50 years of The Hindu's Bengaluru edition

It is time to set our house in order: H.S. Doreswamy

H.S. Doreswamy, 103, has lived in the city for nearly a century now and has seen it grow from a small town to a global metropolis like very few have. His engagement with the city has also been constant — from participating in the Quit India Movement, editing multiple newspapers, running a bookshop, to being an untiring civic activist, who today leads the citizens’ struggle to rejuvenate the city’s lakes. On the event of The Hindu completing 50 years of its Bengaluru edition, a walk down memory lane of a century gone by in the city. Edited excerpts:

What are your earliest memories of Bengaluru?

My family hails from Harohalli, a village on the outskirts of today’s city. My father was working in Bengaluru; he shifted there to help the education of his children. But he died young, when I was all of five years. So, I shifted back to the village to live with my grandparents. But I moved to the city during middle school. We used to live in Mavalli, next to Lalbagh. I distinctly remember going to Harikathe, almost every evening, organised by many temples in the area. My cultural education almost entirely happened at these events.

I studied in Fort High School, GAS College, and later Central College. I used to walk to college. Most people in the city walked or used tongas. Even cycles were few and far between. I don’t recall seeing a car ever, during those times. Today it often takes half-an-hour to cross a road.

I remember the first time when SLN Motors introduced a bus from Kalasipalya to Malleswaram. Later C.M. Garudachar introduced three buses that connected Kalasipalya, Ulsoor, Malleswaram, and Basavanagudi. This was in 1930s. That pretty much sums up the geography of the city then.

Bengaluru was two cities then: Cantonment and Pete. How was the interaction between them? Do you see them integrated today?

We, from Pete, used to rarely go into Cantonment. But I remember going to South Parade Road, now M.G. Road, but not beyond that. Cantonment was a military garrison of the British and that shaped the culture of that part of the town, giving it a distinct identity even today. Post its integration under a single administration after Independence, many activists took to spreading Kannada in the region. Today it is far better integrated emotionally as well, though Kannada may be less prevalent here than in other areas. But we should also credit Cantonment for its significant contribution to the city’s cosmopolitan culture.

You have been a resident of the city for nearly a century now and have seen it change and reinvent multiple times. How do you see the city today?

I think the story of the city’s lakes encapsulates the Bengaluru story best. We were once a city of lakes built by multiple rulers, from its founder Kempe Gowda onwards. Lakes provided for the drinking water needs of the city. But as the city grew in its expanse and population, the Mysuru rulers brought piped water from Tippagondanahalli. I think that was the death knell for the city’s lakes. The city has depended on water diverted to the city from other regions ever since. Today, we use up a significant share of the Cauvery water. With this, the lakes lost their significance. Leave alone private individuals, even governments have encroached upon lake areas and developed them. We also began letting sewage into lakes making them cesspools. As a child I remember taking bath in the Vrishabhavati in the late 1920s. But I also remember that, by then itself, many slums and residential localities had begun letting sewage into the river and it has only been downhill since then. Today also, on most of the outskirts there is huge development but no system to take care of sewage, and we let it into our lakes. I have been fighting to rejuvenate our lakes for many years now. The first thing we need to do is to ensure sewage is not let into the lakes.

Like the story of our lakes show, as the city grew by leaps and bounds, we lost track of the significance of conserving our resources. The economy has boomed, but the quality of life in the city has gone down. One of the main attractions of the city has always been its climate. But that famed climate is fast becoming a thing of the past. The air quality has reduced drastically. We cannot even cross a road today. The tree-lined streets of the city today stand bare.

We are not able to even handle the garbage we generate. In 2013, I chanced upon Mandur. I went into the village and realised the city has been dumping garbage in this village for many years and life there had turned terrible. As a Bengalurean, I felt guilty, responsible, and a need to atone for my sin. I sat on a fast and ensured that the dumping of garbage in the village was stopped.

The city has been myopic in conserving its resources and has developed a sense of entitlement over other regions. But Bengalureans have also been suffering because of this.

What is your prescription for Bengaluru?

Bengaluru is now saturated. It can’t take anymore. Enough of developing the city. The State government needs to develop other cities such as Mysuru, Hubballi-Dharwad, Mangaluru, and Belagavi into industrial hubs and make them vibrant urban centres. Leave Bengaluru alone.

Meanwhile, we need to set our house in order.

The only way to do that is to ruthlessly demolish any encroachments and rejuvenate our lakes, improve green cover, increase public transport and make the city sustainable again. If we do not set it right now, we may never be able to do it in the future.

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Printable version | Aug 11, 2020 2:02:06 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/bangalore/it-is-time-to-set-our-house-in-order-hs-doreswamy/article31881105.ece

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