Sunday, June 20, 2010

The phenomenon – part two

I noticed this article from the times of india, which captured the essence of Koramangala through the mind of Balbir Singh, the owner of Koramangala.com.

Around 17 years ago, Koramangala was nothing short of a pocket of villages. For every small purchase, we had to drive down to Brigade Road. Instances where a Koramangalite would go outdoors after 7 pm were sparse. It was unsafe and autorickshaw drivers always refused to come to Koramangala. This place was dead," says Balbir Singh, who quit his job in the printing & packaging industry to launch the portal koramangala.com along with his wife Amrit Sethi.

Way back in 1984, if someone went out after 7pm, there was no guarantee of him returning home be it a kid or an adult. The biggest set of marshy land regions included what is now the National Games Village, and ST Bed (behind the Maharaja hotel).  Everything beyond that were just groves and groves of cocount trees which could trap an unassuming individual if he trespassed into an unending maze of no-return. From our home, we could see the Mantons crane factory (today otherwise called Raheja Arcade), and St.John’s hospital. While the first five years of my stay did not see anyone owning a television set in Koramangala, after that stage the first few black and white sets started arriving on the scene. Chitrahaar, Chitramanjari, Vartegalu, Blockbuster movies, and the famous moon mission by Rakesh Sharma – were some of the things that raked in crowds. Hordes of children descended on the only house(s) that had TVs and settled down like we were one family, with one goal – watch TV.

Open spaces, tall grasses, St John's Hospital, service roads and, yes, cows. Nobody thought this quiet suburb would be transformed so much. It was more like a brick & mortar village with the typical ration shops around it," recollects Santhosh Kumar, an HR professional, who has been residing in Koramangala since 1984

The Koramangala club membership was a near miss for my father. To keep up the socializing habit, the membership was offered at a mere 500 bucks which those days amounted to a monthly salary of people living there. The founder members had to pitch in about 2000 bucks each with which they would build what is otherwise today called the Koramangala Club with a mind boggling membership amount running into lakhs of rupees.

The entire set of people living in Koramangala 6th Block used to play badminton, shuttle, ring, kho-kho and what not and this included all the adults in each family. Boy, it was such a pleasure to be living here. After my dad, I was the next undisputed badminton champ out here. The next ten years was sheer bliss upto 1995. The locality slowly gained ground in terms of development, and infrastructure to support the growing population was slowly being put in place. Post offices, schools, bus stops, banks, water tanks, electricity board offices, small shops to meet the grocery needs.

Some of the famous names to do business with were Krishna medicals, Vaishnavi stores for stationery (and those new famous pens and pencils), fashion center (for your clothing needs), modern stores and balaji stores (for groceries). The only good hotels years down the line were Sukh sagar, and Utsav Veg. Bethany and Neena schools were the only schools that have withstood the test of time for over 25 years now. So much so was the nostalgia that I can say I could reach my school as the crow flies (diagonally) from my home.

1995 was ushering in the software era, into india, into bangalore, into koramangala in full swing. This was the turning point for the poshness of the locality to start exposing itself. In full glory. for the next ten years. Few of the earliest names to move into Koramangala were Wipro and Infosys.

The phenomenon was now being created.

Friday, June 18, 2010

The phenomenon – part one

I always wanted to pen down this story, but time was at premium. It finally finds its way into this blog. This is not a story of a place. Its an article about the phenomenon called Koramangala and my gratitude for a chance to breathe, live and loathe it.

The year was 1983. But we were living in 1682. The mood wasn’t exactly one of jubilation but more of an urgency. An urgency to find a place which we could call our own, in anticipation of a family which would shortly burst at its seams. With many siblings of my father yet to be married, there was never a perfect time for this shift. Our then rented home 1682, in Rajajinagar had a reason to be vacated. With burgeoning rental demands, and for reasons beyond my comprehension when I was just six, and with pressure from everyone around, we had to vacate the place.

Koramangala was neither in the city, nor was a village. At best it wasn’t even lands that belonged to the rich and powerful Reddys those days. It was more of unexplored forest, which BDA decided to tame in the name of site allotments. My father had been allotted a site for five thousand rupees. Five thousand was like a current day fifty lakh figure to him with his rather abysmal salary levels and the last thing he could do was cough up this amount for the property. He had two choices – Koramangala and Indiranagar. While he could somehow locate the former, he was afraid to go to the latter area !! :)

After a lot of discussion and math crunching all the brothers decided to pitch in for the house so that my dad could enable the change in life. This in my opinion was the beginning and end of a joint family. The beginning was one of happiness and the seeds for the end were being sown not withstanding my oblivion about it.

The nearest  bus stop to Koramangala those days (80’s era) was can-you-believe-it Diary Circle which is a good 3-4 kms away. I would say its good for a heart patient as such, but for the good-for-nothing health freaks that we are, this was way too much. This also is the sole reason why my dad and grandpa are living/lived a healthy life. They walked this distance at least for a couple to three years before the phenomenon started happening. With just six houses for the entire eight blocks of Koramangala, this was nowhere near a phenomenon in the making.

From there what happened until now is the phenomenon.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Palace road widening, GIM investments and the impacts

The road widening hooligans are at it yet again. This time they are aiming to chop off full grown trees alongside the palace road from both cauvery theatre side as well as from TV tower side. Reason is they want to make it a 10-lane road leading to the already glorious (for the wrong reasons) airport. Of course Mr.Srikantadatta being from the royal lineage wants 40 crores per acre or per squarefeet - all this while the government is already mulling whether palace really belongs to him or not in the first place. The palace itself is earning crores of money for all kinds of events and some sundry income from few roadside meters chopped off is a feather in wadiyar's money cap. Here it seems both the government and wadiyar are equally selfish to their own ends. Whether its road widening or underpass or flyover, in the name of infrastructure the government seems to be siphoning off funds here and there in mass scale. No wonder in the recent GIM, the government has sanctioned power projects alone to the tune of some 2 lac crore if i am not mistaken, and pat came the query from the high court asking for the details of such blanket approvals and what exactly were these projects. While industrialization of karnataka is not bad, mass approval of projects without any consulting agency or committee just by the chief minister is a certain invitation for trouble in the short future.