I don’t know if I should thank my serendipity or ‘The Hindu’ for this discovery.
It was in ‘The Hindu’, that I read, a few months ago, about this painting exhibition that was going on in the city. I usually don’t go to painting exhibitions (I can’t make much of that modern abstract art stuff) but this one caught my attention because these were portraits of British India by the British. And I had just finished reading a 1000 page book on world history.
My journey to the place took me through some beautiful, scenic areas of the city.
I rode in a bus up to Mysore bank. After that I got into an auto.
What a change of scene it was, as the auto took a right after Mysore bank and entered palace road. A clean, wide road it was, with sparse traffic and grave looking buildings of important government offices flanking the road.
As the auto took a right, lo!, we were looking at the Vidhana Soudha. There was a lot of greenery and it suddenly felt cool. I stopped at Mount Carmel college since that was the landmark given me by the reception at NGMA when I had phoned.
To my surprise and disappointment, no one knew where NGMA was or what it was though it was within a hundred meters of that place.
I phoned again and I was told they were right next to Devdas petrol bunk. It turned out that I had left it behind, so I walked back. I must say I was relieved to find the place at last, after the many calls (including a call to Just Dial) and enquiries I had to make at various places, the details of which I have omitted here.
It was a garden shaded by trees, a hundred years old, with boughs swaying over charming white buildings, one of which had an architecture that belonged to another era.
A flagged driveway, neatly swept, but strewn here and there with fallen leaves from a web of branches above, led the visitors to the reception first and then the main building whose porch was supported by 2 rows of white columns. Separating the two buildings is a pool of water, containing the reflections of the white edifice, the trees around and its hanging boughs.
There are a few modern sculptures placed in the garden. A fountain in front of the colonnaded building murmurs in an otherwise calm and unruffled place.
Such a beautiful place!
All I had to do, to fall in love with the place, was to step into it.
The exhibition hall was on the first floor that I reached after a short narrow passage and then a stairway at the back of the building.
All along my way I noticed that there were sculptures and paintings in the many halls.
Behind the reception are the cafeteria and the theatre where films are screened.
The earlier cafeteria was not much.
But last week, I saw that the menu looked so much better!
Sabodana vada, Vada pav, Samosa … looked so familiar.
And soon, I learnt that this was Anju’s café, the same lady who owns the Rangashankara café. Her son was taking care of this. That’s why it had seemed familiar!
Anju had told me that she had opened a shop at Alliance Francaise but the one at NGMA was news to me.
A chat with uncle informed me that it was somewhat unusual to do business here. This place was almost unknown. Most of the events happen only during the weekend. So business during weekdays was not much and unpredictable too. But nevertheless, the café has to be open all the time and someone has to be here.
Most of them in the restaurant business would not venture here.
But then, he said, there are other benefits of being here. You get to watch films, see paintings in the gallery…
It’s always hopeful to meet people who see beyond money.
I also learnt from uncle that Devdas petrol bunk got its name from a very famous criminal lawyer who lived in the vicinity.
In the courtyard of the café is this grand old tree around which is built a neat platform, for those who prefer intimacy with the soil.
The courtyard itself is laid with neat stone slabs. Every detail about this place is art in itself.
This is the auditorium/theatre. I first entered it a few months ago to watch 5 short films on environment by British Council and National Geographic. The films were followed by a discussion on environment. Some well known cyclists of the city had told us of their story - when and how they started cycling, what options are available to aspiring cyclists, the benefits, hazards of commuting in air conditioned cars (chemicals like flame repellants, fabric softeners etc), the futility of the metro rail project, the last mile problem, the advantages of city buses, and all...
A walk towards the car park will give you a glimpse of some more garden beyond the gallery which can actually be seen from inside the gallery. I peeked into it and saw some interesting and varied flora on a plush surface.
The car parkis spacious. Although meant for a utilitarian purpose, the expansive branches of the huge trees around sheltering the space give it such aesthetic feel.
Entrée to NGMA is free. Since it is a government undertaking, most of the offerings – exhibitions, film screening – are for free or a nominal fee. I met a girl here last week who told me the NGMA in Bombay wasn’t this good and I read that the one in Delhi isn’t this good either. That gives me another reason to fall in love with Bangalore all over again!
I secretly wish it wouldn’t be found out so I can have this place all for myself.
Selfishness apart, I hope all the art lovers find this charming place and others begin to take interest in art.