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Askew: A Short Biography of Bangalore

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When the fabled founder of Bangalore, Kempe Gowda, set out to build his dream city in the early sixteenth century, his mother gave him two instructions: keregalam kattu, marangalam nedu. Build lakes, plant trees. Gowda built a hundred lakes and lined the wide avenues of the city with leafy trees. After India gained independence, Bangalore became known as a pensioners’ parad When the fabled founder of Bangalore, Kempe Gowda, set out to build his dream city in the early sixteenth century, his mother gave him two instructions: keregalam kattu, marangalam nedu. Build lakes, plant trees. Gowda built a hundred lakes and lined the wide avenues of the city with leafy trees. After India gained independence, Bangalore became known as a pensioners’ paradise. In the early 1980s, the city reinvented itself once again, this time as the home of some of the world’s most outstanding entrepreneurs. Very rapidly, aided by the dozens of engineering schools that had sprouted in the city since Independence, Bangalore became the hub of India’s information technology (IT) revolution. In the twenty-first century, the city is trying to cope with the problems that have accompanied its explosive growth, and enormous success— crumbling infrastructure, traffic jams, soaring real estate prices, corruption and chaos. Despite the challenges it faces, Bangalore continues to be one of the world’s most distinctive and interesting cities. T. J. S. George walks us through both ‘old’ and ‘new’ Bangalore—from gleaming skyscrapers and lively dance studios to colonial-era bungalows marked by quaint little name-stones, from legendary eating places like Koshy’s and Mavalli Tiffin Room (MTR) to shining new eateries that serve craft beer.


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When the fabled founder of Bangalore, Kempe Gowda, set out to build his dream city in the early sixteenth century, his mother gave him two instructions: keregalam kattu, marangalam nedu. Build lakes, plant trees. Gowda built a hundred lakes and lined the wide avenues of the city with leafy trees. After India gained independence, Bangalore became known as a pensioners’ parad When the fabled founder of Bangalore, Kempe Gowda, set out to build his dream city in the early sixteenth century, his mother gave him two instructions: keregalam kattu, marangalam nedu. Build lakes, plant trees. Gowda built a hundred lakes and lined the wide avenues of the city with leafy trees. After India gained independence, Bangalore became known as a pensioners’ paradise. In the early 1980s, the city reinvented itself once again, this time as the home of some of the world’s most outstanding entrepreneurs. Very rapidly, aided by the dozens of engineering schools that had sprouted in the city since Independence, Bangalore became the hub of India’s information technology (IT) revolution. In the twenty-first century, the city is trying to cope with the problems that have accompanied its explosive growth, and enormous success— crumbling infrastructure, traffic jams, soaring real estate prices, corruption and chaos. Despite the challenges it faces, Bangalore continues to be one of the world’s most distinctive and interesting cities. T. J. S. George walks us through both ‘old’ and ‘new’ Bangalore—from gleaming skyscrapers and lively dance studios to colonial-era bungalows marked by quaint little name-stones, from legendary eating places like Koshy’s and Mavalli Tiffin Room (MTR) to shining new eateries that serve craft beer.

30 review for Askew: A Short Biography of Bangalore

  1. 4 out of 5

    Bernie Gourley

    Bangalore (properly, now Bengaluru) has been my home for the past 3+ years, and I can tell you that it’s a strange and unique city. It has a population of about 10 million, but the surprising part is not the population but rather that half of those millions came over 10 to 12 years. On one hand, this makes Bangalore a chaotic place. I live in the area near the centers of both the Karnataka and the city government, but it can’t be called a city center in the sense that most cities have a central Bangalore (properly, now Bengaluru) has been my home for the past 3+ years, and I can tell you that it’s a strange and unique city. It has a population of about 10 million, but the surprising part is not the population but rather that half of those millions came over 10 to 12 years. On one hand, this makes Bangalore a chaotic place. I live in the area near the centers of both the Karnataka and the city government, but it can’t be called a city center in the sense that most cities have a central business district. I suspect that residents of Indiranagar, Kormangala, Jayanagar, and many other neighborhoods feel they have as much claim to call themselves the city center as does my neighborhood. On the other hand, the reason that there has been such an influx is because this is India’s Silicon Valley and that means that Bangalore is (or at least seems) more affluent, well educated, and cosmopolitan than much of India. I’ve often termed it “India Light” in that all the problems that one associates with India (soul-crushing poverty, rampant disease, etc.) are of a lesser scale in Bangalore. People often ask me whether I get sick a lot living in India, and I can honestly say that Bangalore has never given me a case of intestinal distress more substantial than I got from any given trip to Taco Bell in America, and I’ve delighted in the street food of VVpuram on several occasions. [Whereas a two-day trip to New Delhi nearly killed me.] And, of course, Bangalorean weather is perfect year-round (if you’re saying, “No, it’s not!” that means you’re a Bangalorean who has never spent an extended time period anywhere else in the world--excepting maybe San Diego or parts of the Mediterranean.) That explanation of my Bangalorean credentials aside, even living in the city for several years, one can feel like a stranger to it. An ex-pat’s insight is much more in-depth than a tourist’s, but remains much less than a local’s. That’s one of the reasons I found this book intriguing. There are a number of books on Bangalore that present sunny travelogues of the city, but not so many that investigate the grittier underside of life. If anything, George inflates the ugly side of the city. He devotes a lot of space to topics like racial violence and gangsters. It’s nothing personal. His theory, suggested by the Introduction, is that any city that grows too big has the wheels roll off in one way or the other—though he also suggests other cities have proven better at fixing the problems of [over-]growth. Still, the author occasionally he comes across as curmudgeonly, with a “back in my day everything was sunshine and roses” kind of attitude. As the subtitle suggests, this is a short book—less than 100 pages divided among five chapters. The organization of the chapters is not chronological but thematic. The first chapter explores Bangalore from the perspective of the influx of newcomers and the pull and push factors that bring them. This includes both the educated middle-class who’ve come to advance professional careers as well as the less fortunate immigrants who’ve sometimes found themselves victimized as outsiders. (You may wonder how I—as a foreigner—could remain unaware of the extent of racial and xenophobic violence in this city. To understand this one has to understand the long-shadow of biases rooted in colonialism and caste hierarchy. You may get a clue by looking into the reaction to Nina Davuluri winning the Miss America title in 2013. While most Indians, I suspect, were proud of her by way of connection to ethnic heritage [she’s American by birth—much to the confusion of the American nimrods commenting on her victory], it spawned a whole debate about whether she could have one Miss India if she were an Indian citizen given her darkish skin tone. Of course, those Indian dimwits don’t even hold a candle to the American dimwits who ranted against her victory.) Chapter 2 investigates the role of defective governance in Bangalore’s plight. In many ways this is the heart of the argument that Bangalore is uniquely dysfunctional. Corruption in the presence of huge wealth has created ideal conditions for myopic and self-serving activities that often bite the citizenry square in the backside. Chapter 3 focuses largely on the culinary history of the city, which means a lot of discussion of MTR, CTR, Koshy’s, and some of the longstanding hotel [restaurants] as well as the individuals behind these institutions. Chapter 4 contrasts the life of two of the privileged heirs of Bangalore. The two men in question are Siddhartha Mallya and Rohan Murty. The former is of the family of the United Brewing and the later of Infosys. Mallya is the presented as the outsider who could never make roots in Bangalore or the family business and Murty is the insider whose roots are grown into Bangalore and who managed to make a place for himself despite a pact by the Infosys founders that they wouldn’t become a nepotistic venture. The last chapter is about the intellectual and artistic dimensions of Bangalore, including discussion of bookstores and theaters of note. As I mentioned, this book doesn’t give one a complete picture of Bangalore. Pardon for appropriating the title to my own purposes, but if this is one’s only introduction to Bangalore then one’s view will be askew. However, when read in conjunction with other sources of information, “Askew” can offer balance as well as nuanced insight into specific issues that might not be covered elsewhere (e.g. food and bookstores.) There is a conservative-old-man-of-India viewpoint that skews the book’s discussion that will make it seem quite right to that same demographic but off-kilter to others. One example of this is that there seems to be a suggestion that alcohol is a major source of Bangalore’s problem. However, one sees all manner of vice in cities that are both better governed and less dysfunctional as cities—e.g. Amsterdam and Bangkok. For that matter, alcohol is a more prominent fixture in pretty much every European city than it is in Bangalore. So I had trouble buying that viewpoint, which also seems to inform the vilification of the Mallya family (as opposed to the much vaunted Murty family.) Another example is that while an entire chapter is devoted to comparing those two sons, the daughters barely merit a line or two. All and all, I’d recommend the book as a balance point to other sources of information.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Raksha Bhat

    I read the Kindle edition of this book last night, what drew me towards it was a recommendation from a fellow GoodReads member who happened to read another recent book written by Harini Nagendra,'Nature in the City', a strong one on Bangalore. Anything about my city and I am game! The title of this book actually got me thinking, it does summarize the whole journey of this city of Bangalore, wherever it is heading to. The last paragraph got me tear eyed.I'm too in awe of George's attention to det I read the Kindle edition of this book last night, what drew me towards it was a recommendation from a fellow GoodReads member who happened to read another recent book written by Harini Nagendra,'Nature in the City', a strong one on Bangalore. Anything about my city and I am game! The title of this book actually got me thinking, it does summarize the whole journey of this city of Bangalore, wherever it is heading to. The last paragraph got me tear eyed.I'm too in awe of George's attention to detail. He particularly focuses on the people who have made Bangalore-planners, politicians,entrepreneurs and their kids, theatre artists,writers, intellectuals, actors, the IT sector, hoteliers and even the commoners. The way the history is written completely amazed me. I now do not know if we deserve this all, whatever Bangalore provides us for we are nowhere close to what we are expected to do with it! I think it is time we take stock of the situation and do something before it reaches a point of no return. Reading books such as these is a step in that direction because here the writing is nothing but honest. There is fact, there is clarity and then there is the much needed warning. Read this one if you are a Bangalorean or if you are curious to know what makes it the magical city it is!

  3. 4 out of 5

    Kartik

    This book reads like a well written editorial in The Hindu. Which is to say it's articulate, opinionated, openly reverent of what its author has a soft spot for, and carries a subtle thread of sarcasm underneath it all. Completely unsurprising given the author's own background, though. It begins with a section on the nature of cities that I loved. It was gratifying to read how the author views cities as composite entities rather than monoliths, something that mirrors my own views. It goes on to o This book reads like a well written editorial in The Hindu. Which is to say it's articulate, opinionated, openly reverent of what its author has a soft spot for, and carries a subtle thread of sarcasm underneath it all. Completely unsurprising given the author's own background, though. It begins with a section on the nature of cities that I loved. It was gratifying to read how the author views cities as composite entities rather than monoliths, something that mirrors my own views. It goes on to offer a series of entertaining anecdotes and a narration of various aspects of Bangalore's history and identity, the sections on its liquor and food scene and its cultural scene being closest to my heart. However, as you read on, the lack of substance becomes very apparent, disappointing even. And an entire chapter dedicated to the scions of the Mallya and Murthy families had me wondering why it was even included. The book is short at it is, and the 20 odd pages dedicated to exploring these men's lives kind of had me wondering what the point was. The lack of depth in the other chapters leaves you confused too. As a recent transplant to Bangalore myself, the book showed me what generations of migrants before me had made of the city.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Smitha Murthy

    My love affair with Bangalore's past continues. TJS George is one of Bangalore's most respected chroniclers and he gives a beautiful insight into the growth of Bangalore from beloved city to chaotic metropolis that is no longer recognizable. I dropped a rating because I wasn't sure why there were so many pages in a very short book devoted to Siddhartha Mallya and Rohan Murty. Are these people the 'real' Bangaloreans? Not sure what the purpose of that was.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Meera Sundar

    The chapter on future 'Bangaloreans' Siddhartha Mallya and Rohan Murthy was overdone and didn't really gel with the rest of the book. Otherwise a good, short read.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Rakshita

    A short but well written work on Bangalore, it's past, present and future. I especially enjoyed the chapter on the nature of cities in general and the chapters detailing the birth and growth of the liquor and food scenes in Bangalore, especially those in Basavangudi-Malleshwaram areas. Stories about prominent people in the city - its planners, civil servants, theatre artists, actors, politicians, writers and hoteliers, who have contributed to its development, give us immense perspective. However A short but well written work on Bangalore, it's past, present and future. I especially enjoyed the chapter on the nature of cities in general and the chapters detailing the birth and growth of the liquor and food scenes in Bangalore, especially those in Basavangudi-Malleshwaram areas. Stories about prominent people in the city - its planners, civil servants, theatre artists, actors, politicians, writers and hoteliers, who have contributed to its development, give us immense perspective. However, I would have liked more historical information on the city's development and its founding tale. The chapter on Rohan Murthy and Siddhartha Mallya was unnecessary. Would have liked to know about other important areas in the city like Koramangala and Indranagar . And it focuses too much on the 1970 years. Though quite short a biography for a city this old, it is a decent book for those who want a quick read on the history and culture of Bangalore.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Swateek

    A brilliant book on the city, that covers a wide range of what Bangalore was all about to what Bangalore is today. Do read this one, will make you fall in love with Bangalore even more. A quick, short, good read. My first that I picked from a Literature Fest, and finished it that day :)

  8. 5 out of 5

    Sairam Krishnan

    Delightful short read on what Bangalore used to be and what it is today - the supercity gone askew. Lovely anecdotes, great writing. Highly recommended.

  9. 4 out of 5

    David Verghese

    Always good to know so much about a place you call home...

  10. 5 out of 5

    Kumar Anshul

    The book says 'Short Biography of Bangalore' but it's just a collection of essays, based on personal experiences of the author. It even has a chapter on Siddharth Mallya!! Can be skipped.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Anil Swarup

    This book is more about persons from Bangalore than Bangalore itself. There is no doubt that important persons do constitute an integral part of any city but it is difficult to understand dedicating so many pages to Vijay Mallaya's son. How does he represent Bangalore? The book otherwise makes for an interesting read.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Vinay Leo

    #2019 #YearInBooks Book 19 Every city in the world has evolved over the years into what it is today. That change has happened across aspects, be it culture, architecture, gastronomy, arts, literature, and even technology. Bangalore is no different. This much is evident to those who have stayed in this city for many years, and called it home. "Askew" is partly a troubling title, partly a truthful title. And perhaps troubling because it is truthful to those who have seen what it used to be, seeing #2019 #YearInBooks Book 19 Every city in the world has evolved over the years into what it is today. That change has happened across aspects, be it culture, architecture, gastronomy, arts, literature, and even technology. Bangalore is no different. This much is evident to those who have stayed in this city for many years, and called it home. "Askew" is partly a troubling title, partly a truthful title. And perhaps troubling because it is truthful to those who have seen what it used to be, seeing what it is now and perhaps thinking about where the city is headed seeing that present. A biography looks at life from another's perspective. This book looks at Bangalore from the viewpoint of the author, as well as those who became part of its evolution... IT people who returned from abroad to play a role in the city becoming the Silicon Valley of India; the scions of the Murty and Mallya families; a person revered in the food scene of the city. It reflects the politics involved, the egos at play. It chronicles the growth of the city from a somewhat quiet city into the bustling city full of traffic jams that we know it to be today. And yes, there is a mention of the traffic too. The book reads like an article in a newspaper or magazine. I liked the bits on food and music/theatre, and the evolution there. It felt familiar (especially Koshy's and Vidyarthi Bhavan), it felt interesting when mixed with the history. The other parts were okay, but an entire chapter on the scions felt unnecessary. A mention may have sufficed. The book is a short one, but for me, it was a bit of a tedious read. An unusual way to learn more about a city I love.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Naliniprasad

    A fresh take on the history of Bangalore by a veteran scribe.This endearing book chronicles Bangalore's story from the time of the famed Kempe Gowda till the time of the Murthys and Premjis,shedding light on many crucial phases in the rise of this modern city. TJS George is a long time resident of the Garden city.He inspires a curiosity towards the narrative like only a veteran journalist can. He tells us how Haider ali found time to create lal bagh,how cubbon park came to be and how Sir C.V.Raman A fresh take on the history of Bangalore by a veteran scribe.This endearing book chronicles Bangalore's story from the time of the famed Kempe Gowda till the time of the Murthys and Premjis,shedding light on many crucial phases in the rise of this modern city. TJS George is a long time resident of the Garden city.He inspires a curiosity towards the narrative like only a veteran journalist can. He tells us how Haider ali found time to create lal bagh,how cubbon park came to be and how Sir C.V.Raman got the Tatas to establish IISc. The book mentions many contemporary politicians,entrepreneurs,intellectuals,artists and sports persons of Bangalore who brought it international fame. We learn how the city became great and attracted exceptional talent and investment from all over the world.We also learn the tales of all the great individuals and institutions that played a crucial role in helping the city to grow to it's present stature as a knowledge hub.We can easily identify with the author's feelings when he recollects all the nostalgic memories of old Bangalore, especially when he speaks of white field, Basavanagudi, Jaya nagar, Malleshwaram and cantonment areas of yester years.He introduces us to many legendary Bangaloreans like Kuvempu, DVG, Masthi venkatesha Iyengar, U.R.Anantha Murthy along with other great Kannadigas.Not just these luminaries, Siddhartha mallya and Rohan murty also feature in the book and the author offers a window in to their lives as well.That is the snobbish part of the book.But TJS George is famous for his biographies of celebrities like Krishna menon,Goenka,M.S.Subbalakshmi and Nargis. This is expected of him.We get to appreciate the unique culture of the city and it's friendly demeanor through the eyes of a man who has spent time in many great cities of the world such as New York, Hong Kong etc., Apart from people and events, Book reading culture of Bangalore, the classical music festivals,modern bands and the performing arts culture also find mention in the book in a pleasant manner. The author gives us an idea on how the city, once known as the pensioner's paradise, is constantly plagued with numerous civic problems at present.The book also offers a possible explanation to the recent spate of increased incidents of intolerance towards immigrants, foreign students and workers from the North east. He is not wrong in his prediction that the consequence of such display of hatred against the foreign students would prove detrimental to the cosmopolitan image of the city in the global age.Many of the victims and those who witness these acts of violence and intolerance might not encourage any future business ties with the city once they assume influential roles in their native lands,because they return home with unpleasant memories. Definitely, this is not healthy sign for the future of a city and its people depending heavily on an economy supported by the same outsiders. It is an eye opener to many who believe Bangalore is spoiled by outsiders, because Bangalore was built in part by these very outsiders from the very beginning.This book scores high on information quotient yet manages to remain short.At the same time, it is not a serious narrative,it displays author's good sense of humour on a frequent basis from start till the end. His subtle sense of humor is clearly evident in many brief character sketches that intersperse the narrative.Reading this well researched book would be a rewarding experience for anyone interested in the history of Bengaluru. Thanks to Kindle Unlimited! I found it accidentally and read it :)

  14. 5 out of 5

    Saritha

    The three stars is only for the brevity of this fine book. But whatever is there on the complex urbanity of Bengaluru, is written engagingly.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Rakhi Jayashankar

    From the time I was a student, I have heard people delving into the nostalgic memories of Bangalore. Bangalore seemed to me as a city that once ventured will never leave our mind, like an obsessive lover. I have always been anxious about the real reason behind this admiration towards a city. When I recently visited the city all I could see was unending and frustrating traffic. But T.J.S George's book Askew provides a whole new perspective about the city, decades back. Author tells us why everyone From the time I was a student, I have heard people delving into the nostalgic memories of Bangalore. Bangalore seemed to me as a city that once ventured will never leave our mind, like an obsessive lover. I have always been anxious about the real reason behind this admiration towards a city. When I recently visited the city all I could see was unending and frustrating traffic. But T.J.S George's book Askew provides a whole new perspective about the city, decades back. Author tells us why everyone relates Bangalore with nostalgia. Basanagudi is the center of the stories. There is a historical anecdote about the growth of the city. The book is more about how and why Bangalore went askew with the change in culture. As the subtitle claims, the book is a brief biography of Bangalore. If you are a Bangalorean or if you have been to Bangalore for a brief or lengthy stay, you would relate more with the book. The narration is lucid and the language is engaging. The book is a simple easy read, it could be completed in a few hours. Author has also inculcated the views of people about Bangalore and the political jugglery. Thankfully there is no washing dirty linen in public regarding the political or generational differences. A major blemish in the whole tale is unduly lengthy biography of Sidharth Mallya. Well, author could have his own reasons for the same. Overall the book is an easy read into Biography of Bangalore,to tell Bangalore is a charmer. This review is in return of a free book from the publisher

  16. 5 out of 5

    Sudhir Bharadhwaj

    Askew is an important book to read for all Bangaloreans and for those who love Bangalore. The book gives a bit of history , explains transitions and ponders about future. TJS George makes an excellent compilation of lens though which we can understand Bangalore's past , present and future. Often humorously laid , the book still asks very pertinent questions that we ought to find answers to. Failing which, we not only fail ourselves , but we will let our beloved city down.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Palaniappan Ramaswamy

    The book was very interesting in parts. The book was very interesting in parts, somehow the weaker part was dabbling into Siddhartha mallyas life for almost a chapter didn't find it apt in the story of Bangalore. The cricketing, quizzing and the cycling scene of Bangalore, & the death by chocolate of corner House ice creams which are part of the history and personality of the city was better than stories of mallayas and murtys. Thanks. The book was very interesting in parts. The book was very interesting in parts, somehow the weaker part was dabbling into Siddhartha mallyas life for almost a chapter didn't find it apt in the story of Bangalore. The cricketing, quizzing and the cycling scene of Bangalore, & the death by chocolate of corner House ice creams which are part of the history and personality of the city was better than stories of mallayas and murtys. Thanks.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Madhurima Malla

    TL;DR: It's a person's opinion of Bangalore. This book can be completed in one sitting. It has easy-to-follow vocabulary. There're a few paragraphs about Basavangudi (mostly about South Bangalore) which were interesting to read about.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Fred Rose

    I guess it's supposed to be an insider's view of Bangalore but it was a little too much like a newspaper gossip column for me. Some fun info though.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Chitharanjan

    This was just the book I'd been longing to read. It's as close as I'll come to teleporting myself to this wondrous city that I left many long months ago, where my thoughts and memories remain still as if stuck in the midst of its notorious traffic. On the whole, the book paints a bleak picture of Bangalore's future while tracing the numerous problems that plague the city back to their origins. I've been reading the chapter on Bangalore's food culture over and over shamelessly because it indulges This was just the book I'd been longing to read. It's as close as I'll come to teleporting myself to this wondrous city that I left many long months ago, where my thoughts and memories remain still as if stuck in the midst of its notorious traffic. On the whole, the book paints a bleak picture of Bangalore's future while tracing the numerous problems that plague the city back to their origins. I've been reading the chapter on Bangalore's food culture over and over shamelessly because it indulges my nostalgic yearnings like nothing else can. All those stories about the enterprising early restaurateurs of the city, the ones who founded its Darshinis and MTRs and Coffee Bars, showed me how little I know about Bangalore, and how much it still has to offer on future visits. The fixation with Sid Mallya's looks and physical transformation felt a little unworthy of inclusion, though I can see the point that he's making with that. Except for the few minutes that I spent dwelling on that section, I absolutely loved the book and I'll keep returning to my favourite parts whenever I miss Bangalore. This book is a gift.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Neeraj

    Askew or just lazy?? Gave a glimpse of Banglore's history in no particular order. A lot of references of people who represents the modern Bangalore, according to the author. It would have been interesting if there were more stats and numbers. At one point it was more of a short biography of Siddharth Mallya. Although was interesting to know his story but was not relevant to the theme of the book.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Saket Suman

    Often referred to as the Silicon Valley of India for being the hub for information technology (IT) companies in the country, the city of Bangalore (now Bengaluru), according to the arguments put forth in this book, has lost its traditional charm at the hands of modernity and enterprise. "Askew" may be a rather unconventional title for this scholarly work, but the author's attention to detail in chronicling the journey of Karnataka's capital, "from a paradise for pensioners to an El Dorado of the Often referred to as the Silicon Valley of India for being the hub for information technology (IT) companies in the country, the city of Bangalore (now Bengaluru), according to the arguments put forth in this book, has lost its traditional charm at the hands of modernity and enterprise. "Askew" may be a rather unconventional title for this scholarly work, but the author's attention to detail in chronicling the journey of Karnataka's capital, "from a paradise for pensioners to an El Dorado of the future", will live to tell the many unknown tales of the old city. The author's focus on those who have contributed to the city -- in ways both good and bad -- vividly narrates the stories of the planners, writers, intellectuals, actors, politicians, entrepreneurs and their children, theatre artists, the IT sector, hoteliers and even the commoners. "Looked at through the lens of a Wordsworth poem," George writes, "Bangalore in its youth began in gladness but thereof came in the end despondency and madness." After careful research and citing historical evidence, the book presents a blow-by-blow account of Bangalore's rise to modernity and, at the same time, its continued march towards losing the age-old charm associated with the city. This is not a recent phenomenon. Even in the 1980s, when George "embraced the glorious city", he often heard the earlier residents complaining of similar changes. "They would tell me how in the 1950s telephone numbers were in easy four-digit configurations, how the city bus service went to outlying areas..., and how an air ticket from Bangalore to Bombay cost Rs 285." These imageries fascinated George, but he thought it was unfair of the old-timers to imply that the "city's charm" was gone. In his Bangalore, "the traffic was civilized, the parks were green and the trees full of birds". Not surprisingly, by 2015 it was George's turn to grieve over the lost glories of Bangalore. "In all probability," George writes, "what bothered me were non-issues to Bangalore's new citizens just as what bothered folks in the 1950s and 1960s were non-issues for me in the 1980s." The most significant argument that George makes is that even though Bangalore had etched a narrative of growth throughout history, the speed at which IT altered its sociology and economy made the city "unbearable". "The old agreeable Bangalore was now replaced by an aggressive Bangalore where no one had time for his neighbours. Everyone was chasing success as measured by a new consumerist value system," asserts George, while also narrating the horrors caused to the city's ecology. Why did modernity and enterprise make Bangalore unbearable? "The answer is that Bangalore's elected leaders, administrators and builders disobeyed Kempe Gowda's mother." Kempe Gowda, the fabled founder of Bangalore, was given two instructions by his mother in the 1530s before setting out to build his dream capital: "Keregalam kattu, marangalam nedu (Build lakes, plant trees)". Gowda created a hundred lakes and lined the pathways with wide, leafy trees. Fast-forward to modern times. George, with visible sarcasm, regrets that politicians and land dealers of today were born to "different kinds of mothers" as, in just about three decades, 2,000 hectares of lakes were filled up and, in the late 2000s alone, 50,000 trees felled. The short book makes for a fascinating case study on what Bangalore used to be and what it is today.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Ankit

    This book is a quick read about how things came to be in Bangalore, and its people and places. Could have been more comprehensive about the history. I felt that this was more a commentary on how things have changed rather than a biography. The book could definitely have been more structured

  24. 5 out of 5

    Abhiram R

    I haven't read many non-fictions and this is one of the first few I have completed cover-to-cover; so this book will have a place in my mind forever. I picked it up because I found myself wondering, one day, about the city I have spent my entire life in. How did this all start? How did Bangalore, now Bengaluru come to be? And having witnessed part of the transformation myself, from peaceful, garden city to the chaotic Silicon Valley of India (bet you expected me to say Garbage city), I wondered I haven't read many non-fictions and this is one of the first few I have completed cover-to-cover; so this book will have a place in my mind forever. I picked it up because I found myself wondering, one day, about the city I have spent my entire life in. How did this all start? How did Bangalore, now Bengaluru come to be? And having witnessed part of the transformation myself, from peaceful, garden city to the chaotic Silicon Valley of India (bet you expected me to say Garbage city), I wondered why and I was recommended this book. T.J.S George has done a fairly good job in answering some of my questions and as it is a self-professed "short biography", I expect nothing more than what it has given me. He mentions the various facets of the city - environment, food, art and literature, architecture etc. and some key players that have influenced the city in their own ways and brought their ideas and thoughts, some for the betterment and some for naught, to fruition, giving us the city we love and live in today. He ends his book on a somewhat ominous note, rightly focussing on the issues we have in the city, but also leaves the reader somewhat morose. But this is perhaps what he intended. Maybe this is the kick in the shin and the reality-jerk we all need to realise the sorry state of the once-glorious city we're losing now to urbanization and political indifference and vices. I liked this book on the whole. It has given me a new found respect for my city, not for what it is becoming , but for what it was and I, for one, am definitely going to do my bit to save the city I'm from.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Aditi Mahale

    An Abbreviated Biography. I bought the book at the Bangalore Lit Fest last evening and started reading it once I reached home. The story of my adopted city was of great interest to me. Some of these changes I have experienced myself over the last 2 decades as I intermittently visited family living here. The book is an interesting narrative on the different cultures and ideologies that make this city the blend that it is. The food culture, the literary and arts movements and the reason for the la An Abbreviated Biography. I bought the book at the Bangalore Lit Fest last evening and started reading it once I reached home. The story of my adopted city was of great interest to me. Some of these changes I have experienced myself over the last 2 decades as I intermittently visited family living here. The book is an interesting narrative on the different cultures and ideologies that make this city the blend that it is. The food culture, the literary and arts movements and the reason for the lakes and great parks that dot the city. Some interesting anecdotes that help the perspective- the R. Prabhakar story, the Russell Market story, the words of Kempe Gowda's mother. However I found it a bit too short of a biography for a city that is over 450 years old. The books seems mainly focused on the post 1970 years, and critically on lamenting the congestion and chaos that has started in the 90s with the coming of the IT boom. The city's founder Kempe Gowda finds mention at several points, but barely anything of the founding tale is revealed. Given the rich history and culture of Bangalore, I would have personally loved it if the story had travelled with the establishment of Bangalore and its growth through the centuries. Maybe this context would have made the lament of loss far stronger. Overall I rate it a Definite Read if you want to do a short and easy read on understanding a bit of Bangalore's story- its markets, parks, music and Darshinis.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Rahul Karalgikar

    We all know what is wrong with Bengaluru (or with any other city) on the surface. But this book provides some depth, explains paradise Bengaluru it once was. How Bengaluru became special and a unique city.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Raghuram

    The title of the book aptly describes how the city has changed from the pleasant and tree lined roads of days gone by to the IT capital of the country. The book makes it pretty evident that the powers to be not only lost a golden opportunity to plan for the city's growth, but were guilty of corroding the city's soul. They chose to ignore the advice of Kempegowda's mother, to plant trees and build lakes. The best part of the book is the chapter titled, The Genesis Kitchen. This chapter describes The title of the book aptly describes how the city has changed from the pleasant and tree lined roads of days gone by to the IT capital of the country. The book makes it pretty evident that the powers to be not only lost a golden opportunity to plan for the city's growth, but were guilty of corroding the city's soul. They chose to ignore the advice of Kempegowda's mother, to plant trees and build lakes. The best part of the book is the chapter titled, The Genesis Kitchen. This chapter describes the birth of the city's famous eateries, the men who established these eateries, and the famous men and women who were its patrons. It is by no chance that these eateries are located in Malleshwara and Basavanagudi, two of the city's oldest areas. Later on in the chapter, the man and the idea behind the ubiquitous Darshinis are described. The book is worth reading for this chapter alone. I would have rated it 5/5, if not for the the author's insistence to call it Bangalore instead of Bengaluru. Though it sounds like a minor quibble, for a true blue Bengaluru boy, this is something that can't be ignored. Read it to understand what a city is and what happens when it's soul is corrupted. Read it to understand Namma Bengaluru's story. Read it to understand what makes Bengaluru tick.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Tia Raina

    The author has weaved together the origins of so many small things we consider intrinsically Bangalorean, into one larger tapestry about the evolution of the city. My favourite chapter is, hands-down, the one on Bangalorean cuisine and the origin of Darshinis. After reading this book, I FINALLY understand what my parents' generation keeps cribbing about when it comes to the changes in the city. I grew in up in the time when the city was changing - but of course, as an adolescent in a boarding scho The author has weaved together the origins of so many small things we consider intrinsically Bangalorean, into one larger tapestry about the evolution of the city. My favourite chapter is, hands-down, the one on Bangalorean cuisine and the origin of Darshinis. After reading this book, I FINALLY understand what my parents' generation keeps cribbing about when it comes to the changes in the city. I grew in up in the time when the city was changing - but of course, as an adolescent in a boarding school, the last thing you keep track of is what is happening in your hometown. The chapter on corruption - amazing - made me want to move out immediately - because it became so clear we are headed for disaster. But other chapters reminded me of why we call this city home - right from the Mallyas to the Murthys to Koshys - I would, in fact, think this book is a short guide to the city - it is the story of Bangalore. If you're moving to Bangalore, give this book a shot to understand the culture of the city. It isn't, by any shot, an in-depth look, but rather an amalgamation of common facts about the main topics about the city that every old Bangalorean knows, weaved together in a way that to me, made sense.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Shrinidhi

    It seems there was/is a barber saloon (new Bombay Men's parlour) in Basavangudi that had hairstyles named like Kuvempu mushroom cut, Sivaram karanth scissor cut and Maasthi Head massage along with their books on his shelves. A nice and quick read that brought me back the memories of Bangalore. Made me miss the beautiful city which I don't stay in anymore. T.S.J. George, the veteran journalist takes you on a short and sweet trip around Bangalore and introduces you to the old life and the new micro It seems there was/is a barber saloon (new Bombay Men's parlour) in Basavangudi that had hairstyles named like Kuvempu mushroom cut, Sivaram karanth scissor cut and Maasthi Head massage along with their books on his shelves. A nice and quick read that brought me back the memories of Bangalore. Made me miss the beautiful city which I don't stay in anymore. T.S.J. George, the veteran journalist takes you on a short and sweet trip around Bangalore and introduces you to the old life and the new microcosms that have developed. The book is mostly around the author's take on why Bangalore has gone askew. He starts of with the chapter on Bangalore's past and introduces us to the cultural and well known aspects of the city. My favourite part was the one about the writers and speciality food/hotels in the city. The parts about the civic society and activism also drew my attention. The part about Sid Mallya and Rohan Murthy felt overdone and not very convincing. It's a quick and great read to know about this city if you are not from Bangalore. But if you are, it's a feel good nostalgic trip.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Namitha Varma

    The book contains a lot of tidbits about Bangalore that makes it interesting. George's approach is to profile the city by profiling its pioneers. Askew reads like a really large news feature, like one in Frontline perhaps, than a book. I loved the chapter on food and the one on political scenario. I felt like he spent too much time on Siddharth Mallya and Rohan Murty and too little on Arundhati Nag and the theatre chapter. It still hasn't captured all of Bangalore, the city's soul still eludes c The book contains a lot of tidbits about Bangalore that makes it interesting. George's approach is to profile the city by profiling its pioneers. Askew reads like a really large news feature, like one in Frontline perhaps, than a book. I loved the chapter on food and the one on political scenario. I felt like he spent too much time on Siddharth Mallya and Rohan Murty and too little on Arundhati Nag and the theatre chapter. It still hasn't captured all of Bangalore, the city's soul still eludes comprehension. I'd have liked to hear about the rise of "posh" areas such as Indiranagar and Kormangala, the Kannada jingoist's attempts to change old street & place names, more about the defence settlements, about its constant expansion efforts by bringing the suburbs into the corporation area, etc.

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