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Published on: 08/14/15 10:51 AM

Book review: Bangalore Blue, An Anthology of Bangalore Tales

I was at my favourite treasure trove, the Eloor library, where the jacket of this book (artwork by Yusuf Arakkal) caught my eye. Bangalore Blue is its name and the lines at the bottom quaintly read: a bunch of nostalgic tales for and by true-blue Bangaloreans. 

Having been a townswoman since the Seventies, I consider myself a true-blue Bangalorean (TBB). So I picked up the book which is not a brand new one, having `come out` in 2013. Which is also my cue to state that I don’t always review fresh-off-the-printer’s table books here, only the ones I find good reads.

It’s a mixed bag of contributors here, some seasoned writers (as also familiar names, being friends of this reviewer) who take us for charming rambles down little-known paths, while some others, known more for accomplishments other than writing, coast by on sheer emotional recall.

The Britto sisters, Pradeep Sebastian, Stanley Carvalho (who is the editor of this anthology) , Wendy Dickson, Brinda Charry, Mohandas Pai, Alladi Jayasri, Jayanth Kodkani, Yusuf Arakkal, Sadiqa Peerbhoy, Janardhan Roye, Indu Balachandran, are among those who have penned short pieces which are long on nostalgia, the kind of look- back that will have all of us TBBs smiling as well as sighing. Predictable flow of Memory Lane walks? Yes. Predictable use of salubrious (!) adjectives? Yes. Delightfully packed with atmosphere? Yes.

To a story-teller, they all tell the same story; to a reminiscer, they all draw the same picture. The flowering trees shedding mauve, yellow, red, orange and powder-puff pink blooms on the tree-lined avenues; the feel of the peppery (I liked that) cool to cold air and the occasional hailstorm ; the ooru habbas or village fetes; the man herding his ducks under the Fraser Town under-bridge; the lippy signboard of The Only Place (place of amazing steaks and apple pies) which lurked where Mota Chambers now stands; the bandstand in Richards Park; the private circulating libraries that dotted the quiet localities; that broad swathe of Sampige Road in Malleswaram which once held so much character; the flower power children or how the hippie gave way to the yuppie; afternoon jam sessions (I remember, oh how I remember); the Anglo-Indian community; a certain PG accommodation down Convent Road; the now elusive four o`clock flower; Bangalore East station; the morning mists, now long gone and replaced by smog.

The lines at the bottom of the book cover do tend to slot it into a narrow niche. Then again, I don’t see today’s Bangalorean, busy with her/his long-miserable-commute and all the road rage it entails, determination to catch the latest Armaan Jain-Deeksha Whatsername movie, as well as find time to check on their upcoming 18th floor apartment in Belvedere Morning Heights on the outskirts of the outskirts, is really going to appreciate stories of Old Bangalore, harking back to days of innocence they can’t possibly conceive of.

Come to think of it, many of this neauveau set may not even be able to immediately connect the title with the juicy table grapes called Bangalore Blue. Ah well, their loss. (I wonder if the editors know, there is another slim volume that goes by the same name, a book of poetry by Terry Kennedy.)

My only beef is an old one, no less pertinent for being old. Some adept editing could have removed the silly language and grammar errors (far too many, alas) and made these stories fairly shine.

Then again, as a TBB, I’m not really complaining. This dunk into ye olde tymes of our ooru was a real treat. As good as the (old) Lakeview Milk Bar’s Chocolate Ganache Cake.

Bangalore Blueessaysnostalgiaold Bangalore

Sheila Kumar • August 14, 2015

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