Residents knew each other, spoke a common language, shared recipes and gossip

Hopscotch was our favourite game. Every evening, my cousins and I would gather around the already chalked-in design of eight rectangles on the road outside our grandmother’s house. We were least bothered about blocking the road, as vehicular movement was sparse. The only thing we were apprehensive about was getting “out” and losing face. The homemakers, including my grandmother, would sit outside to keep a watchful eye on us.

This is one of the earliest memories I have of growing up in Kumara Park. This is where my family has lived for many generations. About 15 years ago, it was a quiet area with no activity on the streets after dark. The purely residential area had independent houses, some palatial, with gardens in the front.

Residents knew each other, spoke a common language, shared recipes and gossip. Kids from the neighbourhood would be welcomed in to their neighbours’ homes for a quick bite.

Drastic

Now, the streets are hardly ever deserted. The area is not purely residential as it used to be. Neighbours hardly interact with each other, don’t share recipes and probably have no time for gossip. They do not even know who lives down their street. Kids do not play on the road, as it isn’t safe. Most old, independent houses have been replaced by apartments and huge homes with no space for gardens.

While this could be true of most residential areas across the city, this change has been rather drastic for Kumara Park. Old-time residents, including myself, find it hard to come to terms with this change.

Sought-after real estate

Being in the heart of the city, and with good civic amenities, it is no wonder that the area continues to be one of the most sought-after. The land prices have increased exponentially, prompting many residents to sell their ancestral homes. These homes with huge gardens are replaced either by apartments or buildings with very little setback area.

True to its name, there is no shortage of parks here. Apart from smaller ones, the area has a huge park and derives its name from it.

Memorial to the Dewan

A few years ago, the Residents’ Welfare Association (RWA) restored Kumara Park and the memorials of Kumarapuram Seshadri Iyer, the Dewan of Mysore from 1883 to 1901, and his wife Dharmasamvardhini. Though not many know that the park houses these memorials, it continues to be a popular hangout for people of all ages.

A major feature of the area is the Railway Parallel Road. The thick canopy of trees forms turns the road into a picturesque avenue. Walking on the nearly 1-km stretch is immensely pleasurable. Over the years, the RWA has taken an active interest in its improvement. Residents can be seen walking up and down this tree-lined stretch at dawn and dusk every day.

One feature that has probably not changed is the tree cover. Though houses have lost their gardens, the streets are lined with gulmohars and tabebuia. Spring is a colourful time in the area, with bright red and yellow flowers covering practically the entire tree canopy.

Despite all the change, Kumara Park has managed to hold onto some of the old-time charm. And that is why I still call it home.

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