Back in the ol' days

Down Memory Lane


Illustration: Paul Fernandes

“Remember when we used to walk down South Parade and go to 3 Aces for dinner?” Today, you may be swishing your hair like Aishwarya Rai on TV (“...and not a single grey!”), or look as botoxed-smooth as Rakhi Sawant, but your real age is going surface pretty rapidly when you say things like the statement above.

I grew up in a Bangalore where MG Road was called South Parade and rock bands were called Beat Groups, and the word ‘jam’ referred to a session on Sunday afternoons, rather than what we see choking the streets today. And if Bangalore had an ‘air’ about it (oh no, not the word salubrious again, please) we somehow felt we had helped create it, as we smugly welcomed visiting relatives from less fortunate cities.

We walked, walked, walked everywhere. The atrocious BTS bus service ensured we did, and who wanted to spend Rs 1.50 on an auto when you could easily get a balcony seat in Galaxy, watching Woodstock for the fourth time?  

And if you were ‘with it’, bunking Nanjundiah’s macro economics classes was mandatory, so as to head off to The Only Place, (written in a balloon-like type on red lips) at the end of Brigade Road. The Only Place introduced us to western exotica like waffles with honey for the very first time. And Bob Dylan told us over their music system that ‘The times, they are a-changing...’ and several long haired boys wearing head-bands tied to their foreheads, strummed air-guitars and agreed.  

True, they puffed out lung-fulls of forbidden smoke here, but hey, keep off the grass was a sign you only found at Lalbagh then. And peace, man, said the more fatalistic ones, if we gotta go we gotta go, and that’s why Snaize Brothers are located right next door. (Snaize Brothers created amazing coffins and tombstones). And so our stoned heroes passed the day, singing ‘Confusion will be my epitaph’ —a hit favourite then by King Crimson.

And unless the hep girls of the 70s have permanently destroyed all college day photographs (lest our teenaged children see them now, and disown us forever) there’s evidence of how fashion conscious we Bangaloreans always were. First came Juliet Sleeves, puff-sleeves followed by a bell-bottomed flow of psychedelic material.

Then came the ‘Elephant Pant’, which I doubt made any male pant, as it was quite unflattering to most girls. And then the most horrific invention in the history of women’s garments worldwide, the ‘Lungi’. (It was usually topped off with ‘Juliet Sleeves’). Fortunately they all died before the world died laughing.

But even these sartorial horrors didn’t prevent romances from happening, as the 70s teens did something quaint like ‘go steady’ and a typical date would be to go together and sit together at  the Human Bondage concert.

Ah, the Human Bondage! India’s best! They eased us away from bubble-gum ‘Love Me Do’ music like the Beatles, and took us to the grown-up sounds of the Led Zeppelin and Cream. “Wow, they’re so freaked out man,” we said; a phrase that described everything from the bizarre to the sublime.

Meanwhile back at the campus... While the all-smart-girls Mount Carmels and Jyothi Nivas bred future Miss Indias, coached by a fine old tarot card reader named Dolores Periera, another ‘mixed’ college bred some earth-movers too. Well, the earth that they moved were often stones flung at the riot police whenever a student agitation broke out. This was the famed Central College, conveniently located next to Central Jail, and opposite GAS college. (The unfortunately named GAS didn’t refer to wind emissions as we sometimes believed, but to the expansion Government Arts and Science). At Central College, true brilliance meant you never attended classes, but sat in the canteen ordering one-by-three coffee, discussing Kafka. Or formed bands and gave yourselves really groovy names like the ‘Void’.

The more literary amongst us joined the editorial team of a campus magazine called Retort — The Essence of Student Life. And the more contrary amongst us brought out its fitting counter, Rot — The Nonsense of Student Life. No one will forget that special issue of Rot, where the double spread was a free pull-out-and-keep college degree by the Bungle-ore University. It was printed on toilet paper.

Those 70s teens must be returning like me to Bangalore, (oh no, Bengaluru now), even if we once hated that clichéd descriptor of our city: “Bangalore is a retired person’s paradise.”  Retirement? That word didn’t exist for the flower-children generation of Bangalore, who thought we’d remain ‘18 till I die’, long before Bryan Adams articulated it for us. But here we are again, somewhat pot-belied, but rockers nevertheless, standing bewildered before something monstrous and glitzy called Mota Arcade (omigod, isn’t this where The Only Place was?) or suddenly exclaiming “Koshy’s used to have a juke box here! And we used to keep on playing, These boots are made for walking, remember?”

Oh no, I just gave away my age I think.

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