Residents of Mestripalya village in Koramangala, there’s a sense of having been left behind
It’s a sunny day. School has ended, and tiny children in uniform rush out of the little yellow building to play on the uneven land outside. Some play in the shade of a large banyan tree, while a small boy runs up and down, attempting to launch his kite into the air. Nearby is a small patch of empty land, from where buffaloes look on languidly at the village that stretches before them. Mestripalya, which residents will tell you is their ancestral village, home to more generations than they can count, is a well-kept secret between Koramangala 3rd and 4th blocks.
The brightly coloured houses, plumed roosters, cows and goats present a charming, rustic picture, particularly because of the contrast they offer to the areas around them. Cafés, a salon and an international ice cream chain pave the way to one of the paths leading to Mestripalya near BDA Complex, while it’s a chocolate store and an “express business hotel” that lead to another of the village’s lanes.
Not all roses
But it’s hard to hold a romantic view of Mestripalya once you notice the mounds of garbage near the school and the rubbish strewn across the bed of Mestripalya lake — now a vast expanse of empty land that slopes away from the village.
Many of the residents express a sense of being left behind when they talk about how the rest of Koramangala has developed.
It’s a history they know well: much of what became the Koramangala layout created by the Bangalore Development Authority in the 1970s was previously owned by R. Hanumaiah, the local landlord. The area was once entirely agricultural, with paddy and ragi fields, and orchards with fruit such as grapes and mangoes.
“Our ancestors worked as labourers in Koramangala’s fields,” says Mani, a resident of the village. “Many of us still work in agriculture or as coolies,” he adds. Nodding, his neighbour Venkatesh walks a few steps out of earshot of the others to tell me, “We’re poor people, just coolies. Please highlight the fact that we’re often passed over when it comes to development.”
S.K. Ravi, another resident, says there are three main communities that live in Mestripalya village: Vokkaligas, and two Scheduled Caste communities — Madigas and Holigaras. Theirs is a tightly knit neighbourhood, he says: “Ninety-five per cent of the people who live in Mestripalya are those who have always lived here. Only about five per cent are those who have recently moved in.”
Ravi’s grandfather worked in a field in Koramangala, while his father was a waiter in a restaurant. Ravi is self-employed, and like others of his generation in the village, is involved in landscaping.
A common complaint in Mestripalya is that while Koramangala 3rd and 4th Blocks — home to some of the city’s most affluent residents — are clean, well-developed neighbourhoods, Mestripalya doesn’t receive as much attention from the civic authorities. Ravi gestures at the piles of garbage outside the primary school and an unfenced transformer within reach of the children.
Many of the old houses in Mestripalya have made way for small multi-storeyed houses made of cement, and the odd car can be spotted where space is available. In an area where new shops and cafés spring up everyday, the sentiment in Mestripalya is clear. “We would like to be developed, like those blocks,” Ravi says firmly.