HERITAGE Sir Mark Cubbon, one of Bangalore’s early chief commissioners, was the resident of the 150-year-old Ballabrooie, which is now the State Guest-House. The beautiful Gothic building, holds many stories of the British rule, the Mysore royalty and the present Government, writes DEEPA GANESH

The stately Ballabrooie Guest House has stood in the corner opposite the lush Golf Course for nearly 150 years. Mention Ballabrooie to a city resident and if they plead ignorance it’s no surprise – it is among the few surviving links to Bangalore of the past. Why, even the inmates of the Ballabrooie, know little about the past of this glorious building built in classic European style with wide porch, Tuscan Pillars and Doric capitals.

“This is where Sir Cubbon was born in 1860… so they say…,” comes history in bits and pieces from one of the employees. All the history that you’ve known suddenly goes tops turvy. “But wasn’t Cubbon born during the end of 18{+t}{+h}century?” The story of Ballabrooie is now the stuff of forgotten books, and loyal Bangaloreans.

The Bangalore District Gazzette in its dry, clinical tone merely tells you that some dewans of Mysore and chief ministers lived in the Ballabrooie built in the 1860s. As you rummage through dusty old books and documents, talk to generous city historians you realise that Ballabrooie has had deep connections with various phases of history. Like the city itself, it has gone through several transformations, though the original building remains untouched.

“The land belonged to Rev. John Garrett, who was the headmaster of the Central School, which later became Central College,” explains A. Jayaram, an authority on history of Bangalore. John Garrett was the father-in-law of the famous B.L. Rice, the director of the Department of Archaeology of Mysore state. In fact, it was Garrett who built the Ballabrooie, Uplands guest house (also on Sankey Road) which no longer exists, and the Bangalore Palace. The place where Ballabrooie stands now, on Sankey Road, used to be called Mallenahalli in those days.

In a piece of writing by B.L. Rice that dates back to the late 19{+t}{+h}century – written after Garrett’s death in 1893 -- the Ballabrooie was sold through an auction for Rs. 51,000.The Uplands bungalow was sold for Rs. 34,000. However, the details as to who the buyer was is not mentioned. It was perhaps sold to the government of Mysore. But in the later years, some portion of the land on which Ballabrooie was built was sold to Haji Sir Ismail Seth for Rs. 22,000 which in turn was sold to a mine owner Manickyavelu, where the NGMA is housed presently. A portion of the Ballabrooie premises was also converted into the Chief Secretary’s house. In 1881, the palace was sold to Chamaraja Wadiyar, during the Rendition of Mysore.

Sir Mark Cubbon, who was the chief commissioner of Bangalore when the Ballabrooie was built, was among its early residents. In fact, K. Chandramouli in his book Bengaloorina Notagalu , says that Cubbon christened it as Ballabrooie, which means “farm on the seafront”, a common name in the Isle of Man, where he was born. Cubbon’s private secretary Cunningham, Bowring, and several other British officers are said to have stayed here.

In the early years of the 20{+t}{+h}century, dewans of Mysore such as Sir M. Visvesvaraiah stayed between 1912-1918, Albion Rajkumar Bannerjee between 1922-26, and others. Interestingly, books of Bangalore’s history record that Albion Bannerjee threw lavish parties at the Ballabrooie and he was the first dewan to bring his wife to a party. Post Independence, the guest house was taken over by the government, and now belongs to the State Hospitality Department. Former chief ministers S. Nijalingappa, Devaraj Urs, B.D. Jatti are supposed to have stayed here. S.R. Bommai also shifted into Ballabrooie for a while, but since he lost power, it is believed that ministers have stayed away from the guest house for fear of losing their position. For a few years, the Department of Information functioned out of the Ballabrooie.

The Ballabrooie has had the privilege of hosting very high profile guests like Rabindranath Tagore and Mahatma Gandhi as well. A shining brass plate at Room no. 5 says, Rabindranath Tagore stayed here in 1919. However, historians say that Tagore stayed at the Granite Castle in 1919, and stayed at the Ballabrooie during his visit in 1927. During this visit Tagore is supposed to have written two of his works Shesher Kabitha and Jogajog .

In the recent years, there was a proposal to convert Ballabrooie to an MLA club and the Justice Somashekara commission had been appointed to check its feasibility. The beautiful Ballabrooie Guest House with its wonderful trees and plants, some dating back to over a century, holds on bravely in a Bangalore that’s rapidly changing. In a city where every small piece of land is looked upon in terms of real estate, one can only wish that the Ballabrooie survives all odds. It’s Bangalore’s link to lovely memories.