Part history, part walking guide: Discovering the essence of Bengaluru through Meera Iyer's new book

  • Spanning nine engaging chapters, the book delves into the history of Bengaluru and some of its oldest areas.

  • Each neighbourhood is meticulously explained, including details of its history and development.

  • The book has been written and edited by Iyer, with contributions from Krupa Rajangam, Hita Unnikrishnan, B Manjunath, Harini Nagendra, and S Karthikeyan.

Well, it is certainly not an understatement that Bengaluru is a city of compelling contrasts. From being known as the garden city to the Silicon Valley and the start-up capital of the country, the city has transformed from ‘Bangalore’ to ‘Bengaluru’ and from being a ‘pensioners paradise’ to a ‘pub city’. A city with a fascinating history and an intriguing past, Bengaluru boasts of a heritage that is fascinating to say the least. A great way to discover all of this and much more is the book by Meera Iyer titled Discovering Bengaluru: History. Neighbourhoods. Walks which has been published by Bengaluru Chapter of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH).

Spanning nine engaging chapters, the book delves into the history of Bengaluru and some of its oldest areas. Each neighbourhood is meticulously explained, including details of its history and development, after which the readers are ‘taken along’ a heritage walk that unearths all the areas’ secrets in terms of monuments, legends etc. The book is also an ode to the city’s intangible heritage in terms of its famous poets, scientists, engineers, leaders etc who have left an indelible impression and played a great role in its development.

The book has been written and edited by Iyer, with contributions from Krupa Rajangam, Hita Unnikrishnan, B Manjunath, Harini Nagendra, and S Karthikeyan. Iyer is an independent writer and researcher who likes to write on science, environment, history and heritage. She is the convenor of the Bengaluru Chapter of INTACH.

 Part history, part walking guide: Discovering the essence of Bengaluru through Meera Iyers new book

Meera Iyer. Image courtesy: Meera Iyer

Excerpts from a conversation with Iyer about this insightful book:

Tell us how you would like to describe your book in a few sentences?

Part history, part walking guide, this is a book that we would want the readers to use on their own journeys of discovery through the city; whether you walk through it, which would be ideal, or whether the journey is in your mind. It chronicles the stories of the streets, it highlights the tales of some people who propelled events forward in some of its older neighbourhoods, it records how the city evolved and grew, how it has been shaped by war, disease, people, battles, philanthropy, commerce, religion and more. In a sense, I hope to show how history can be about people like you and me and not always something remote or unrelatable.

What inspired you to write this book?

Bangalore city itself and the fact that although there is so much heritage in this multilayered city, people still say, 'Bangalore? What is there to see or do here?' Tourists who come here, rush to see and find heritage elsewhere. Secondly, a lot of Bengalureans themselves do not know that there is so much to see in their own backyard. It was these facts that inspired us to start heritage walks in INTACH and it is this that has inspired the book; the desire to showcase our city, to highlight its rich, diverse and composite culture, history and heritage.

What kind of research have you done to put this comprehensive book together?

There was a lot of archival research that we did. In Bengaluru, we accessed the State archives in Vidhana Soudha. I also found that some documents I was searching for were not in Bangalore, but were in libraries in Canada, London or Philadelphia. So, I reached out to friends and relatives who could help. Apart from reading extensively on Bangalore, another aspect of research was meeting various people, including historians, archaeologists, administrators, former administrators and long-term residents of some neighbourhoods.

How challenging was it to put this book together?

It took me a little over four years to complete the book, mainly as I had my other responsibilities at INTACH and also at home; finding the time and space to write was a challenge.

Also, sometimes, there was some discouraging news. Some building I was writing about, for example, would be demolished, and I would be very disheartened and wonder if I should continue. Was I going to chronicle buildings and memories that were dead and gone? But then you realise that in fact, the book was more relevant than ever so you pick yourself up and keep going.

Book cover 825

Discovering Bengaluru

When heritage is getting highly compromised, how relevant is a book like this?

Buildings are repositories of memories, as are our parks and streets and trees. When we destroy them, we lose a little bit of ourselves, too. Heritage anchors us and defines us. This is true even for people who move to a new place; heritage can and does help engender a feeling of belonging in people. This is why it is so important to highlight what we stand to lose.

Do you look at this book as a means for people to work on conserving what heritage is left?

I hope this book makes people aware of what we have in our city. If you know something about how and why a particular locality came up, where the origins of some motifs on a building are, or say the story behind a festival, you never look at that place, building or the festival the same way again. Now you feel a sense of 'ownership' towards it and build a connection with it. That is all I hope for from this book — know your city, and I think you will end up loving it a little more.

Do you plan to have revisions of the book when you plan the next edition?

Yes, we may incorporate more details, including about people, in the next edition. Also, we at INTACH would really like to bring out a translation of the book in Kannada next.

As you often say there is no one single true essence of the city as every pocket of Bengaluru is unique. So, which part of Bengaluru is your favourite/most fascinating and why?

I have stayed in different areas like Basavanagudi, Jayanagar and Cooke Town and studied in central Bengaluru. Hence, I have a soft corner for all these localities. That said, I have a special fondness for places that I have recently come to know more intimately. Malleswaram is one such place that is extremely close to my heart. The old heart of the city, the pete, according to me is the most fascinating place in all Bengaluru. It is endlessly varied and there is always something new to explore here. Its labyrinthine lanes that house temples, churches and dargahs offer opportunities for interactions with different people, whether it is the flower sellers or the vendors which is really interesting.

Find latest and upcoming tech gadgets online on Tech2 Gadgets. Get technology news, gadgets reviews & ratings. Popular gadgets including laptop, tablet and mobile specifications, features, prices, comparison.

Updated Date: Dec 06, 2019 10:32:49 IST