movie Ram Balram where Dharmendra and Amitabh Bachchan carry the car across a stream of water, minus the wheels while singing a song!
The writing is frothy, light hearted memories of yesteryears with each write-up focusing on a slice of life. Many of the buildings and institutions featured in the book are long gone, as is the general lifestyle of those days. The book is a perfect antidote as a stress buster, especially during these days of antigens.
It is a Wodehousian view of Bengaluru, featuring amusing situations and quirky characters. If you are in the mood for some time travel, jump into the pages and you may never want to come out again!
Bangalore Swinging in the 70s
Paul Fernandes in happy conversation with Chicku Jayadeva
Published by Simova Education and Research