Once upon a time in Bangalore

Indian cartoonist Paul Fernandes has drawn a series of watercolour cartoons depicting life in the southern city of Bangalore in the 1960s and 70s.

The series includes Bangalore’s landmarks as well as the artist’s ancestral home. The cartoonist remember the old city fondly. The result is a collection of about 75 paintings and drawings – “completely nostalgia driven” – looking at the “good old days” in a happy, humorous way.

Here, Mr Fernandes explains the stories behind some of his works.

Bangalore Club (1863)


The Bangalore Club, one of the finest examples of British architecture in the city, is still looked after well. Established in 1868 by a group of British officers, the club boasted some exclusive members, including former British prime minister Winston Churchill who still owes the club 13 rupees (20 cents; 14 pence) in unpaid bills. It is also the place where famous filmmaker David Lean filmed parts of his critically-acclaimed Passage to India.

Barber’s House Visit


In the “good old days”, people didn’t have to go to barbers; they instead came to people’s homes. Mr Fernandes recalls the barber coming on a bicycle, carrying his tools in a cloth bag. A chair would be brought out and placed under a tree and the entire family – men, boys and girls – would queue up to get their hair cut. There was one disadvantage though. The barber knew only one style and he would cut everyone’s hair in the same fashion.The cartoonist’s sisters would show him fashionable hairstyles from international magazines and ask for a similar cut. They would, of course, never get one.

And then in the 1970s, we all started to grow our hair, hippie-style. The barber didn’t like it one bit, he said it was bad for business.

Coffee House


The Coffee House on MG Road was “the centre of our universe”, it was “very popular” and often frequented by journalists. The place did – and still does – great coffee, it served dosa and omelette and was always packed at meal times.

Mr Fernandes recalls that sometimes, they would have journalists sitting on the next table and chat about headlines and it would be in the next day’s papers. It was so thrilling.

Commercial Street


Commercial Street was the centre of shopping in Bangalore – it’s a place where one could buy anything, from clothes to jewellery to household stuff to footwear. It also had toyshops and many tailors.

Cubbon Park Police Station


The Cubbon Park police station is a “very beautiful” building. It was an old British house that was converted into a police station in 1910 and it is still “pretty much the same”. In the 60s and 70s, Bangalore was a very laid back place and there was no real crime, occasionally maybe a cycle would be stolen.

“I was in school then and my friends and I would cycle around the city and the policemen looked so silly in their flowerpot hats, so we would tap them and run away. But once I got caught and was detained in the room you see on top here. I was let out only after my mother came to the police station and apologised,” he remembers.

Old fashioned Good Manners


This house in this illustration is the cartoonist’s ancestral home and the girl was one of his sisters.

“She was very pretty and young boys would come by to greet her. A protective uncle would be hovering nearby, scowling, with an airgun, trying to scare away the boys,” Mr Fernandes says.

Parade Cafe


Just below the British Council in Bangalore was the very popular Koshy’s bar and restaurant. It is still hugely popular, so much so that even the state’s chief ministers come here for a coffee or a drink. During a visit to the city in the 1980s, Britain’s Prince Charles dropped by for a cup of coffee.

Level Crossing


“This very picturesque railway line crossing is barely half a kilometre from my present home,” Mr Fernandes says. In the 1960s and 70s, a daily train from Madras (now Chennai) to Bangalore used to pass through the area and the gates would shut for 10 minutes. “Whenever we were at the gate, we would wave at the passengers, and they would wave back at us.”

Brigade Road


The Brigade Road was Bangalore’s “most iconic hangout” place in the 70s – all the city’s fashionable people would go there in the evenings for fun. An Indian-American couple set up a restaurant there and introduced Bangaloreans to apple pie and waffles, there were a couple of pinball machines and musically-inclined people would hang out with their guitars; and there was a coffin-maker nearby. “In those days, we used to say you come to Brigade Road for recreation, sustenance and death. Unfortunately, it’s all gone now, replaced by a huge mall,” says Mr Fernandes.



The cartoonist’s “sprawling home ground” was filled with trees, birds and dogs and this artwork shows a corner of that house.

“It was customary for gentlemen in the house to have a good lunch and a siesta in the gardens. It was a man’s domain – by some unwritten rule a lady would never sit out there. I was told it was considered not dignified for a lady to sit there.”

Plaza Theatre


The Plaza was the iconic cinema hall where the finest Hollywood movies were shown.

“My favourite story of the theatre is when an aunt went there with her family to watch Gone With The Wind. When she came out of the cinema, she found that all four tyres of her car had been stolen.

“They were gone with the wind,” he says.

Russell Market


Russell Market was built in 1927 by the British and was named after civic engineer TB Russell.

“It still exists as one of the busiest markets in Bangalore. It’s crowded and wonderfully chaotic and you can buy nearly anything you want here,” Mr Fernandes says.

Image Credits:- Paul Fernandes

Source credits:- BBC News

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