What a fall for a place that hosted great Balls

BANGALORE, JAN. 31. Valentine's Day is not here yet, but the City's shops and streets already have celebrations and freebies galore.

One place, though, does not figure in the present scheme of things at all. The irony is, it hosted the grandest of Valentine Balls in the days of the Raj.

The BRV (Bangalore Rifle Volunteers) Theatre on Cubbon Road was not built to be a cinema though that is how it is now identified on the Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation bus routes.

According to the former Chief Secretary, T.P.Issar, this stone building ``was originally designed as a store or canteen and armoury.'' In his book, `The city beautiful,'' Mr. Issar says that even the 1930 Mysore Gazetteer refers to the place as an armoury.

Mr. Issar's book was published in 1988 by the Bangalore Urban Arts Commission (BUAC). Then, the BRV was the place Bangaloreans haunted if they wanted to see the latest English movies in town (``Dr. No,'' and ``The Graduate,'' for example). But today, the BUAC no longer exists. Neither does the theatre. It is again an Army canteen.

The BRV, in its later identity, was again featured in a book on Bangalore, Maya Jayapal's ``Bangalore the story of a city'' (1997). Here, Ms. Jayapal does not discuss the architectural merits of the place, but gives us a glimpse into its rich colonial past.

She writes that the BRV, the Bowring Institute, and the All Saints Parish Hall, had balls organised by the YWCA ``or `Y' of 1892 vintage''. The `Y' was known for its social work and for arranging charity balls which were good ``fun.''

Ms. Jayapal says the BRV's grooved teakwood floors were ``subjected to a `spit-and-polish' routine for three days before it passed muster for a dance.'' And how grand were these balls? ``The themes for the evenings were varied: `A night in Spain' for which the band came in costume; `Fairyland,' the `Chinatown Ball,' and the `Valentine Ball' for which satin roses were strung up to give a suitably romantic effect. The band was usually Freddy Hitchcock's which used to play at Koshy's Jewel Box also.''

# Present-day Bangalore closes its pubs and restaurants by 11.30 p.m., but the BRV dances began at 9.30 p.m. and went on until 2.a.m. If the ball closed at 1 a.m., no licence was needed, if it ended later, a licence had to be obtained, Ms. Jayapal said.

Medieval style: For Mr. Issar, the BRV, with its gabled entrance-porch, interesting silhouettes, and conspicuous battlements is one of the ``quaintest'' buildings in the City. He says that the Bible Society group of buildings (at the junction of St. Mark's and Kasturba Roads) shares its ``almost medieval'' style.

The BRV is only one of Bangalore's numerous old beauties. Unfortunately though, Bangalore's quaintness is slowly fading away.

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