Bengaluru

Lalbagh: Suresh Jayaram’s search for that elusive apple tree

A page from Bangalore’s Lalbagh: A Chronicle of the Garden and the City by Suresh Jayaram.  

Artist Suresh Jayaram has explored his favourite haunt in the city since childhood, Lalbagh. His recently published book, Bangalore’s Lalbagh: A Chronicle of the Garden and the City, brings the historic green lung to life with its stunning design and illustrations, making it an experience to be savoured and not just read.

Lalbagh is a site of the city’s history starting from the rock said to be 3.5 billion years old; Kempegowda’s watchtower stands on the rock. The park is a reflection of Bengaluru’s layered history from the influences of Hyder Ali - Tipu Sultan to the British who made Lalbagh a centre of commercial botany and the Mysuru Wodeyars, said Mr. Jayaram. “This layered history is a palimpsest - multiple narratives of many minds,” he notes in the book.

Retracing his Thigala ancestry - a community of traditional gardeners said to have been brought to the city by Hyder Ali and played a key role in shaping Lalbagh - was one of the motivations for the work, he said.

Narrative of hope

The narrative, though tinged with a sense of loss and decay, is also one of hope. Mr. Jayaram’s grandmother, who was born in Mavalli, right next to Lalbagh, often told her grandson stories of how they grew apples in orchards for the ‘sahibs’. The search for that elusive apple tree in the city, becomes a recurring metaphor to change and loss.

“The vision of Bangalore as a garden city was short-lived and had to be sacrificed for the development of industries that made it a global brand..If this garden [Lalbagh] is an ecosystem, it brings to our notice the imbalance of our reality outside of its walls,” he writes in the book.

However, he sees hope in Lalbagh, describing it as “our spiritual real estate”. “It is here that we can safely place our hope when all else is lost,” he said.

The book’s narrative occurs on two planes: in text by Mr. Jayaram and in visuals such as photographs from his family albums, archival maps, botanical illustrations from colonial archives and recent illustration works by various contributors.

“The images don’t necessarily always illustrate the text, but coming from various sources and with several contributors, they expand upon and shape the narrative in unexpected ways,” the editor of the book Sarasija Subramanian said.

Mr. Jayaram, an art historian and garden enthusiast, is now working on a book on the other famed garden of the city, Cubbon Park.


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Printable version | Oct 28, 2021 8:32:09 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/bangalore/lalbagh-suresh-jayarams-search-for-that-elusive-apple-tree/article36329081.ece

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