Nostalgia: Social media has brought people of Bangalore together to reminisce about old landmarks and share photographs, finds Savitha Karthik
Have you often gazed at pictures of South Parade, what is now Bangalore’s M.G. Road, and wondered how it looked back in the time of the British Raj? Or have you stopped and stared at a crumbling old bungalow in Basavanagudi or the Cantonment wondering who lived there, say a 100 years ago? Then, you should take a trip to this Facebook group, ‘Bangalore – photos from a bygone age’.
Started by C.N. Kumar, a management consultant, the group has been inching towards the 1,000-member mark (at the time of writing this piece). “Born and raised in Bangalore, I felt that the past is captured in photos of those times. I started this group to share history and relive memories,” Kumar explains.
One picture that has captured the imagination of a lot of people is that of the Ashoka Pillar (in Jayanagar) dating back to 1948. It has been doing the rounds on Facebook, and has seen thousands of shares. The picture was bought by Kumar from The Hindu’s archives.
A brilliant colour photograph of Bull Temple in Basavanagudi dating back to the early 1900s (from Wiele’s Studio, set up in Bangalore in 1908), fascinating pictures of British soldiers, of famed yesteryear Hollywood actress Vivien Leigh, as a child, reading a book at the Bangalore Racetrack, all form part of the group’s albums.
What it is about old Bangalore that so many on Facebook take to it, and feel so nostalgic? Architect Naresh Narasimhan says: “In fact, this concept of sharing and groups is nothing new, and has been part of history. It is the sheer power of social networking, where likeminded people share their love for something. It’s all about collective memory – people share pictures and talk about how beautiful the city once looked,” he explains, adding that the core of the city’s layout is still good, though things might have gone wrong in the newer extensions. He blames a lack of political will for the bad shape that some parts of the city are in today. In that sense, he says, groups such as this Bangalore photos group act like advocacy groups – helping create awareness. Narasimhan himself has over 500 old photographs of the city he loves, collected over a span of 25 years.
Kumar, who started the group, is nostalgic when he talks about a Bangalore which had an “unhurried way of life”. He misses the city’s lovely, tree lined avenues, the salubrious all-year climate and the charming buildings.
“Preserving our older buildings is a very hard thing to do especially when they are owned privately. However the Government must make every effort to preserve and restore the structures it owns. The Government could also buy and preserve older buildings owned by individuals,” he notes.
Mansoor Ali, who is also an active member of the group and regularly posts pictures, says: “There’s so much nostalgia about Bangalore on Facebook as Bangalore doesn’t have 3,000 monuments like Delhi has. Most of the city’s British era or pre-British era monuments were demolished. So people like me who have gone to various places like Delhi, Bijapur, Bidar, Gulbarga, etc are left wondering if we ever had a history of our own. But since the last two years I have come across more than 1,000 photos of old Bangalore and found out more about monuments like Newmarket, which is now Russell Market, Ibrahim Khan’s tomb, Hamid Shah’s tomb.” The group also serves as a great forum to share memories and similar experiences. An old black and white photograph of the Majestic area has group members recalling the Dharmambudhi kere (tank), long gone from Bangalore’s map. A picture of BRV theatre has a group member reminiscing about “how his mother watched movies there in the ‘20s, for a few annas to sit on the benches in the front, having bunked from Cottons.”