The Yashwanthapuram Flyover has landed, slowly and painfully over a decade, at the nexus connecting the quiet Bangalore neighborhoods of Malleswaram, Mathikere, Yashwanthpuram and IISc.
Beginning with the jarring advent of malls and skyscrapers, culminating not too long ago with their crowning jewel – Brigade’s Orion, much of a certain era of life, neighbourhood and connectedness to human scale succumbed to the juggernaut of progress and urbanization.
While nostalgia reeks of eau de cologne and faded prints, best relegated, I’m told, to the proverbial closet – a certain sense of loss is certainly felt. Perceived perhaps only through the vacuous longing of the mall rat, the tired gaze of yet another immigrant arriving in, the harried middle-aged Canara Bank clerk dropping his son to school, or even the idealistic young PhD student picking up her driver’s license at the RTO.
Today the Yashwanthapuram Under the Flyover (UFO) space protects within her mighty concrete arms a major bus depot, a metro station, and an arterial roadway intersection of consequence. Her bosom, stench filled, crawls with millions of commuters, pedestrians and critters daily.
Who are these humans. These bodies. What are they doing. Do they know me, want to know me, search for me, loathe me?
I imagine, nay feel, the bewilderment of my father, now 87, looking on and seeing through his bifocals those long gone trees of his childhood in Malleswaram where he played “Mar Kothi” (tree monkey) with his neighbours and together with them, feasted on stolen Jackfruit and Sapota, at sunset.
I grew up swathed in these spoken histories. Of great grandfather choosing Kaadu Malleswara – the forest on a hill, to develop as a suburb, in response to Bangalore’s Black Plague of 1895, buying an acre and building his home. Of grandfather choosing to convert the horse carriage stable of said bungalow to be his home when he got married. Of grandmother running the Malleswaram Enterprising Women’s Society for decades to provide working women from surrounding villages find a safe hostel to live in. My childhood afternoons were spent playing in IISc, weaving these conversations into 6 and 9 yard Kanjeevaram silk sarees retailed from our home boutique.
These stories now echo in my head while I carry my legacy on unsteady shoulders, balking at the notion that somehow I am the connection between this past and this future. Gut-knowing that these stories of a time that crafted me, will help inform a better, richer tomorrow for the city.
I seem equipped with the tools always of a dystopic future – IT. The struggle is to find symbolically, technically and culturally, a means to enable people to connect and express themselves to the ‘other’. Why? Because I believe that while the anonymous metro houses billions, the comforting neighbourhood is home to each person.
The Malleshwaram Calling project is conceived with the intention of addressing this rift between people and the spaces they inhabit, via a place-making interactive public art installation.
Artistic Director of the Malleshwaram Calling Project