Monday, January 07, 2008

Sajjan Rao Circle

Bangalore. To half the population (mostly immigrants), Bangalore is synonymous to M G road and Brigade road. Unfortunately (or fortunately) most of the people have not even heard of Jayanagar, Basavanagudi, VV Puram and other places which constitute the true Bangalore.

I was one of the fortunate ones to have savoured the flavour of the real Bangalore before the damage happened. (I will refrain from describing the gory details of the damage. Since I don’t have the stomach for it myself, I don’t want my readers to be reminded of it)

I lived in Bangalore for five years between 92 and 97.
I lived in Basavanagudi (or VV Puram) which was then, the heart of the city.

To be more specific, I lived on the diagonal road which is one of the six or seven roads that converge to make up the Sajjan Rao circle. This circle was a very interesting place. And a very convenient one too.

The circle has at least four temples. All of them are the traditional stone temples, having tall gopuras at the entrance; very unlike the marble floored new age temples in other parts of the city which are merely ornamental and evoke no feelings of devotion at all.

A road (of the circle) or rather a street I must mention, is the Thindipotha street. The word “Thindipotha” in Kannada means a foody person. On both sides of the narrow street are tiny shops that continuously fry mouth watering condiments for the population in that part of the city which is very foody.

At the very beginning of this street is the famous V B Bakery. This was the most famous bakery in Bangalore until recently. It is still the most famous bakery in that part of the city. Needless to say, it is an Iyengar bakery.

Most of the bakeries in South India are owned by Iyengars. Even the rich, famous and shrewd Niligiris bakery does not have the variety and taste that Iyengar bakeries have.

The VB bakery has been there for over 50 years now. The place is bustling with activity and men in clean white veshti scurry about weighing the condiments and packing them in covers. People stand in one of the ten queues to buy cakes and cookies. If you want to know why they say “selling like hot cake”, you should visit this place. :-)

The air in sajjan rao circle is filled with sweet fragrance of freshly baked bread, cake, Halwa and other delicacies.

Adjacent to the temple is “Chandra salties”. A chat shop. It is a small one but a famous one. It is crowded from the time it opens till the time it closes. From the pani puri to the masala puri to dhahi puri, all the chats taste wonderful. No other chat shops can boast of such customer satisfaction. He could also train Infy and wipro on the subject of customer retention.

The fragrance of bread and cake from the bakery mixed with the scent of interesting spices from the chat shop and the aroma of incense in the temples gave the circle a kind of unmistakable identity.

The bakery and the chat shop were my favourite places to eat. Five years of my childhood were thus spent in the vicinity of this place.

In 97, I left Bangalore to go to another place (I will not mention the details and reason here). I came back in 2003 for work. I stay on airport road these days which is said to be very “cosmopolitan”.

Yesterday, I visited Sajjan rao circle after 10 years. Melvit was with me during this visit. Everything looked the same as before. After a long time, I felt I had returned to Bangalore.
There is a saying. “There is nothing like going back to an old place that has not changed to find the ways in which you have changed yourself”.

First I visited the Srinivasa temple. I was both surprised and happy to see that the priest was the same person who used to perform the rituals years ago. Of course, he had grown older and his potbelly had increased slightly in size. He did not recognize me but when I mentioned to him that I was the daughter of so and so and used to live in this area, he recollected to some extent.

I then visited the VB bakery. I immediately recognized one of the men in white veshti who used to work those days. I asked him how long he had worked there and he said “20 years”! I told him excitedly that I used to visit this place. He did not recognize me but I shook hands with him I told him that I was happy to meet him after long. He gave me a warm smile, happy to be remembered.

We(me and mevit) had some of the vegetable puffs I used to have those days. I tasted their new masala bun which has become very famous. The Sunday special dumrot was very much there. The same taste, the same flavour! All this for a mere 26 rupees!

I stood outside the shop eating for a long time and paid at the cash counter after I finished. I realized for the first time that the owners placed so much trust in their customers who must have been equally deserving in that part of the town.
This was so different from commercial establishments in other parts of the city where “you first give money and then take your goods”.
This was new to Melvit and I had to explain to her that people in South Bangalore (the true Kannadigas) are far more innocent than others. I am glad there still are places in Bangalore that have retained this innocence.

I was hurrying to the bus stop to return to airport road but suddenly from the corner of my eye caught a glimpse of Chandra salties. I went to the shop and had a masala puri. I recognized the shopkeeper at once but this time I did not bother to tell him about myself. (given the outcome of my previous attempts to connect)

I returned home satisfied that I had a spent my Sunday very well. I also resolved to visit this place more often.

In these modern times where everybody is talking about “change” and the necessity of “change” in life and how “change” is the only constant in life, I am so happy that certain things never change. :-)


Liz said...

Thanks for showing me the Real Bangalore..!

Liz said...

This was the only place I liked among the other places in B'lore(Ofcourse among the places I visited). It reminded me of my hometown.

Sowmya said...

Yes Melvit, this is one of the few places the has the flavour of true Bangalore :-)