The strains of a lost world

From the albums

The strains of a lost world

This photograph was taken when ‘harikatha’ master TS Balakrishna Shastry imparted a musical discourse at the ‘Malleswaram Sangeetha Sabha’ sometime between 1964 and 1968. I was a big fan of his, hence this photograph is very precious to me.

It was organised by Poornima Narasimhachar and her husband Narasimhachar, in association with ‘Malleswaram Sangeetha Sabha’. Poornima used to frequently arrange religious discourses by Anantharama Deekshitar, Balakrishna Shastry and other leading artistes of the time. The discourses used to culminate in pilgrimage tours.

Those days, photographs used to place more emphasis on inclusion than visual appeal, which is why you see too many faces packed in two rows. Apart from TS Balakrishna Shastry, his brother Sri TS Valleesan and Damodharan, the harmonium player was also there. The harmonium was an integral component of any ‘harikatha’ discourses those days.

N Krishnamurthy, the mridangam ‘vidwan’, used to accompany Balakrishna Shastry after 1963. EN Sitaraman, who made yeoman service to ‘Malleswaram Sangeetha Sabha’ and Sanskrit and Kannada scholar, Maddur Krishnamurthy, who served as director of Bharathiya Vidhya Bhavan, were also there on the occasion.

Besides the people, this photo kindles memory of Malleswaram of yesteryears. People used to flock to Ram Mandir to attend devotional programmes.

The organisers used to provide accommodation to the guest artistes in the houses nearby with facilities to cook homely meals, and have a comfortable stay.

There were very few eateries in Malleswaram then — New Krishna Bhavan (NKB), Venkateswara Hotel and Shakti Vegetarian Hotel to name a few.

The hotels sold ‘idlis’ and ‘dosas’ at throwaway prices. Business and commercial activities would close down by 8 pm, so after the ‘harikatha’, we would walk long distances on the quiet roads breathing in fresh air on our way back home.

 The two major roads in Malleswaram had practically earned their names. Walking down Sampige Road, you could smell sampige flowers, the aroma of rose-flavoured ‘agarbathis’ and the rose garlands in the flower market. This atmosphere used to rejuvenate us.

Unfortunately, today with all our education and awareness, we are still struggling to cope with the traffic, pollution and garbage disposal problems. But those days, nature would automatically take care of us, rewarding us with bounty for our diligence!

There were no apartments at all in Malleswaram. All houses were bungalows.
The Malleswaram market used to host vegetable shows. Bus number 11 to Basavangudi used to cost a mere 25 paise, and the fare to Majestic was 15 paise.

Private tour operators used to conduct religious tours often at unbelievable fares. The climate itself was more salubrious and gave a distinct identification to Bengaluru.

Bengaluru still scores relatively higher than other cities for its comfortable climate, but will we see those days of Malleswaram again? Or will this remain another nostalgic memory?

SG Ramakrishnan
(Retired Deputy General Manager, Indian Telephone Industry) 

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