The MS Ramaiah Institute of Technology, set up in 1962, brought in a new population of students and spawned a related economy

When Chandra Sekhar G. moved to Mathikere from nearby Malleswaram, it took him some time — understandably — to adjust to the new locality. Mathikere in general is more crowded, and less organised. “Initially I felt this area [was]not as good as Malleswaram,” he says.

But in the six years that the 65-year-old retiree has lived here, he has grown fond of the area, particularly because of its convenient location. Mathikere is located in the north of the city, and the inevitable benefits of being Yeshwantpur’s neighbour — a plethora of local bus services, a nearby railway station and easy access to the large Yeshwantpur market — are some of the positives for Chandra Sekhar.

The link between the two areas is so strong, in fact, that resident Gopakumar B. tells me they refer to it as “Mathikere-Yeshwantpur”, as “brother-sister localities.”

And even so, it’s not just Yeshwantpur’s goodies that Mathikere has access to. Gopakumar, who has lived all his 40 years in the area, recalls that before J.P. Park was inaugurated in 2006, most people would walk in the Indian Institute of Science Gymkhana grounds. “Now the park has become the main recreational centre for the area,” he says.

Linked to institutions

In fact, it’s quite possible that the development of Mathikere itself — not just its current life — was closely linked to the institutions that sprang up in the late ’50s and early ’60s. Bounded on one side by the Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL), established in 1954, and the HMT Watch Factory, established in 1953, Mathikere started as a home to workers from these factories, says Arun Prasad, a chronicler of Bangalore’s history.

A whole new population

When Mathikere Sampige Ramaiah — better known as M.S. Ramaiah — set up the MSR Institute of Technology in 1962, it brought in a new population of students and spawned, inevitably, a related economy.

The roads behind the college are full of hostels and paying guest accommodations, as well as small eateries trumpeting their Bihari, Punjabi or Kerala cuisine offerings. “The [M.S. Ramaiah Hospital] being close by is also a boon during emergencies,” says Chandra Sekhar.

Another benefit the area has is its relatively low real estate prices — or at least its reputation of having low prices. Gopakumar recalls that while land used to cost about Rs. 1,000 per square foot about ten years ago, it is now about Rs. 6,000.

Nevertheless, rents and leases remain lower than in other areas. That’s what prompted people like 21-year-old Jabeena, who works in a textile factory and single-handedly supports a household, to move to Mathikere.

Agricultural past

Arun Prasad notes, “Before the residential layouts were set up, it was predominantly agricultural land, where ragi, groundnut, and avarekai was grown”. The mathi trees probably growing on the banks of the river put the ‘mathi’ in Mathikere, he says, adding that it was a favourite spot for local birds like mynas and sparrows.

Samson Mondal, who stayed in the HMT colony, recalls that there would be 10-15 varieties of water birds, such as wild ducks. “The lake was much cleaner then, not like it is now. J.P. Park is a good substitute for the lake — that breathing space is needed,” says Samson. The lake is now shrinking — from over 125 acres to about 80 acres now; it is groaning under sewage and waste. Barring a crowd of very active catfish in the lake, fed on weekends by enthusiastic children, the biodiversity in the area goes as far as the sculptures of storks and cattle in J.P. Park.

The five-road junction that connects areas like Yeshwantpur and central Mathikere to sub-localities like MSR Nagar and Gokula is in disrepair, with residents saying it is a common site for accidents. Towards the BEL Circle stretch, too, traffic is chaotic, say residents.

Ongoing civic troubles aside, Mathikere’s predominantly educational-residential profile might be set to change. For instance, the recent opening of a new international five-star hotel chain probably signals a change for the area, with the inevitable rise in land prices. “People soon won’t be able to afford rents or prices here,” laments Gopakumar.

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