“Only five per cent of people follow their heart. The rest work to please others”, said the 45-year-old S V Ramachandran as he welcomed us into The Qurio City shop, the centre of his passion for antiques. It was around 7 PM on October 21st – and the second edition of the event, ‘City Specks: Mapping Memories’.
The event was part of the theatre group Maraa’s recently concluded October Jam. For the next hour and a half, he enthralled around twenty of us with his exciting experiences of accumulating and trading antiques interspersing it with snippets of Bangalore’s history.
An Indian Airforce (IAF) employee from 1985-2005, Ramachandran opened an outlet/warehouse near Hotel Taj on Old Poor House Road (now Jumma Masjid Road) in Shivaji Nagar on April 1st, 2006 and expanded to 101 K Kamaraj Road, Shivaji Nagar on March 21st, 2007. Charles Dickens, one of his favourite writers, inspired its name (from The Old Curiosity Shop of course!).
Ramachandran talked about how some of Bangalore’s earliest maps were from 1635 AD. Dukaan, an antique store in Jayanagar apparently has ancient Bengaluru lithographs. Excavations done during the 1890’s by Sir Mirza Ismail under the Mysore Maharaja His Highness Krishna Rajendra Wodeyer’s patronage have revealed pottery dating back 3000 to 2000 BC and Roman coins from 2000 BC in Siddapura and Jalahalli. Ramachandran’s sources for information include M R Arun, a freelance journalist, Balaji of Rare antique shop and Hyvadan Rao’s The Mysore Gazette.
Want antiques? Or a slice of Bengaluru’s past?
Visit The Qurio City shop at:
#101 K Kamaraj Road,
Phone: 9342251413, 08032953064
Ramachandran ruminated on the background of Bangaloreans. The city was originally a transit stop between Madras and Mysooru with a Telugu speaking population up to Magadi and Tamilians on the Kolar and Bangarpet side. The Kannada belt started from Kanakpura and Mandya districts. After Haider Ali’s reign, Kannadigas migrated to Bengaluru as agriculture and construction labourers to work with British families and educate their children in good convent schools. Shiite Muslims from Iran settled on Aga Abbas Ali Road while Anglo-Indians populated Frazer Town and Whitefield.
Ramachandran has lived in Shivaji Nagar all his life. Hailing from a family in the borewell digging business, Ramachandran used to visit his father’s borewell sites from the age of ten in Ramurthy Nagar which in the 1970s were agricultural fields. His father S R Venkataraman worked with the visionary engineer and statesman Sir M Viswesvaraya. “My father who expired when I was thirteen, had the cancer of collecting (things) and passed it on to me”, he remarked.
Ramachandran has obtained curios from Ramnad (Tamil Nadu), Sunday markets in Amristar, Delhi and other parts of India during his IAF stints and through friends and acquaintances.
According to Ramachandran, Richards Square in Shivaji Nagar has some of South India’s oldest antique stores like Syed Mehboob Ali and Sons (which incidentally has never penalised customers for accidentally breaking items). K R Market and Shivaji Nagar are among Bangalore’s oldest neighbourhoods with an annual Dasara and Diwali mela in the former until the 1980’s.
Ramachandran used to love swimming in a lake opposite the present Indira Nagar Bus Depot on Old Madras Road. Now the lake is part of the compound of Madras Engineering Group (MEG) campus. He also enjoyed walking/bicycling from City Market to M G Road and further.
“Self-satisfaction is my largest treasure and contentment the greatest profit. Acquiring something for a crore of rupees is possession but not a collection”, Ramachandran quipped. Starting with postage stamps when he was eight, he has acquired old Afghani woollen carpets, seven wheel clocks, rare paintings, books, photos, watches, long play (LP) records, large and miniature LP record players, 78 RPM records, porcelainware and more.
“Every piece has history and passion associated – I feel that this is a museum and I am the curator”, he confessed. He also restores old music boxes and clocks.
He introduced us to Babu, his co-worker for four years whom he calls a wood artisan (instead of a carpenter) who makes his own tools and can create anything out of a piece of wood. Ramachandran’s wife Bhagya, his ardent supporter feels that maintaining/reusing wooden artefacts is essential to reduce tree felling. His teenage daughter Amrita and college going son Gautam also joined the session.
Recalling the city’s first cemented pavement, and the introduction of lighting and barricading on Brigade Road, Ramachandran shared how Bangalore’s growth exploded suddenly in the 1990s.
“I was a little apprehensive of what I should speak and if it would interest you”, Ramachandran admitted, touching us with his modesty. An avid reader and music fan, he ended the storytelling with some melodious Hindi film numbers from the 1970’s. ⊕