‘The street life here is nothing short of stimulating'
Growing up on Broadway Road in Shivajinagar and now working with the Alternative Law Forum (ALF) situated on Infantry Road, Lawrence Liang has as much a claim as anyone to comment on this vivacious neighbourhood. “I think of it as the liveliest and one of the densest areas of the city,” says Lawrence, a lawyer and academic who co-founded the ALF which is “primarily a human rights law firm, providing legal aid to causes like domestic and gender violence and free speech issues”. Apart from practising on behalf of the underprivileged, including those from the Shivajinagar area, the ALF does legal research on a variety of issues. Lawrence's focus area is intellectual property rights. Lawrence had an interesting time growing up on Broadway Road. As a child, he played hide-and-seek on the streets. “There is no better education than that which you get on the streets,” he says. And insofar as his current experience of Shivajinagar goes, Lawrence caps it into three words — conflict, cooperation, and diversity.
While in popular imagination Shivajinagar is predominantly a Muslim area, Lawrence says, “it has a certain syncretic diversity with an eclectic mix of Tamil Christians and Muslims”. It is also one of the most ‘happening' areas of the city and has an active nightlife, though “not a nightlife in the global, cosmopolitan sense of the term, but an active nightlife nonetheless, consisting of an assortment of food stalls that remain open late into the night”.
In fact, according to Lawrence, Ramzan is the best time to experience Shivajinagar. This is when the area truly comes to life and street food is at its delectable best. Even now, well after he has moved out of the neighbourhood, he says: “I still need my fix of Shivajinagar.” One of the best ways of experiencing the neighbourhood is to walk through its labyrinth of small streets. “There is always a constant stimulation around you.”
It is also an area that has seen communal riots. During one of the riots, Lawrence, glued to his window, saw a tear gas shell lobbed into his house. In response, his neighbours, in true Shivajinagar neighbourly fashion, threw onions into his house! “Applying onions on your eyes is one way of negating the impact of tear gas,” Lawrence explains.
For Lawrence, shopping in Shivajinagar is something of a counterpart to American-style shopping malls that threaten to take over the world. “A bit of Shivajinagar in the U.S.,” he says, “would be rather nice.” All told, in the eyes of this lawyer, Shivajinagar is one of the most interesting neighbourhoods Bangalore has to offer a person with a bit of adventure running through his veins.