Sunday, August 29, 2004

Bangalore Darshan

True to Lonely Planet's predictions, there is really nothing much to see in Bangalore. You come to India, and you’re planning your trip and you hear this tremendous buzz about Bangalore...silicon city of India, pubs, cosmopolitan city yada yada ad nauseum, and when you finally get here and breathlessly head to MG Road from wherever you are put up not realizing that you are in all probability passing most of the tourist spots in Bangalore on the way. And then you realize, well, time to move on. Oh hang on: Bangalore may not be the greatest tourist destination but it sure as hell makes for a great base to plan further trips, because there are tons of cool places around a day's trip or so away from Bangalore.
A friend of mine (S), who's been here in Bangalore for close to ten years, but had hardly ventured around, came up with a plan to see Bangalore as a tourist. I protested, of course, everybody knows that there aint nothing here to see, but my protests were in vain and I was strongarmed into a chauffeur/tourist guide role. I dredged out the only map of Bangalore we had, and the list of tourist attractions was laughably small. Nevertheless, we came up with a plan- to see parts of Bangalore that S would never see otherwise, and each place we go to must not be ordinary. The trip was a true reflection of an average tourist's experience in Bangalore, or India for that matter.
Tipu Sultan's fort was closed for repairs, I guess they haven’t been expecting an invasion anytime soon, because it apparently has been this way for years. Tipu Sultan's palace was open! but deserted except for courting couples hiding in the Zenana quarters. The museum there was an insult to both Tipu sultan and us: imagine a series of photocopied images backlit with a tube light!
So then we headed to south Bangalore to see the famous Bull Temple. This temple is so close to my house, its easy to understand why I’ve never seen it before. We climbed the stairs and entered the temple where a HUGE bull sat in the sanctum sanctorum. The bull was black as tar, cool to the touch and was making cartoon eyes at all the visitors. It was sitting, extremely comfortable in its incongruity, looking all the world like it was just about to shake off the priests like so many fleas and head out. We then took a turn around the Bugle rock park, where I was making up false facts all the time for my companion's benefit, accompanied by the frantic screeches of a large roost of fruit bats.
The next temple we visited was unique in that there was a large statue of Lord Rama embracing Hanuman on top of the temple. This is one of the few statues where Rama is seen treating Hanuman as an equal and not as a servant or devotee, which earns major points in his favour, but the temple complex had transformed into an ultra-organised park with "do not walk on the grass' signs everywhere. We didn’t stay at the temple for long, and headed out to the next attraction: the Cave temple of Gavigangadharesvara. Of course nobody told us that the temple closes at 12, so by the time we got there we could only see the gopuras rising out of a rock, which was a quite surreal sight by itself. I tried peering into the temple through the gates and all I could see in the gloomy interior was a cat slowly ambling around.
We had had enough of temples by this time, and the next item on the list was the World Famous Venkatappa Art Gallery. Another quintessential Indian experience awaited us here. After traversing half the city to get here, we were informed that the gallery was closed because there was no electricity. I asked the lady (who was slowly rocking on a chair) perched inside the gates how long it had been since the lights went out, and she said, all day, and that was enough to dissuade us from waiting for the electricity to return.
After that we ran out of places to go to. So we did the obvious thing and headed for a movie.