About 30 years ago, one of my colleagues was transferred to Calcutta. A year later he came to his hometown on a holiday and it was shocking to hear his experience about the notorious traffic jams of Calcutta. Sitting in the peaceful and slow city of Bangalore we could not envisage those serious traffic jams. But then, we had no clue that we would be experiencing such jams right here very soon!
When I used to go to work on MG Road then, I used to leave home (Yelahanka Satellite Town) at 8.30 A.M. and reach my office traveling by two buses, by 9.50 A.M. Never in my service had I reached my office late. But today, if I have to reach some place in the city at 10 A.M., I have to leave home at 7.30 and still, I am not sure I will be on time!
The main reason is of course the burgeoning number of people and vehicles on the road. Nobody dreamt that Bangalore would attract the attention of the world and turn into an IT city. Since the nineties, Bangalore started growing at an exponential rate and the planners could not keep pace with the growth. The lazy and dreamy city suddenly got a jolt and the infrastructure just could not meet the needs of the increasing population.
In the melee, the face of the city started changing, and the new Bangalore of traffic jams, mounds of garbage, barren roads in place of beautiful avenues, huge multi-storied buildings in place of lovely old bungalows and colonial mansions, messy residential layouts in place of lovely lakes and fields, concrete jungle in place of beautiful gardens and pollution and noise in place of peace and serenity seems to be here to stay.
The vanishing Circles
The first victim of growth was the ‘Circle’. Bangalore was a city of Circles. Every junction where four to seven roads met had huge Circles in the centre and traffic would automatically go round these circles. Every Circle had lovely gardens and a tall lamp-post. “I still remember the Malleshwaram Circle with a tall lamp-post with five lights in the centre and a lovely flower bed around it” says Gopal, the tailor, who has been running his business for the last 65 years just near the Circle.
That was the contribution of the Maharaja’s golden period. He has no complaints, though, but still misses the serene, pollution-free and heavenly atmosphere with huge trees giving AC effect all the 24 hours. “But today, after all the trees have been removed, my shop has become a furnace and I cannot stay here without a fan. There is so much of pollution from the thousands of vehicles passing by every day” adds Gopal.
“Traffic was better controlled by a Circle. Now-a-days, traffic jams and accidents at junctions have increased. This place has become a mess after the grade separators have been constructed”, says Bhasker, a paan-beeda vendor on the same road.
I went around the city to capture pictures of a few Circles that are still remaining and was shocked to realise the number of beautiful Circles that have been replaced with signal lights, traffic islands and grade separators – Mekhri Circle, Bhashyam Circle-Sadashivnagar, Malleshwaram Circle, Hudson Circle, Richmond Circle, Corporation Circle, Ananda Rao Circle, Bhashyam Circle, Rajajinagar, Magadi Road Circle and so many more!
In our busy routine life, we did not even realize their exit. I reached Madhava Rao Circle and it was a pleasure seeing it silently regulating the traffic, with a lovely garden feasting my eyes. Then I went to Arumugam circle, which was serving the purpose of a playground for children. Many Circles like Natkalappa Circle and Sajjan Rao Circle have temples in them.
According to Arun of the famed Vidyarthi Bhavan hotel at Gandhi Bazaar, the removal of the Vani Vilas Circle at the National College junction was a blunder. The place had never seen traffic jams before, but the BBMP ignored local protests and went ahead with its flyover project. “Today, that place has become a mess”, says Arun.
Sridhar, an auto driver, however feels that grade separators work much better at Mekhri Circle, as the earlier Circle would have been inadequate to regulate today’s volume of traffic. Ashok of the Petrol Bunk at Bhashyam Circle feels they did a much better job of regulating traffic, though. “Accidents caused by vehicles jumping signals have now become common. Pedestrians find it very difficult to cross these roads safely” he says.
Praveen Sood, ACP Traffic, disagrees. “A detailed study of traffic engineering will throw light on the evolution of the Circles to today’s grade separators and how this is the best option”, he says. As a traffic specialist his comments may be right. But as a citizen of this city for the last 50 years, I miss so many things that have given way to the new, among which Circles occupy a prominent place. Old is always gold.
Bungalows out, apartments in
Another major change is the replacement of sprawling bungalows with huge apartment complexes. Having lived in Malleshwaram for a long time, I feel very sad to see huge and ugly apartment complexes in place of old bungalows. In a place where just a family of ten to fifteen members lived, around fifty to two hundred families now reside in apartments. These bungalows were hidden inside a huge garden of rare flora and fauna. We were greeted by the chirps of thousands of birds morning and evening, and enjoyed the golden dusk playing hide and seek with the lush green trees. Children could even play cricket or football inside their own compounds but today, they have to satisfy their sports needs by clicking the mouse of the computer!
This change has led to many problems. The roads which served a few hundreds of vehicles today have to serve thousands of vehicles, as almost every family owns a minimum of two vehicles, one of them being a four-wheeler. Thus all beautiful avenues with their tree canopies are slowly being turned into barren broad roads.
With thousands of trees being felled, the city which did not require even a fan, today requires ACs. All residential localities suffer water shortage. Sanitation and sewerage have become major problems. Huge mounds of garbage get collected in front of every apartment complex. Pollution has increased so much that so many pollution-related health problems have increased in the city.
I went around the city to click pictures of a few bungalows and found a beautiful old one still standing. This family apparently protected every tree, every little plant and every little shrub in its Eden garden. When every other bungalow was being brought down by builders, they had held out. “We love our house and our garden. We will not give up this property for any price”, said the possessive landlady.
Another friend of mine buckled under the pressure of the younger generation, who could not understand sentiments but only saw the money behind the property. Hundreds of such mansions in Basavangudi, Malleshwaram, Frazer Town, Cox Town and other old localities have been demolished and huge apartment complexes or commercial buildings have been built.
Thus a beautiful garden city today is being ransacked from all sides by land sharks, timber mafia and insensitive officialdom. The Bellary Road, which was a treat of Mayflowers in summer is today barren and looks like a desert road. The trees that are now planted are not the kind which our forefathers planted- they are short-lived, weak trees. So, the damage done can never be undone. Maybe we will soon have to visit botanical gardens to see peepuls, banyans, tamarinds, jacarandas and other exotic species of trees!
Besides shedding tears, we old-timers can do jolly little, because the noise of the zooming imported cars will never let our voices be heard! ⊕