COMMERCIAL STREET IN Bangalore (Bengaluru) is one of the main arteries of a busy shopping district – a bazaar area – in the centre of the city. It is close to an area occupied by military establishments, descendants of a former British military base, to which Sir Winston Churchill (no friend of India) was attached briefly when he was a young man. Another main road, Kamaraj Road, in the area used to be known as Cavalry Road. And another reminder of the area’s military proximity is Infantry Road that runs into the Commercial Street area.
There is a network of narrow lanes that run through the bazaar district. These are lined with shops of varying sizes, tradesmen, artisans, cafés, and other businesses. Numerous motorcyclists and autorickshaws thread their way through the crowds of pedestrians thronging the streets. I suspect that only a small number of these people notice or are interested in the architecture of the buildings lining these lanes. I am one of that small minority.
Many of the buildings in the bazaar are either modern or post 1947. There are still some earlier edifices still standing. Some are gradually falling to pieces and others are in good condition.
Recently, I was taking pictures of some of the older buildings and their traditional decorative features when a man came up to me and said:
“Very old. Historic buildings. Old, very old.”
How old they are, I do not know, but it is likely that they were already standing when India became independent in 1947. I did not ask the man, who commented on the buildings’ age, exactly when they were built. One of my reasons for not doing so was a consequence of an instance in Junagadh (a city in Gujarat) some years ago. We were looking at an interesting mausoleum in the centre of Junagadh, wondering about its age, when we asked a bystander when it was built. He answered:
“I don’t know. I wasn’t born then.”
The few intact attractive, old buildings in the Commercial Street bazaar area are lovely to behold. Given how many of them have already been replaced, I wonder how much longer those remaining will survive.