Despite the bad roads and lack of water, shops and apartment blocks keep coming

It’s easy to see that not too long ago, Hennur was a cluster of villages. The stretch of the Outer Ring Road in the area, with its multiple lanes and flyovers, may have lent the north-eastern suburb an air of shiny modern urbanity. But the ragged, potholed service roads just adjacent to it are probably better indicators of the area’s civic status.

Hennur encompasses layouts such as Punappa layout, Coconut Grove layout, and Bhyreshwara layout, as well as the erstwhile village area. It falls largely in the Horamavu Agara ward and partly in the HBR Layout ward.

Clues about the area’s past aren’t easy to come by. H.S. Gopala Rao, historian and epigraphist, recalls that in the many years he spent working in the area, he couldn’t find a single inscription that might point to Hennur’s past.

He conjectures that the name might have come from ‘hiriya-ooru’ (a large or greater village), but warns that it is only one possible explanation of the area’s name. Other theories put the name down to a modified version of ‘hannu-ooru’ (area of fruits), while the most direct etymological translation (‘hennu-ooru’), suggesting a ‘girl’s village’, is not likely. “The area is home to a large Tamil-speaking population, and there are chances its name has a Tamil influence, too,” says Rao.

Today, the area leads something of a double life. Just off the main roads are swathes of dusty, barren land, with tiny alleys (if roads have been laid), and bumpy mud stretches where they haven’t. At the same time, the gentrification that seems to mark nearby areas like Kammanahalli — which has seen a sudden growth in upmarket restaurants and shopping areas — is creeping in.

“You can find every type of shop here,” enthuses 34-year-old Ashish Paul, an engineer at an IT company. He has lived in an apartment complex near Hennur Cross for three years; in that time, he’s witnessed the growth of the area, with the arrival of international chain food and apparel stores as well as a plethora of supermarkets. What he misses is a space for recreation.

Chelekere nearby might have met that need. Expansive and yet cosy, the lake is surrounded by a constructed track. Birds and wild ducks — and even snakes — can be seen. But overgrown weeds and wild plants have taken over the track; animal dung lines much of what is left. Sections of the lake are used to dump litter.

Wanted: basic facilities

Simultaneously, needs much more basic than a recreational area dog the area. Engulfed by an expanding city, the area is badly in need of roads, water connections and streetlights, say residents. Ask Shantha, a 38-year-old construction worker in the area. She lines up every morning at the public tap in Kammanahalli before she begins work. “There is no other way,” she says.

‘Unfit for drinking’

“Everybody pays Rs. 400 to Rs. 500 for the tankers,” says Muniraju N., secretary of the Hennur Residents’ Welfare Association (RWA). “The water we get is salt water, unfit for drinking and even cooking. Dal doesn’t boil if we use this water.”

Muniraju says the RWA was set up in 2004 to deal with exactly these shortcomings. The 45-year-old BSNL employee counts as their one victory the fact that they’ve got streetlights up and running on some streets. But chaos reigns in the other parts, many of which do not even have tar roads; much of the area’s roads are yet to be laid. And open drains have created health risks. “Currently, given that the BBMP is struggling to deal with the waste issue, I don’t know when things will come up to speed,” he says.

And yet, the apartment complexes keep coming. Because Hennur still retains some of its suburban bareness, land prices have stayed low enough for apartment complexes to mushroom. Older residents of the area, while recognising that the growth of the rest of the city must inevitably come to their area as well, aren’t too thrilled. As Muniraju puts it, “I feel like [residents of the older, smaller houses] are in a well, surrounded by 14-15 floor apartment complexes. We wake up in the mornings, and because it is blocked by surrounding apartments, the sun no longer hits us.”

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