The recent cleanup of the pedestrian subways near Cubbon Park and K R Circle at the heart of the city of Bengaluru allowed citizens to enjoy what the city’s music and art scene had to offer at a new public venue. The Bangalore Underground Festival conducted on August 17, 2014, ushered in a new trend of public spaces being maintained by the public, for the public.
The festival also brought to light an obvious, yet neglected, hence not used, pedestrian pathway around K R Circle. Art and photo exhibition was held in one of the subways, while another subway hosted a music and performance gala.
The festival day started at 7am, with a two-kilometre run through Cubbon Park, starting at Queen Victoria statue and ending at K R Circle. Then, the Ugly Indian volunteers and BBMP employees conducted a spotfix to clean the footpath and the uneven road surface on Seshadri Road.
History buffs go down memory lane
At 9 am, Bangalore Walks conducted a History Walk around K R Circle. The walk threw light on the history of the area – from the Tipu Sultan era to British era, Mysore Maharaja’s rule, building of Vidhana Soudha, to the modern Bangalore that we see.
Seshadri Iyer who brought electricity to Bangalore, after whom Seshadri Road is named, was remembered, along with Nrupathunga, Lord Cubbon and Krishna Rajendra Wodeyar whose names are embedded in history and have been made immortal with important landmarks in the central city area being named after them. Otherwise busy and mechanical-looking K R Circle had so many hidden stories that made Bangalore what it is today, was an amazing fact for the participants.
Alongwith a peek into important institutions around the area, the walk also discovered a hidden pedestrian path which is a combination of footpath and five subways around K R Circle, some of which were non-usable because of negligence, but cleaned up and given a facelift by The Ugly Indian volunteers. Through the footpaths and subways, the participants walked a full-circle around K R Circle without crossing the road anywhere!
Bangalore Mayor B S Satyanarayana participated in the walk. He assured the team that organised the festival that footpaths with stolen tiles would be repaired soon.
“The city has a nice core of people,” said Arun Pai, founder of Bangalore Walks, who helped lead the run and the history walk. “The city lacks a public space where people can come and do what they can do.”
Finally attendees watched live musical and comedic performances. They also checked out a photography exhibition where they could get free portraits done. Participants also had the opportunity to paint the bare walls in one of the pedestrian subways.
Diverse performance line-up entertains the crowd
A varied line-up of musicians, rappers, singers, and even a comedy group performed for about three hours inside one of the pedestrian subways. The crowd watched in amazement, cheered the performers, clapped, sang and even performed with them.
Volunteer artistes playing instruments and vocals. Video: Bangalore Underground
Rap and beatboxing performance by volunteer artistes. Video: Bangalore Underground
Indian percussion by Adamya Ramanand and Adarsh Shenoy. Video: Srimatha Ramanand
‘Never been prouder of my city’
Janushree Dwivedi sang and played guitar, while her friend Ghanashyam played the bongo drum. Both performers said they were grateful for the volunteers who cleaned the subways, and said the crowd was supportive.
Dwivedi said audience in pubs didn’t pay attention to the performers because they are usually there to talk to each other. Street performers are sometimes harassed by officials for making noise. The subway festival seemed a great way to perform for pleasure without bothering about attention or permissions.
“I thought it was fantastic,” said Atul C, an attendee. “I didn’t expect the quality of performances that we saw. I had a blast.”
Atul said the turnout for the event shows that people still care about the city, and the best part was that he did not know all those that showed up. He said for change to happen everybody has to get involved and contribute. “I’ve never been prouder of my city,” he said.
Ask not what your country can do for you…
Sharath Vankadari has volunteered with the Ugly Indian group for six months. He said citizens have a duty to clean the city, and he is hopeful the city can be clean to a high standard if people join these types of initiatives.
“It was super,” Vankadari said. “I love India! I love India!”
Narendra Giriya attended the event with his son. Giriya joins volunteer groups cleaning up black spots in the city when he has the time. He said he hopes that more of these events could stop public apathy. He said the event was the first-of-its-kind, and he liked that it was open to the public.
“Somebody has to start,” he said. “Be the catalyst. We can be the catalysts for other people to take pride and be encouraged.”