The vanished charmers

The vanished charmers

No one who has lived in Bangalore during the 1930s and 40s can ever forget the pristine charm and grandeur of this magnificent city which was truly the “Garden City of India”. Days dawned with the gentle aromatic breeze invigorating the early morning walkers while the riot of colours mirroring the divine splendour from flowers of myriad varieties sweetened their moods.

I don’t remember having seen a single multi-storeyed residential building in the entire city. It used to be a matter of pride and a symbol of culture to have a garden practically in every house, however small the compound area, offering floral welcome to the visitor. The term ‘pollution’ was unheard of those days. Although every locality in the city had its own well-laid park providing ample lung space for residents, it were the Lalbagh and Cubbon Park gardens — breathtaking beauties then — which were the city’s special attractions reflecting the true character of Bangalore and its people.

It was during this time that my father, an ardent lover of nature, had very painstakingly raised a sprawling garden in our compound with exotic flower-bearing trees and other seasonal flowering plants. Among those I fondly remember was the Gulmohar tree which was a landmark by itself with its giant trunk measuring three metres in diameter, its huge branches spreading gloriously forming a vast multi-coloured umbrella, even covering a portion of our street!

Resplendent with bright red flowers laced with yellow streaks against a rich velvety green background of leaves, the tree sheltered innumerable species of birds. When its trunk developed a huge crack at the base threatening to split the giant tree itself into two halves, the residents of the entire locality voluntarily offered their services in the marathon task of closing the crack with heavily strapped massive circular steel clamps!

For us, as children, sparrows were special companions. They came in droves twittering musically, accepting feed from us fearlessly. When we gleefully dived at them in our attempt to touch them, they would fly away in a flash — only to return chirping challengingly at us!

I cannot forget the day when my father happened to see me fatally injuring a sparrow with my catapult. Never before had I seen him so furious and sad. After taking me to task appropriately, the words he said then are indelibly etched in my memory: “A garden without birds is like a body without soul!” How true it rings in today’s Bengaluru!

With the population of the city galloping beyond control, parks and spacious houses have vanished yielding place to huge multi-storeyed buildings in every possible direction. The verdant greenery which was the hallmark of this garden city, is now covered with a blanket of diesel soot and dust.

In the mad race between development and nature, the former has won. Today’s Bengaluru is no more a place for the little winged charmers. They don’t get the love of the people they want to live with. They have flown away enmasse, perhaps to a far off place never to return to us.