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‘Where have all the birds gone?'

Mohit M. Rao
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Change unlimited: Editor of Kannada weekly Gauri Lankesh Patrike Gauri rues the disappearance of many of her enduring childhood landmarks in Basavanagudi. — File Photo: Bhagya Prakash K.
Change unlimited: Editor of Kannada weekly Gauri Lankesh Patrike Gauri rues the disappearance of many of her enduring childhood landmarks in Basavanagudi. — File Photo: Bhagya Prakash K.

For editor Gauri Lankesh, Basavanagudi with all its myriad contrasts — from being the city's traditional core to its rational conscience — is an integral part of her life. “We first shifted here in 1969 and for nearly three-fourths of my life I have been attached to the area,” she says.

Childhood for her evokes memories of tree-lined avenues, bustling roadside markets, Sunday musical programmes in Krishna Rao Park and the birds of Gandhi Bazaar. “The trees of Gandhi Bazaar were home to so many birds. When we'd go shopping to Gandhi Bazaar, some bird droppings would always fall on you,” she laughs. “It is really unfortunate that with the noise and pollution in the area, one can hardly spot a bird now.”

Childhood also means that her attachment to Basavanagudi applies to its people too. “I've grown up with the children of the fruit and vegetable vendors from who my mother would buy her groceries.”

National College, where she did her degree, shaped the ideologies she still follows today. Notions of rational concepts originated from here, she says. “During an eclipse, when the entire city would observe a fast and throng to temples, the science club of National College would organise a tea and snacks session where one could learn about the science behind the eclipse.”

Home to many literature and cultural icons of the city, Basavanagudi still remains the literary and cultural hub of the city. “Sahitya Parishad, Institute of World Culture and to some extent Gokhale Institute still keep the cultural traditions of the city alive,” says Gauri, who now shoulders the immense legacy left behind by her playwright-activist father P. Lankesh.

As the city burgeons out of control, Basavanagudi also has fallen victim, she says. “The area has definitely changed for the worse,” she says, ruing the death of many landmarks in the area. “For example, there were so many theatres in the area — Shanti, Uma and Sanjay — that we would walk to a theatre after dinner to catch the late-night show. It is a real tragedy that Shanti and Sanjay have closed down while Uma theatre is in a bad shape,” she says.

Gauri regrets that the next generation would be deprived of the simple pleasures that made Basavanagudi “home” for her. “I first learnt to ride a cycle on the wide lanes of the area. Now there is hardly enough space to walk, let alone to ride a cycle,” she laments.

Mohit M. Rao