Askew – a short biography of Bangalore by T J S George is a really tiny book. Small in size, some 112 pages that are neatly divided into segments. Easy to read, very easy to relate if you have spent some time in the city. It is like a virtual visit to the city through the ages.
It used to be a city at peace with itself. It was now a bundle of contradictions, a battleground of competing constituencies, where going forward resembled going backward. Knocked off balance by the weight of its own growth, Bangalore was Askew. The hand of Potter did shake when the IT chip hit him.
In the beginning, I felt it just another book going all about how Bangalore is the silicon valley of India followed by how it has lost its charm to pollution and traffic. I was like – not another Bangalore rant. Thankfully, after a brief mention of all this, while comparing the big cities of the world, the author switches to the soul of Bangalore. He takes us to the corners that we probably know of but do not well enough.
Historically, George keeps going back to Kempegowda – the founder of the city of Bangalore. He keeps reminding the reader that had we adhered to what Kempegowda’s mother told him, the city would not have lost its charm. His mother said – build more lakes and plant more trees. We all know that in the last couple of decades, Bangalore has lost major lakes to real estate and trees to road widening.
George takes us to Basavangudi and introduces us to Brahim cafes there. Now, if you have lived in Bangalore, you have probably eaten at one of these cafes, but you may not know the history of it. I have walked on the streets of Basavangudi but I never knew of its literary past. I did not know that the literary giant of Kannada hung out in these cafes. Apparently, a barber could give haircuts on the styles of these men. The story of another food entrepreneur – the man behind Darshini’s and many small-format food chains is inspiring. I wonder if most Bangaloreans know of it.
I discovered that Whitefield is called so as it was a white people’s enclave, to begin with, thanks to this biography of Bangalore.
It was the story of Agni Sreedhar – a suave criminal that took me by surprise. It was hooked to the book and wanted so much more about the story – maybe I should devote a day with Google to read more about this story.
The story of Ranga Shankara and other hubs of art and culture in interesting. You realize that the city is more than its geeks make you believe to be.
At the end of the day, I was happy to read this unusual biography of Bangalore – a city that was my home for 7 years and the only city I made a home for myself.
I think every Bangalorean needs to read this to know the hidden history of Bangalore.
You may buy this book Askew – A short Biography of Bangalore by T.J.S. George at Amazon.