×
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
The Tuesday Interview | ‘Our heritage is a patchwork quilt of everything we call home’

The Tuesday Interview | ‘Our heritage is a patchwork quilt of everything we call home’

Alyia shares with DH’s Nina C George her thoughts on why the government should actively preserve heritage sites in Karnataka and across the country, the disappearing tree cover in cities, and how she wrote to the government to stop plans to revamp the Krishna Raja Sagar Dam on the lines of Disneyland in 2018.

Follow Us :

Last Updated : 20 May 2024, 23:52 IST
Last Updated : 20 May 2024, 23:52 IST
Comments

Alyia Phelps-Gardiner-Krumbiegel has an enviable task: ensuring that the legacy of her great-grandfather, botanist and town planner Gustav Hermann Krumbiegel, who developed Lalbagh, doesn’t fall prey to the depredations of modernity. She was devastated when Krumbiegel Hall, a colonial-era building inside Lalbagh where he held lectures, was razed in November 2017. Yet, she continues to advocate for the preservation of heritage structures in Bengaluru, Mysuru, and other parts of Karnataka.

Alyia shares with DH’s Nina C George her thoughts on why the government should actively preserve heritage sites in Karnataka and across the country, the disappearing tree cover in cities, and how she wrote to the government to stop plans to revamp the Krishna Raja Sagar Dam on the lines of Disneyland in 2018. Excerpts: 

You have been a part of several missions to save heritage structures in Karnataka, especially in Bengaluru and Mysuru. Do you think the government is indifferent towards protecting and preserving the heritage of growing cities?

Preserving heritage and historical monuments, along with trees, in India, as in so many other countries, can be complex due to various factors such as resources, population pressure, and natural disasters. Both governments and various organisations have made efforts to protect and restore important cultural landmarks. The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) plays a key role in preserving historical sites in the country. Additionally, there are many non-governmental organisations and community groups, such as INTACH and Heritage Beku, working towards the conservation of heritage sites.

Tell us about your work in other parts of Karnataka, like Mysuru.

Less than a month after former Karnataka Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy’s budgetary announcement of revamping the famed Krishna Raja Sagar Dam on the lines of Disneyland in 2018, I expressed my disappointment as the great-granddaughter of the German horticulturist who designed Brindavan Gardens. Kumaraswamy, backed by his then cabinet ministers Sa Ra Mahesh and D K Shivakumar, wanted to transform India’s first irrigation dam and its enthralling gardens into Disneyland, claiming the ‘garden had lost its charm in recent years’. In an open letter addressed to the CM, I asked him to drop the plans and sought that the gardens be treated as per guidelines issued by the International Council on Monuments and Sites. While I didn’t receive a personal reply, which I didn’t expect to, I feel the objections raised by other organisations and my letter were actually heeded, showing that an open dialogue can work. 

With Belur and Halebid getting World Heritage Site tags, what can the government do to make them more popular? 

Apart from tourism, which can increase when a place gets the World Heritage Site tag, there is the issue of funds. The organisational capacity needed to deliver regeneration does not materialise on its own accord. They need to be actively planned for by local and regional authorities. 

Krumbiegel Hall in Lalbagh was demolished. Another structure your great-grandfather designed, Janatha Bazaar, also faced the threat of extinction. You intervened to save them by writing to the government.

Krumbiegel Hall existed before my great-grandfather. It was named after him to honour him. It was a special building, maybe far more special to the Krumbiegel descendants as it held his name. It is important to note that my great-grandfather started a horticultural school, a first-of-its-kind in India. Janatha Bazaar, a beautiful building, still stands tall. I was sure the sheer number of people fighting to save Janatha Bazaar would result in a favourable outcome. We have lost so many historical buildings. Our heritage is a patchwork quilt of everything we call home. It offers a window into our origins.

Due to numerous big-budget infrastructure projects planned in Bengaluru, the city is losing its green cover, including some trees planted during the pre-Independence period. Do you see short-sighted planning here, and can any amount of tree planting restore what we originally had?

My great-grandfather was given the task of beautifying Bengaluru. Life is very different now than a century ago, but people still need lung space and heritage in all forms. We need more native trees, and this is not a problem as Indian native trees have a wide range of species. Native trees are easier to maintain due to the climate. It is important to understand that the question is not development versus ecology or people versus plants and animals. Preserving our ecology and not destroying it is the only way forward. 

What does your work as someone who is passionate about heritage entail?

Karnataka still owns the legacy of my great-grandfather, who designed and landscaped his way across Baroda, Ooty, Mumbai, Coochbehar, Jamshedpur, Delhi, Hyderabad, Thiruvananthapuram, Bhavnagar, Chennai, Mysuru, and Bengaluru. So it’s a huge boot to fill. I do not have his knowledge or expertise, but I have the opportunity to connect with so many like-minded people who are just as passionate about some of the issues. I shuttle between London and Bengaluru as necessary, and the time difference can be challenging at times. My spare time after work is spent catching up on emails and the latest updates so that together we can all make a difference.

ADVERTISEMENT

Follow us on :

Follow Us

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT