Bangaloreans of yore had great pride in their city wearing that “Pensioners’ Paradise” tag with great aplomb. That image died decades ago, so did the “Garden City” tag, a loss the City’s senior citizens are still to come to terms with. In the evening of their lives, these men and women get nostalgic of a bygone past, as they struggle to endure the stifling heat, which they attribute to the rising buildings, depleted water bodies and much more.
For these citizens, Bangalore’s transformation from an air-conditioned city to an oven has been a cause for much sadness and frustration. The loss of vegetation and open spaces has been tragic.
Septuagenarian Syed Pyarejaan who worked in Indian Telephone Industry (ITI) for more than 35 years, feels the explosive flooding of people into the City has brought it almost to the brink of extinction. Recollecting the days when he used to walk to his factory, he opines that City’s cool climate itself eventually turned out to be its enemy. “We had the best climate in the country. Summers in Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai were intolerable. People came to settle down here. Initially the migration was slow until the nineties (1991), when the inflow accelerated,” recalls Pyarejaan.
Pyarejaan blames the software sector for the city’s rapid change. “People from every nook and corner of the world came to the City. Work became easy. Pays and perks were high compared to earlier times. There was demand for luxury. Vacant lands were built up for residential and commercial purpose.”
In the 1960s, retired headmaster Venkataramanappa was a student. Even during summers, people could not come out without sweaters. Winters were extremely cold then, he recalls. “During winter, it was not easy for me to even travel near Lalbagh and other wooded places. But the climate was really beautiful. Even the Bangalore University Jnanabharathi campus was chilly just 15 years ago. Now, we feel hot even at 5 am,” laments Venkataramanappa.
He is convinced that the temperature change is mainly due to the indiscriminate felling of trees. “Big money flowed into the hands of employees. People started construction activities all over. Hillocks were reduced to dust, trees were axed and huge houses and apartment clusters took shape. People started placing personal interest before that of society,” he explains.
Venkataramanappa had also seen how politicians used their influence to give away vacant farmlands to private firms, creating residential layouts galore. Lakes that played a great role in maintaining the micro climate of the City were either drained out or encroached upon to make way for buildings. He had once savoured the sight of lakes galore filled to the brim, enjoyed taking his family for outings there. No longer.
For Karunakaran, a seasoned building contractor, Bangalore’s temperature has much to do with its increased vehicular population. “These vehicles, if I am right, emit more heat. Earlier, there were very less vehicles, cars were very less in numbers, while bikes were about just a few scooters and mopeds. I used to ride a moped called Suvega, it was almost a cycle which ran on petrol. But now, there are too many vehicles emitting thick smoke,” he notes.
In the case of 64-year-old Sushilamma M, a resident of Vijayanagar, the kind of sunlight she is exposed to these days is also a matter of concern. “In older times, we used to sweat a lot when we were out in the sun and in a way, it was refreshing. The sunlight we experience these days is irritating. Itching is a common phenomenon even if you spend a few minutes outside,” she says.
The heat, then, is truly on the Bangalorean. The soaring temperatures will one day consume the City, its greenery, its global image built on its once-celebrated climate. When retired schoolteacher Nanjappa warns with dramatic effect that “the sun is coming closer to the earth. It will soon consume a part of earth,” you simply start believing him. In the heat of summer, Nanjappa’s words will ring loud and clear !