‘Uttarahalli’ translates to ‘Northern Village’ in Kannada. The irony is, it is located in the southern-most part of Bangalore. This is the current place of residence of my family and is also the last post in this series. This home seems like a perfect retirement plan for a family that seeks a little bit of nature in the midst of a bustling metropolitan city.
With very little vacant space available, my parents try to grow their own vegetables and fruits, welcome birds and squirrels to have meals with them and sip their ‘kaapi’ while watching the sun go down. These are some among many other things they do to keep themselves running through the day.
The area is soaked in rich history as well.. While the ‘Vasantha Vallabharaya swamy temple’ dates back to the Chola era, an adjacent cave is believed to be the place where Rishi Mandavya had meditated.
The Turahalli forest is a small patch of lung space nearby, that joggers, cyclists, conservationists and the realtors all seem to have an eye on!
The latest addition to the landmarks is ISKCON’s ‘Krishna Leela theme park’ located on the Vaikunta hill. The sunrises and rainbows on cloudy days are mesmerizing, adding a backdrop to the view of this temple from my doorstep.
This is the last post of this series: “I Belong to Everywhere“. I hope you all have enjoyed time travelling with me hopping on- and off from Bangalore to Kodagu. Which place did you like the most? What place would you want to go after reading my posts? What more do you want to know about, from these places?
In this post, I’m going to tell you about my connection with ‘Yelahanka’, an area located on the northern side of Bengaluru. It is rather popular for the air force station located here. And that’s also why Yelahanka has my heart with it.
One of the camps of the Central Reserved Police Force (CRPF) is located at a little distance from my college. So, most of the morning drives to college were alongside the CRPF troops running on their daily fitness routine. The sight of camouflaged men (at least a hundred of them), marching or running in a single line, with rifles in their hands, weight bags on their backs and the tapping of their heavy boots were just enough motivation for a girl whose little heart goes numb in front of any man wearing uniform of the forces.
And then there are days when we bunked classes and we set out on adventure activities: Adventures of sneaking into random grape vineyards around the college campus, grab a few bunches before being pelted with stones by the farmers if caught 😀 It was sort of days of co-existence between the farmers / local villagers and the students. The students just lived up their share of fun from their college days and the villagers were just entertaining themselves with our tactics.
The Yelahanka we know today wasn’t the same back then. There were hardly any good restaurants, cafes or any place where we could hangout apart from the college canteen. Some of the addas that the students would swear by are the railway tracks, the lake, the stables and Balaji. Well, mention these places to any student from this college and watch their expression: These were not just places, these were emotions.
And the most fun rides were those when we wanted to bunk classes and to find transportation to reach to wherever we wanted to go (out of Yelahanka). Back in those days, the college bus was the only available mode of transportation from college until the airport road / highway. If any commutation was required during the day (if we bunked, that is!), the only options were to either hitch a ride or walk to cover the distance of almost 4-5 kilometers. On some days we sat pillion, some days a bumpy lorry, on some days were cars with AC and some days, we sat on haystack and tractors that carried firewood.
Yelahanka is where I have spent four memorable years of college, a place that has made me worthy of a human being and that has guided me towards earning my own food. Yelahanka will always be closest to me, because my heart will always be wandering around my college (in the form of fighter planes :P)
Jalahalli is a locality in the Northern part of Bengaluru where my family stayed for a brief period until I finished my graduation in Yelahanka. Being involved in sports, languages, music, travelling and so many other things along with regular college, some of the busiest days of my late teens were spent here.
On a lighter note, our family lived with a confused identity for all the years spent at Jalahalli. We were surrounded by employees of BEL and HMT in majority, and none in our family worked at either of these organizations. More often, we struggled to decide which side to take when we had friends from both these companies sitting on either side of a discussion table 😀
The BEL sports ground was one of our favorite places, where I accompanied my father for his evening walks and my brother for his hockey matches, while catching up on conversations with some of the who’s who of Indian hockey. The Ganesha temple in the BEL colony was one of the go-to places when my family wanted a shot of calmness, not in praying but by simply soaking in the tranquility of the silent atmosphere.
The HMT sports complex, HMT hospital, HMT theater, HMT employees’ quarters and the HMT shopping complex were less just concrete structures and more like emotions.
A racing heart while entering the ‘Jalahalli Airforce station’ would calm down only after a plate of parathas from the air force canteen and some tasty samosas and Sondesh at the Bengali sweet meat stall at Gangamma circle. Catching up with friends mostly happened on the new-BEL road or at Malleswaram.
Well, Jalahalli is a place which reflected the importance of having a friendly neighborhood. Even when any of us had to stay alone at home, there was always someone from the neighborhood checking on our safety and sharing food with us. The months of yuletide were especially memorable because the carol singers came to all houses and we all made merry together.
We left Jalahalli and thus, North Bengaluru to finally come one full circle by making South Bengaluru our forever home (where we currently reside at).
In the rapidly expanding Bengaluru city, Malleswaram and Chamarajpet are like two lungs that breathe out air of cultural relevance and nostalgia of Old Bengaluru. Malleswaram in the North and Chamarajpet in the South have always stood equal in their heritage of what the real Bangalore once represented. Although one might disagree with my personal viewpoint, Malleswaram represents the face of Bengaluru that boasts of intellects in the science and academics fields whereas Chamarajpet represents a city that is filled with scholars from the creatives like literature, art and commerce. In the proximity to premium research institutes like IISC, ISRO, C.V. Raman institute, the Wood institute and organizations like BEL, HMT, Mysore lamps, Sandal Soap factory etc. Malleswaram was the closest residential area. Meanwhile, Chamarajpet was an extension of the Pete area and is also the home to the Karnataka Sahitya Parishad. So, those in trade, literary luminaries and Pandits naturally moved in here. Anyway, my intention is not to explain those details and get into a debate, but to come to the point on how and why I believe that I belong to Malleswaram. (More on Chamarajpet in the next post)
Talking about Malleswaram, where do I start from? 18th cross, maybe? I often entered into the premises of Sankey tank from Sadashivanagar and I exited from the other end to Malleswaram. For the first two years of living in Sadashivanagar, I played Basketball. I was trained at the ‘Beagles Basketball Club’ and envisioned to make it big in this sport over the coming years (Destiny had different plans and that’s for another story). Mind you, I had been an ardent follower of Kobe Bryant and the Lakers since school!
Finishing the day’s training usually meant savoring a honey cake for Rs.7 and a biscuit sandwich ice-cream for Rs.5 at the lyengar’s bakery at 16th cross. The aroma of filter coffee in the darshini hotels and a walk in the old Malleswaram market are sensory experiences that cannot be taken away from me. The CTR dosey is an inseparable part for my taste buds (I take the metro train from my current residence in South Bengaluru to Malleswaram even to date, just to eat CTR dosa).
The atmosphere of festivities brought in by scores of vendors on the 8th cross road were the days that were much awaited by me to see what each festival was about and what the key items associated with a specific festival were (decorations, food and other knick-knacks). I had even made up an entire itinerary on my own and applied for a part time job of a tour guide who wanted to walk the interested people through the lanes of this heritage area.
Since I had only then moved into Bangalore after finishing my schooling in Madikeri, for me Malleswaram served as an open school to open my mind to cultures that I was totally unaware until then. The cuisine, the festivals, the spoken Kannada, the traditions and the mindset of people in general, everything seemed new to me in Bangalore from what I had been exposed to until then. I was quick to adopt and adapt and this is where I became a true blue Bangalorean.
With the premium research institutes of India being around, Malleswaram sort of sparked my urge to keep learning/exploring something constantly and inclined me towards pursuing research in general.
Abbi falls is one of the most popular landmarks in Kodagu, located in ‘Kalakeri Nidugane village’ on the outskirts of Madikeri. This is where the Lostlander was stung by the travel bug, much before she was born! History speaks about Columbus and Vasco-da-Gama, but the lostlander grew up listening to the stories of her grandfather’s adventures of discovering Abbi falls. Those are the very stories that sowed the seeds of seeking adventure and finding her own life path for the Lostlander.
The memories associated with Abbi falls is an endless list, so this post is going to be a photo tour with some old photos of the Lostlander with her grandfather at Abbi falls estate.
This is a brook built by my grandfather to provide accessibility to the surrounding villagers to get across the river, on the upstream of Abbi waterfalls during the monsoons. It has been replaced by a concrete bridge only in yr.2021, several decades after it was originally requested for. (Click here to read further)
I wish to compile a book someday, comprising of all these stories from the life of “My grandfather”. Do share in all your thoughts and any personal stories associated with this place that I will be glad to add them in my book with due credits.
Sadashivanagar is a locality in North Bengaluru, widely comprising of the upper and the lower orchards. For those unfamiliar with Bangalore’s demography, Sadashivanagar is rather known as a VIP and VVIP haven and a high security residential area. For the non-VIPs living around here for too long, the periphery extends beyond. It covers Vyalikaval, Malleswaram, RMV extension and Yeswantapur. Having spent a significant number of years and the most youthful days of my life here in the early 2000s, a large part of my heart belongs to Sadashivanagar. Here are some of the best memories from the years spent here.
Having lived at a proximity to Sankey tank, it was my ‘go-to’ place for all the years that I lived in North Bengaluru. You can say, ‘Sankey tank was to me as Chamundi Betta is to a Mysorean’. I would go there when I was sad, when I was happy and when I felt nothing. I went there every day! Simply walking there and watching the ducks and the several fish-consuming birds that nested in the middle of this waterbody rejuvenated my senses. However, I hated the months that followed the festival of Ganesh Chaturthi when large number of Bangalore’s population came here for the immersion of the idol and the water would smell bad for several more months until the concerned authorities cleaned it.
The garden around Sri Ramana Maharshi’s meditation center and Kempegowda tower at Mekhri circle, the single screen cinema at Cauvery theater, late night ice-creams at Baskin Robbins were some of my favorite peace places around this locality.
Again, proximity to Mekhri circle and Palace grounds added another dimension to my interests- Music! Back in those days, Palace grounds was synonymous with hosting the BIG concerts of Bengaluru. Iron Maiden, Aerosmith, Megadeth, Metallica, Bryan Adams, Deep Purple ’em all… If you hear me having a flair for the western music, along while I’m humming the songs of Sonu Nigam, Sunidhi Chauhan and several other traditional musicians, Sadashivanagar is probably the place that has influenced me! Even on days that I couldn’t make it to the concert arena, the blaring sound would rock the glasses and doors of our house wanting me to be a part of the cheering crowd!
‘Ontiangadi’ literally translates to The Only Shop’ in Kannada, and it is the name of a village in South Kodagu, where my paternal lineage hails from. Now, this village has grown beyond just one shop, into a tiny township.
As a child, I would come here on those weekends, when my parents came down from Bangalore. But whenever I came here, there has always been a calm of a different kind. There are two ancestral houses located within the large premises: one nearly 200 years old which is now used as a warehouse and the other, around 50+ years old that is currently being resided at by our family. The latter is surrounded with coffee plants, paddy fields, overflowing ponds and streams, an open well at a walkable distance to fetch potable water. This place has always seemed magical to me, then and now!
While the green paddy fields have been a treat to the eyes, the offseason is when I have lived some of my best holidays. The paddy field would turn into a playground when my cousins, other kids from the village and their cousins, would all congregate here for a game or two of football. Not with a foot-BALL, but with hollow balls of pomelo skin (grapefruit).
And then, came the first monsoons: we ran to the large wild-mango tree and fought a mango war. Who won or lost the battle would be decided by how much mango juice we were soaked in and who got the maximum scolding from our elders!
Wait for a few more days to pass by and the monsoon will peak. Then, the streams would overflow and bring that time of the year for our prized catches: Laying bamboo traps to collect fresh water eels and Koile meen (a local fish in Kodagu), fishing out mud-crabs from crevices along the downstream were normal. On (un)Lucky days, one or two smushy crabs would turn out to be snakes after being grabbed out 😀
Once, the workers had brought home several soft shelled turtles which they had found while working in the paddy field. It was timed well with my then recent experience of volunteering for a sea turtle conservation project in Chennai. With all excitement and inspiration, I had written to so many organizations about my new discovery in the western Ghats 😀 Aaah, what memories!
Apart from this, the ‘Subramanya temple’ at Byrambada and the ‘Palli Swamy Dargah’ (Pulkimaad dargah) have been important landmarks in and closer to Ontiangadi. A nice warm day even now, is often concluded with a hot plate of palam pori and a cup of kattan chai from ‘Ganesh hotel’ at Ontiangadi.
I borrow my surname from this village and so, definitely a part of me belongs here 😀
If you liked this story, you might also want to give a read to: “OMG! Life has changed!” for some more nostalgic content.
The original plan for this short family outing was to make an early morning visit to Sanjeevaraya Swamy temple in Channapatna Taluk of Ramanagara district and return. But, since my workplace is located along the same route, I expressed my disinterest in traveling that way. I pitched in the idea to have a change of route at least for one-way. Hence, I added a couple of other landmarks, picked up an offbeat village road and created a circuit with aid from google maps.
For those of you who are not familiar with the geography of Karnataka, Ramanagara is popularly known for its Sholay hills that was featured as the village- ‘Ramgarh’ in the Bollywood movie Sholay. Channapatna is popular for its cottage industries of wooden toys. I am not going to write about any of these places, the search engines are already flooded enough! I am going to take you around some lesser known places in Channapatna, for a half a day’s trip from Bengaluru.
We set out on a Saturday morning and decided to have our breakfast on the way. Sri.Renukamba tatte idly (translates to ‘Plate idli’ in Kannada) needs no introduction for the Bengalureans. So, after a filling plate of tatte idly at Bidadi, we proceeded towards our intended destination for the day. To reach there, we had to pass through Kengal, a village popular for yet another Hanuman temple. Moving ahead from there along a small deviation, we arrived at our first major destination: Sanjeevaraya Swamy temple at Devarahosahalli village. This is a small stone structure dedicated to Lord Hanuman and dates back to the Vijayanagar era. The deity is believed to be powerful and hence, we were there to offer or prayers following the recommendations of some well-wishers.
After spending some time there, we continued onward to our next destination, a little cave temple located atop of a hill. The drive, the scenery, the canopy of the majestic trees along the highway was a pleasant one. We stopped by to do some bird watching at the Neelasandra lake as well. We could see Pelicans flocking in large numbers.
Our next major stop came as a rather surprise to us. Gavi Ranganatha Swamy temple was a random destination included in our day based on an internet search result. The drive, the location of the temple, the valley, the village view from the temple porch and the overall scenery was just so stunning and unexpected. There was just no one else in the temple apart from our family and a few local kids playing in the hill, atop which this temple is located. You can watch the video of our visit to Gavi Ranganatha Swamy temple below:
By this time, the sun was already up and beaming bright. So, we decided to drive back, of course through a different route. We descended the Gavi Ranganatha Swamy hill and took the route that connected to Kanakapura. On the way, we stopped at this beautiful location where the highway passes through green farms on one side, a large lake on the other side and the entire scenery was being overlooked by the temple hill.
Our drive from there continued through large stretches of rocky hillocks, mango orchards, paddy fields, coconut groves and mulberry farms. Ramanagara is also known for sericulture. Several households in the villages here are involved in silkworm rearing. As we passed through, we noticed that families were sitting out in the verandahs of their traditional houses and collecting the fully grown cocoons from the bamboo trays. We stopped by and walked over to one of the houses on our way and learnt a thing or two about sericulture from them.
In a short while, we reached the Kanakapura main road where we had our lunch. Well, it was a late evening lunch before continuing towards home and thus ending a quick trip to the Bengaluru outskirts.
If you are someone who has been following my blogs for some time now, you would know that most of our family trips are on weekends and to random destinations located around the Bangalore outskirts. We leave home with random reasons to drive out and then pick up equally random roads and follow-it till the road reaches a dead-end. We have thus far explored several villages like this. This weekend too was a similar one. And the reason to drive out, you may be curious to know, right?
My dad had long heard of a pig farm located somewhere around Kanakapura road. We had first stopped for lunch at a hotel on Kanakapura road. There, my dad enquired with the hotelier if they knew of any pig-farm around. They informed us that the kitchen waste from their hotel too was collected by someone who runs a pig farm but was unsure of its location. He gave us the possible location of the place with rough directions. After lunch, we headed out in that direction, a deviation before Kaggalipura.
With just the deviation, there was a sudden and a contrasting change in the scenery to drive through as compared to the super congested Kanakapura highway. For a moment I felt as if I were driving through some remote lanes of Coastal Karnataka or the Malnad region. There were stretches of areca and banana plantations on either side creating abundant greenery and change in the ambience. Since there were barely any people on the road, we continued to drive till we found some village ahead. By this time, we had covered a good distance and passed through several types of fruit and vegetable farms.
After reaching the village, we stopped by to enquire a villager on the roadside about the farm, he guided us to a pig-farm located next to his farm. But after reaching there, we realized that it was a different one that my dad had heard of and we had no entry into the place where we had now reached. So, we continued our drive further and reached a junction where we had to pick a direction to turn, the left or the right. Instead, we chose to stop the car in a side and walk up a large wall in front of us that looked like a high-rise wall of a reservoir or something. Indeed, it was a lake up there and surrounded by farms and distant hills of Bannerghatta on the other side. A flock of migratory birds too seemed to be resting in a small islet in the middle of the lake. I checked the location on google maps and I learnt that the place was called as ‘Gulakamale lake’.
The water looked so good and we sat there for some time, enjoying the cool breeze even on a hot and humid afternoon. It was just my family in the entire place until we noticed some local kids who arrived there. They removed their clothes and jumped into the lake one after the other, enjoying their fair share of fun time. They took all of us back to our childhood days and it was a pleasure to watch them enjoy it that way.
After a while, we decided to move further on the road. This time, we chose to take the road to our left and continued at it. We passed through millet farms, taking a round about of the same lake, papaya farms and other vegetable farms before arriving at a village called ‘Nallakkanadoddi’. It was a small settlement with nothing noteworthy to see or do. Hence, we went ahead as we saw that the road was newly laid and in good condition.
The road reached a dead-end and that was the parking lot of ‘Tottikallu falls’ commonly known as TK falls among the urban crowd of Bangalore. This was the second time for me that I had reached the entrance of TK falls, both times an unplanned drive had taken me there. Again, I decided not to go there on both occassions given the large crowd that had come down over the weekend. More so, given the Covid-19 situation and the crazy crowd this time, we didn’t even dare to step out of our car. So, TK falls has to wait until next time. From here, we decided to head back home and not stop anywhere on the way. Thanks to the weekend rush on Kanakapura road, we would need good number of hours to make our way back through the traffic.
The standard itinerary with PTU: Day 1: Depart from Bangalore (Leave HSR layout) by 08.00.p.m. Day 2: Reach homestay by 06.00.a.m., freshen up and start the hike by 09.00.a.m.; Return to the homestay by evening Day 3: Visit Nagara fort enroute home, reach Bengaluru by evening.
The story of my weekend: A total of 16 people including two trek leaders were supposed to board the bus at various pickup points across Bangalore. While HSR layout was the first pickup point, the last and the biggest bunch of people were supposed to board at Mekhri circle. When the driver cranked the engine to leave HSR, the last member boarding the bus noticed that a rear tyre had a flat. So, it needed to be changed and the punctured tyre required to be fixed before proceeding for the long journey. After about an hour, the stepney was replaced and the bus arrived at the second stop.
People boarded and the Bus… did not start. This time, the battery had drained, completely! A mechanic arrived in a while and told that it could not be topped up and needed a replacement. Well, it was another good couple of hours until the bus finally left…. With an assurance from the ‘travels company’ assuring that there won’t be any more breakdowns.
Meanwhile, I had taken an autorickshaw to reach Mekhri circle to hold up all the people who had arrived there. The co-leader managed the people who had already boarded the PTU bus. Most of them being first timers on their solo travel, their growing anxiety with the extending delay in the tour was quite a challenge to clarify all their doubts and questions. It was 00.30.a.m. by the time the bus finally arrived at Mekhri circle instead of the scheduled 09.30.p.m. We quickly wrapped up the initial welcome and introduction that usually takes a while on normal trips. Everyone needed some sleep before climbing up the Kodachadri trail.
It was approximately 01.30~02.00. a.m. and the bus had reached somewhere around Sira town. Then suddenly, everyone in the bus woke up for a LOUUUD thud noise. The driver stopped the bus. I walked to his cabin and got down with the driver with a torch light to check what the issue was. The driver found a broken bolt under the bus, near the engine room. The radiator had started to leak profusely, and the engine belt had ripped off. The driver informed me that there was no way that the bus could move. Trying to find a mechanic in the middle of the night would only be futile. The options we had was to find one back in Nelamangala (this would take a good few hours) or wait in the bus until morning, find a mechanic in Sira, find spares, get the bus fixed and then proceed. Proceed further to Kodachadri or return to Bangalore. In either case, Saturday would be gone. We pushed the bus to the side of the highway and decided to take time to figure out the next POA (Plan of Action).
I called up the PTU organizers and informed them of the situation. We were fortunate to find a chaiwala (petty Angadi), the ONLY place with light and people movement in the drop-dead night. The people in the bus got down and occupied themselves with their dose of mid-night chai and smokes until we figured out an alternative. None of them would settle for a full refund and wanted PTU to ensure that they got what they had signed up for.
It was a weekend. It wasn’t going to be easy to find an alternate bus or a TT (Tempo Traveler). While my co-lead was waving at every other bus that came on the highway (both KSRTC and private buses) to check if there were empty seats, I was calling up every random travel company listed on google and checking for availability of buses. Either they were all booked for the weekend or people would just abuse me for waking them up in the middle of the night and hang up. To add to it, I was the ONLY person in the entire bus who could speak Kannada. So yeah, I literally had to manage the show and all the translations, communications and co-ordinations. Finally, one KSRTC bus stopped! They had sufficient seats to accommodate all of us as well. But we had a new challenge. The travellers with us had ganged up and would not agree to board a red bus (Karnataka Sarige bus). All requests to convince seemed futile and we let go off the KSRTC bus. After a total of about an hour, the chaiwala managed to find us a localite who had agreed to come with us for a per kilometer charge that was double the normal price. PTU organizers agreed. The TT arrived. Next challenge? It was a 12-seater TT, we were 16 in total. We, the leaders convinced ourselves to sit on the floor of the ramp between the two rows of seats and another 2 travelers volunteered to fill the already crammed space. Ensuring that everyone else got a comfortable space, the journey continued. Fortunately, we had no more surprises and we reached the homestay by 09.30.a.m.
We took time to freshen up, have breakfast, get the forest permits for the trek and finally started our ascend by 11.00.a.m. All went fine, by god’s grace. This was my first PROPER trek in Kodachadri, the previous one was another adventure worth a read. We climbed up the Hidlumane waterfall, arrived at a local house enroute to have a surprise Majjige (buttermilk) stop, crossed paddy fields, areca and banana plantations, Mookambika temple and finally arrived at the peak marked by the Shankaracharya Mantapa. The landscape and the entire path were unrecognizable for me from what I had seen on my previous visit. It was now exploited and overdone by tourists. There were a few hikers who felt exhausted and wanted to give-up halfway. But as a trek leader, it was my personal obligation to ensure that EVERYONE completed what they had signed up for and no one stayed back without some safe company. Finally, everyone made it to the peak, and it was now mission accomplished. Well, only partially!
The real deal was in the descend. We had a 4×4 ride awaiting us for our return. It is one that is BEYOND explanation and you only hold on to the roof bars hoping that you don’t have a few broken bones or dislocated joints by the time it ends. There is NO road, only a slide down a ditchy/bumpy gradient path. This 4×4 jeep ride alone supports the livelihood of several people around the area. Hence, the localites aren’t letting a road happen even if the government wants to develop this important site of tourism (we were told so by one of them). So, if this ride is considered as an adventure and a source of employment, then you can imagine how memorable this experience must be, right?
Well, in spite of all the delays and breakdowns, it gave me a sense of achievement by the end of the day for having met the itinerary. Though we paid late exit fine at the gates, this was a PTU experience in its true sense. More adventures to come, until then- Keep tripping…. Plan the Unplanned!