10 Things You’ve Got to Love About Bangalore

As every hack writer knows, there’s no easier way to knock up 1,000 words than by writing a nice long list. So here’s my ten reasons to love Bangalore. However, just in case this brings out a nasty case of regional pride in any Bangalorean, rest assured I’ll be following up with ten reasons to get thoroughly cheesed off with Bangalore. And, as every hack also knows, waxing lyrical on things you don’t like gets the creative juices flowing like nothing else… But to start, here’s the lovely things.

1 The Corner House Ice Cream, Residency Road. As a good traveller in the 1990s, I religiously avoided ice cream in India on the premise that eating anything uncooked in the Subcontinent would kill me. Imagine my surprise, then, to discover that eating ice cream from The Corner House not only didn’t right me off, it had me gushing with enthusiasm at a rum and raisin that was good as anything I’d tasted in my native Cornwall, England. This is the most spectacularly creamy and tasty ice cream I have ever eaten. And if you vomit, after eating it, they give you a family-sized tub for free!*

* I made this last bit up.

2 Pecos, near Brigade Road. This pub is dirty, dark, noisy and stuck in about 1974. It’s also a refreshing antidote to the swathe of pubs in Bangalore that have about as much charm as an airport lounge at 3am. Pecos is, quite simply, a legendary Bangalore venue where no one fawns over you with a rigor mortis, bullshit smile, but slops up another pitcher of Kingfisher while you float away on an inebriated haze listening to Leonard Cohen, Dylan, The Stones… you get the picture. The beer is, allegedly, watered down. The atmosphere certainly isn’t.

3 MTR, Lalbagh Road. The last time I went to Mavalli Tiffin Rooms (MTR), I waited for over an hour to get a seat, then waited another 20 minutes in my seat, then got served my dessert before my main course. I vowed to never come again.
By the time I’d eaten my nine savoury dishes, plus puris, savoury rice, plain rice, dal and three different desserts, I vowed to come back the following day – assuming I could waddle from my apartment to a passing rickshaw. Be patient, love thy morose, ladle-sloppy waiter – for he is serving you the finest thali in the whole of Bangalore.

4 Blossoms Bookshop, Church Street. A great bookshop, in my opinion, should not only have pretty much any book you could ever want to lay your hands on, it should also make you work a little to find it. This sums up Blossoms, the finest bookshop in all of Bangalore. Wade through Autobiography searching for David Niven’s The Moon’s a Balloon and you may well stumble across famous tomes from Hollywood B-listers, esoteric tracts from spiritual seekers and some randomly misfiled book on the wonderful healing powers of turmeric. If this is all too much for you, you can enquire of the staff, who will dig out not one but three copies of the work in question, with the nonchalant air that suggests it is perfectly obvious to any sensible reader that Niven will be filed next to Churchill because they shared a cab during the war. Bask in Blossoms for an afternoon among the randomly filed mountains of fiction, biography, spirituality, Indian history. It’s about the journey, you see, not merely the destination.

Commercial Street. I’ve waxed lyrical on the virtues of Commercial Street elsewhere on this blog, but nothing can quite beat dipping into the back lanes of this district of town at sundown, and wandering whole streets of fruit, meats, or tea vendors as the call to prayer from the Mosque warbles over an orange sky.

Malls. Where is the ‘real’ India, asked Ms Quested in EM Forster’s Passage to India. If she were around today, she would surely say the malls of Bangalore, because for many of the urban middle classes, they are the heartland of their aspirations, the shiny, dirt- and beggar-free land of milk and honey… I mean money. You can knock them if you like, you can want Indians to be far more spiritual and ‘Eastern’ than they want to be, but the truth is Bangalore’s malls are the shiny, glittering towers that represent the pinnacle of modern middle-class living. And, god, yes, sometimes they’re a welcome break from the chaotic, noisy streets.

The Climate. Bangalore: the air-conditioned city. Okay, that’s a bit rich coming from a town stained the yellow of a rollup smoker’s finger from chronic pollution, and choked by the pungent bowels of a million farting rickshaws. But, despite this, there is some truth to the claim. For Bangalore is on a plateau elevated above the sweaty depths of South India, and thereby enjoys a temperate climate usually somewhere between 70F and 80F. A recent trip to Chennai, where lifting my soup spoon had the damp patches growing under my floaty white top, confirmed to me the virtues of this uncommon climate.

8 Malleswaram. The flowers, the fruit stalls, the juice bars, the bookshop, the candyfloss sellers and, on occasional afternoons, the touching sight of a troupe of blind men and women, holding on to each other in a long line and singing for their supper as they walk down the street. Malleswaram is a jewel of a district in Bangalore, a place with the atmosphere of a gentle, gentrified fun fare. Such a shame that it also encapsulates the parochial snobbery and conservatism of the caste system, with its nose in the air brahmanism. But a beautiful district all the same.

9 The BJP. The BJP is a right-wing, quasi-fascistic organisation that wants India for the Hindus. But it’s more than that. It’s also a political party with a rare and refined sense of humour. For drive around Bangalore and you can’t fail to spot the numerous billboards of BJP members wearing gut-wrenchingly funny moustaches. You want handlebars or bushy caterpillars? You’ve got it! Nothing says chauvinistic buffoon like these beauties and you have to put your hands together and thank the BJP for their magnificent contribution to the Bangalore comedy scene.

10 Kaveri. Call me an old sentimentalist – or even a mentalist if you’re cynical about matters of the heart – but I came to Bangalore not for the climate, the food, the bookshops or even the BJP, but for the love of a woman. So the best thing about Bangalore is Kaveri. And you’ll have to take my word on that.

11 It’s about time I opened up this blog a bit (I mean begged people to contribute something) so please feel free to add your 11s, 12s and 13s to my list.

Note: This article appeared in the blogs section of India’s Deccan Herald newspaper. Below are the readers’ comments. A mixed, interesting bag!

  1. Tarale Seena Says:
    December 4th, 2009 at 5:38 pm #8 should add Gandhi Bazaar. Go visit the place during Ganesha/Gowri festival or Ugadi and it’s a veritable feast for all your senses.

    #9 Dude, go visit North India and see all the buffoonery from other parties, mustaches are not reserved for the BJP alone!
    Now, what fun is this article if you didn’t add some photos, please!

  2. Anirudh S Says:
    December 4th, 2009 at 6:07 pm For a small town boy from Kerala with a rather round figure, Bangalore’s main attraction has been its variety of food :) So that’s #11 for me. You should try the street near ShivajiNagar Basilica where there are hole-in-the-wall restaurants where you get tasty North Indian food.
  3. Srikanth Says:
    December 4th, 2009 at 6:19 pm VV Puram Tindi Street!!
    Hope you did not miss it Mr Philip!

    The dosas, pav baji, bajjis, manchurians, ganesha fruit juice centre, the VV Bakery itself.. Wooo!! I’m already on a flight to Bangalore!!

  4. Srikanth Says:
    December 4th, 2009 at 6:26 pm VV* -> VB
  5. tabitha Says:
    December 4th, 2009 at 7:25 pm You forgot the colourful flowers allround the year!!!!!!
    cant swap this city….for any other top 10 cities of the world…
    that much i love to die in this city………
  6. Veena Says:
    December 4th, 2009 at 7:58 pm Love DVG road [Gandhi Bazar]
  7. Jay Says:
    December 4th, 2009 at 8:33 pm Clarification: The Climate. Bangalore: the air-conditioned city. It was so before this IT boom that enveloped the city. The city of the past which is not long ago was city that a good cool air, lots of beautiful flowers and very unique culture that was blend of west and east.
  8. red shift Says:
    December 4th, 2009 at 8:47 pm 3 words….Davangere Benne Dose
  9. rags Says:
    December 4th, 2009 at 11:23 pm i want to know if this i a current article or a copy paste from a deacade old piece…

    weather…in Bangalore is not AC anymore..its like a perpetual heater…

    hence i am confident ..this article is fake.

  10. . Says:
    December 5th, 2009 at 1:56 am Philp,

    Coming to Bangalore as a guest, how about having some manners while describing your host?

    Don’t try to preach us about caste, Brahminism, etc. We know all too well how you guys treated us (as slaves) when you came in as guests (remember East India company) few hundred years back, and looted billions of dollars (today’s value) from us.

    BJP doesn’t want India for Hindus. It wants India for Indians. Do we ever try to interfere with you? So, if you know it properly, say it, else keep the silence – it is really golden. I’m not from BJP.

    Indians are too fascinated by the white skin, and tend to take anything told by them very easily..

  11. thammaji vasudev Says:
    December 5th, 2009 at 5:22 am Well, Martin :-)

    I mused with interest your write-up.
    Being journalist and a hack as you say, you have a way to express your ideas and thoughts.

    Your English heredity (I presume) and Bangalore connection somehow seem to echo your love of British Raj sentiments and era.

    Here is my “ten-cents” worth in a line-or-two only to add to your blog, not to “critique” the content.

    First of all greetings from my home in the beautiful desert metropolis in way-west USofA, and today’s beautiful climate here (only around Christmas! season) reminds me of how similar it used to be in Bangalore some 60 years ago during my childhood and growing-up days there.

    I relate to some of these 10 “Things” you mention, as well as many of mine imprinted in my memory of Bangalore as such.
    Not to mention, such images flash-back only remind us of the memory snap-shots of bygone days (at least for me).
    I have seen every nook-and-cranny of this town during my hay days, you name it I have experienced it. Those were the days my friend.

    I could rewind and “memory dump” my stuff, but may be some other time and some other place.
    Keep in touch. I hope to keep trail on your blog.


    “From a Indian Diaspora in America to a British expat journalist”

    ~thammaji vasudev~

    PS: I am proud of my birth “Brahminic” heritage which runs very deep in my veins. Besides, being a lucky “Malleswaram” guy I am even more fortunate for having lived and educated there during 40s, 50s and 60s.

  12. S. Says:
    December 5th, 2009 at 8:19 am @ The above comment

    There is some truth in (8). There is no point getting back at the author with what his an ancestors were involved in. We’re just talking about the present, and anyone who has been in Bangalore long enough will know that Malleswaram is a haven for conservative mamis with children abroad in US and the likes. All said and done, no offense to anyone, but it’s a general observation.

  13. S. Says:
    December 5th, 2009 at 8:21 am *what his ancestors
  14. prashanth Says:
    December 5th, 2009 at 10:24 am can i know more more about bangalore
  15. vivek Says:
    December 5th, 2009 at 11:50 am the words that u just spoke Mr. Philip about Bangalore are 100% true…. and i stay in malleswaram and i know how correctly you have mentioned it… Bangalore rocks…:)
  16. Radhakrishnan Says:
    December 5th, 2009 at 6:48 pm Bengalooru is a special place in India…there is no other city that can come close to our beutiful garden city….I mean talking about the 60’s and 70’s…the people, weather, vegitables, fruits, flowers and I still remember my ride on bicyle to National college was more fun passing through maharanis, vishveswarya, corporation, visveswarapuram circle…of course Malleswaram was always the center of activities..Janatha hotel dosa or malleswaram Breeze for chatting with friends…lived in Bengalooru for 45 years and still the nostrilia lives fresh…not forgetting all those beautiful girls….
  17. DR.Suresh Says:
    December 5th, 2009 at 10:12 pm I am also from Malleswaram and amazing thing is most of us have gone thrugh the same experience of living in bangalore and enjoyed it.
    All of us have opinions and over all I do agree with the the author and move on as Bangalore lovers.
  18. Satish Says:
    December 6th, 2009 at 9:09 am Bengalooru is not complete without ‘Brahmins Coffee Bar’ at Shankarapuram and VV Puram ‘Gulkhan’. Jai Kannada Naadu :)
  19. Koli Keranga Says:
    December 6th, 2009 at 9:14 am How can there be a mention of everything except Vidyarthi Bhavan, DVG road, Jaynagar Complex.

    The pub culture, Commercial street are surely great and iconic for visitors & the latest generation alike but for the natives from S.Bangalore, there is a lot more enjoyable sights and sounds around Natkallapa circle, DVG road especially during important festivals.

    For people who have made some hits on the author, British Raj etc, take a step back and focus on the point in question here…Namma Bengalooru.


  20. lakshman nichani Says:
    December 6th, 2009 at 2:07 pm another Martin,that makes about 5.
    Bishop Cottons School,Russel Market,Gosha Hospital,Cubbon Park,Bangalore Palace,Iskcon Temple,Vidhana Souda should be on your next blog.
    My the way go to Ibrahim Sahib Street,I was born there!!!!
  21. Joseph Says:
    December 6th, 2009 at 10:05 pm Having born in Bangalore and lived there for three decades, I can tell that it has dramatically changed in the last decade alone. The real changes started in the late eighties. But one thing that has not changed is the climate, it is much hotter now, but the mornings and evenings seem as pleasant as ever. I consider Bangalore to be paradise, despite all its shortcomings, and you could say I am biased.
  22. K. R. Venkataramaiah Says:
    December 6th, 2009 at 10:45 pm Vidhana Soudha, the Chief Architect (B. R. Manikyam )of which was my visiting professor at The University College of Engineering ( now called Visweraiah Engineering College ) during 1955-1956, is the best monument built to reflect Indian architecture, is a must for any tourist.

    Lalbagh is a most beautiful garden in the ” Garden City ” – Bengalooru.

7 Responses to “10 Things You’ve Got to Love About Bangalore”
  1. Niranjana says:

    I’ll bite.
    #11. Hard to beat the love of a good (wo)man, but Lalita’s Parantha Point comes close. Luscious warm breads topped with pyramids of butter, and yogurt and pickles on the side. As almost seems a prerequisite for good Indian restaurant fare, the place is dingy and the staff surly (and mostly mustachioed). LPP has spoilt me for paranthas this side of the Atlantic.

  2. gorah says:

    Thanks for the reply. And sorry for the delay. Christmas and all that. I’ll check out LLP for sure!

  3. gc141x says:

    On the way to Commercial Street do not overlook the threatening paint-stencilled messages on Brigade Road requesting travellers not to ‘commit nuiscance’.

  4. gc141x says:

    unfortunately Premier Book Store on Church Street no longer exists. It ought to have been rescued as a national treasure.

  5. gorah says:

    Yes, I love those messages. Some poetic soul in the roads department was given free reign to express himself in rhyme. I didn’t know Premier Books, but I’ve discovered another good one in that arcade between Brigade Road and MG Road. Is it Book Worm? A superb collection of second-hand books – it’s almost like they only accept the good stuff. And they give you coffee while you browse. Very civilised. While I’m on the subject, there’s also the place on Brigade Road that’s full of beautiful kittens. But it’s mainly full of remaindered books and magazines.

  6. Durgha says:

    Hi there! I’ve just arrived in Bangalore and i’m exploring the city. I came across your blog and it’s a great intro to the city for a newbie 🙂

    • gorah says:

      Hi, thanks very much for that. I stopped writing it a while ago, as I’m now back in the UK. But I’m planning to write some fiction based on my time in Bangalore, so… great to get some positive comments!

      I hope Bangalore is good to you. Love that city.

      Thanks again

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