Bangalore: Out of sight, not out of mind

By Nirupama Rajan

Bangaluru Official Logo

It’s been a little over two months since I left Bangalore (Bengaluru, if you really insist). I’m a whole continent away now – certainly too far from a hot plate of bisi bele bhaath for my liking. I’ve said this even when I lived there, but with this distance between me and the city that for the most part made me who I am, it strikes me more so that it is one that I’m incredibly partial to, even if only by force of habit.

Where I live now in Berlin, life isn’t too difficult to get used to, especially if your knowledge of the German language is enough to ensure you don’t go to bed hungry at night. The buses are on time (as are the people), the streets are clean and there are no power cuts- basically, I’m as spoilt as I can be in 2018. The two months that I’ve been here in Germany may seem like little compared to the twenty-two years I’ve spent in India, but I think I can safely say that whatever little “culture shock” I experienced on first arriving here will probably pale in comparison to what I’m going to face when I get back to India and its Indianness a year from now.

This is not going to be one of those things where I conclude by saying that at the end of the day, my heart is still hanging around in the country of my birth. I’m not really one to pine for the little things. I genuinely believe that the only thing I miss about India is how easy it was to go out and get a packet of Maggi for so little money (don’t blame me- I’m a product of my generation). I’m very happy being where I am today and I’m excited about where I might go from here in the future. Be that as it may, twenty-two years is a long time and it feels longer to think that they were all spent not in one place or school, but many – perhaps even more than what would be considered ideal.

By the time I was seventeen, I’d studied in seven schools in seven different places. From a remote convent school nestled in the hills of Ooty to a regular city school in bustling Coimbatore, from an ‘alternative’ KFI school in Pune to what was then probably the only English-medium school in Cuddalore, and from being in a class of nine students in a fancy boarding school in Chikmagalur to one with over a hundred (requiring teachers to use a microphone within the classroom) in a junior college in Bangalore, I’ve experienced schooling – and consequently, life – across a relatively large portion of the economic and educational spectrum.
If I had the discipline and/or the motivation to, I could write several books with five volumes each on the experiences that each of these episodes held for me. But the point I want to make for now is that despite so many schools and towns and homes and just so much furniture – moving isn’t easy if you do it almost every year, believe me – Bangalore and everything about it stands out for me as one of those things that can actually stand out.

It might take a village to raise a child but those children and the people that raised them play a huge role in shaping the very village itself. Now, I’m certainly not blind to the problems that plague the (somehow) still beautiful city of Bangalore. If anything, I was always screaming my lungs off back then about how we were doing everything wrong. Given half a chance, I still would. Burning lakes, steel flyover, Kaveri riots, wait for it… traffic jams (I’m still traumatised from the one time I was at Silk Board during peak hours) – I’m already exhausted and that’s just the memory of them!

In Berlin, you could lock yourself up in your bedroom for a whole day and you’d still somehow meet people from at least five different countries. The more I interact with all these fascinatingly different people and the more I interact with Indians here from all over India, it becomes clearer to me every day that despite all the previously mentioned misgivings, Bangalore is one of those cities that will stick around in your thoughts for a long, long time after you leave.

It’s the little things as much as it is the whole thing. It’s the feeling I would get when I would force myself out of bed on a Sunday morning and head to Cubbon Park only to find that half the city and their dogs were already there, running around come rain or shine, even if they’d spent most of the previous night in one of the bars dotting every street of the city. It’s the amazingly therapeutic quality of the rusty books and musty aisles of Blossom (the old one, especially) that could calm me down no matter what was happening in my life. The conversations with the owner at Pecos on Church Street until it shut down because of way too many power cuts, the way NICE Road felt under the tires of my scooter at 6 am on a weekend morning, the insanely long queues at Thaaza Thindi because that dosa was worth it and you knew it! It’s how you could mention Marathahalli traffic in casual conversation and only a Bangalorean would understand the hilarity of what you were saying. It’s the fact that I can go on romanticizing it all for a while yet and not regret it the slightest bit.

It’s all these things, but it’s also the bigger things – like the people and just how much they tried to care about everything. I’d always wanted to get rid of my Facebook account and I think the only reason it took me so long was how happy it made me to see that there was an active local community for every little thing, with members trying to improve the overall quality of their lives despite their long hours at work and longer hours on the roads. It was how I realised that Bangalore’s environmental and social problems are as prominent as they are simply because enough of its citizens are involved enough to make a hue and cry over everything that happens. It was the fact that I went to Jayamahal at 3 am on Valentine’s Day 2017 to paint white hearts on the trees to protest the Steel Flyover Project, expecting nobody else to show up so early, only to realise that we were already overstaffed. The problems may keep mounting, but the people keep trying to push back. And that effort by itself is an amazing thing.

It’s not easy to describe in words, but there is a certain innovative, creative spirit that thrives in Bangalore like nowhere else. The people are always ready to move forward and embrace the new. And it’s not just the start-ups and the infrastructure that are benefiting from this. It’s definitely no secret that Bangalore is currently one of the most progressive cities in India. You can start a conversation about the subtleties and nuances of feminism, gender and ecology, sexual liberation or human rights and fewer people will blink back in confusion than in most parts of the country. Despite the handfuls of naysayers here and there, Bangalore has for the most part always welcomed every kind of perspective and every school of thought. That is what made it one of the most cosmopolitan cities in India in the past and that is what allows it to be progressive today. No wonder it’s so crowded; people flock to the city for good reason.

At the end of the day, I guess what I’m trying to say is that Bangalore is a city with the potential to change you for the better, if you’re willing to let it. I mentioned this at the very beginning, but the city has played a huge role in making me the person I am today. It gave me the freedom to be exactly what I wanted to be because there would always be someone around who understood or at the very least, accepted it. I remember a friend of mine from Kerala once joked, “you don’t meet Mallus; they happen to you.” I say with a happy heart full of fond memories that the same can be said for Bangaloreans and the city they call home.

On scooters and long-distance riding

By Nirupama Rajan

On scooters and long-distance riding

The idea of getting out of the city on a weekend for a long ride or drive is a very appealing one for most people. The grey stretches of highway that don’t seem to end even as the sun crawls along from one side of the sky to the other over your head, with only your vehicle for company – that is how I’d like to spend all my holidays. But while cars and motorcycles are usually the favoured modes of transport for such journeys, it’s not too often that you hear of people attempting to do the same thing on scooters.

Last month, my friend and I (both women) took this up as a challenge and attempted to ride the 600 kilometres from Bangalore to Hyderabad in one day on our Honda Activas. Not only were we successful in getting there, we also rode back all the way after a break of just one day in Hyderabad. And yes, our Activas were perfectly fine, and so were we!

I will be writing a follow-up post on the experiences of this particular trip, but before that, here are a few tips and ideas if you want to attempt something similar on your scooter. Keep in mind that these are just based on my experience as an amateur long-distance rider, and you should definitely talk to someone more experienced if that would make you more comfortable before you attempt to take your scooter out on the big roads.

Prepping your vehicle

This one is pretty basic. Make sure your breaks aren’t loose, and that your tyres aren’t balding or anything. If you use regular air in your tyres, get them emptied and filled with nitrogen. Punctures on highways usually are a result of tyre overheating, and nitrogen is a good way to reduce the chances of this happening. Speaking of punctures, while we faced no such issues on our trip, it is always safer to get a basic puncture kit and learn how to use it. If you’re stranded in the middle of nowhere with no spare wheel or mechanics nearby, it will take a while for you to get any help- and you won’t even be able to reach your destination. Ideally get your scooter serviced a few days before the trip. That way, you will be able to figure out any post-service issues well before you get out onto the road. Make sure all your lights are working well, because you might need them to communicate with your riding partner. Buy some reflective tape if you think you might have to cover some distance in the dark. Finally, make sure you’re carrying at least 1 litre of extra petrol on you; there are often long stretches without any fuel stations and you don’t want to run out in these areas.

Prepping yourself

As far as riding apparel is concerned, I’d recommend wearing layers that aren’t too heavy. That way, you can keep warm in the early hours, remove a couple of layers when the day gets warmer, and put them back on in the evening. Make sure you’re wearing full sleeves and full length pants to prevent sunburns (also, do not compromise on the sunscreen). Wearing a neck warmer (I just wrapped a cotton scarf around my neck) definitely makes dealing with the morning cold easier. Comfortable shoes are obviously advisable. Wear a balaclava, bandanna or something similar under your helmet because you’re going to be wearing it all day and your hair will definitely bear the brunt of that otherwise.

If you think your helmet visor isn’t enough, carry a pair of sunglasses to help with the glare from the sun when it’s in front of you. Hand gloves are a must, in my opinion. Get light ones that won’t get uncomfortably warm, but will still keep the skin on your palms and fingers intact.

Also, scooter seats aren’t exactly engineered for long distance riding. To steer clear of seat burns, I simply placed a cotton cloth folded several times over between me and the seat. You could use towels, dupattas or anything like that.

To be able to really enjoy your ride, you need to be comfortable throughout. And for that, it’s important to know yourself and your body. Everybody has different needs and you should be prepared for these. For example, I know I have weak wrists, and coupled with the lack of cruise control on Activas, I could have had a very tough time riding without wrist support. For someone else, it could be weak knees. So assess yourself and cater to your individual needs. Even if you don’t know what you require, you can always explain your condition to the people at a sports store (I favour Decathlon) and they can help you out.

It can get quite difficult to judge speeds accurately on the highway
Photo by Jake Blucker on Unsplash

With regard to food and water, take high-calorie items that don’t occupy too much space and won’t spoil. Energy drinks, nutrition bars, biscuits and chocolate are good options. Chocolate especially- my bars of Snickers kept me going every time I felt even a little tired. Make sure you have at least 2 litres of water with you, and keep refilling these whenever possible. Equip yourself with sanitizer and tissue (wet or dry) as well- you never know when these will be useful when you’re travelling. Most importantly, carry a well-stocked first aid kit as well as your personal medication, if any. However, store all items under the seat, in front, or figure out a way to secure it to the back of your seat- even if a backpack seems light initially, it can strain your shoulders later on.

Other things to keep in mind on the road:

Scooter engines tend to get overheated with continuous use at high speeds; so it’s recommended that you don’t exceed a speed of 65 km/hr., as much as possible, however tempting it might be to break that rule (on the highway, even if you’re speeding, it can feel like you’re crawling at a snail’s pace) More importantly, stop for about 10 minutes after every 80 minutes or so of riding, at least. Try to take these breaks at fuel stations so that your vehicle can recover in the shade and so can you. Rest your eyes well while there.

Apart from almost always having functional washrooms, an added bonus is that you can get a lot of information about the route ahead, the nearest restaurants or towns and such from the employees at the petrol stations.

Even if you don’t want to plan out the nitty-gritties and want to just “go with the flow”, I would still recommend that you note down the names of the major towns en route and their distances, especially if it’s your first time. This can come in handy to figure out your food breaks, as well as to handle unforeseen emergencies.

Be careful when you overtake vehicles or when vehicles are overtaking you. It can get quite difficult to judge speeds accurately on the highway- and this is especially true for cars, but also for speeding trucks. Trucks in particular can be quite troublesome at night because several of them don’t use quality reflective tape and you don’t realise their presence until they’re right in front of you. While on the subject, avoid riding in the dark as much as possible. If there’s no other way, be alert (keep in mind that if you’ve been riding all day, this can be quite a challenge), reduce your speed and ride straight. Align yourself by watching out for the markings on the sides of the road.

Being aware of the sounds and smells coming from your vehicle can help you figure out if something goes wrong. Ride with your visor down as much as possible, and if it gets covered with insects around the late evening, you’ll only make it worse by trying to wipe it with your hands. Stop somewhere, and clean it with tissue and water. Be watchful for people trailing you – unfortunately, this is quite commonplace if you’re a woman rider in India (speaking from my experience as well as others’). There are emergency phone booths at very regular intervals on the highway, and it would also be sensible to make note of the emergency numbers listed on the boards en route. Once you reach your destination, it can be quite difficult to suddenly adjust to the traffic and the lower travel speeds, so be alert and ride with extra care.

If this is your first time, get somebody else to come with you (for safety and for company). Ride on separate vehicles though, preferably. Keep hydrated and calm, and follow lane discipline along with all the other traffic rules out there.

Honestly, motorcycles are definitely more comfortable for such long journeys, but if you can’t get hold of one, having only a scooter shouldn’t stop you – your vehicle is capable of more than you think! At the end of the day, it’s perfectly alright if you don’t make it your destination. Your safety is your highest priority; you can always stop at the nearest town if you’re tired or if it gets too dark, and start your journey again the next day.

Feel free to contact me if you have any questions on this subject; if I can’t answer them, I’ll direct you to someone with more expertise. Be safe, and happy riding!

House Party this Weekend ?

House Party

Living in Bangalore means engaging in house parties. Whether voluntarily or out of sheer peer pressure, every Bangalorean is bound to host a house party at some point during their time in the city. I have organized parties at home about 3-4 times in the last two years here.

Every party you host will feature one or more of several characters including but not limited to Quiet-Corner-Buff, Music-Buff, Drunkard, Story-Man, Designated-Driver, Gaming-Guy, Maker (of drinks or smokes) and so on. Each of them has a unique role to play in making the party a hit. The Maker, for instance, sets the mood. The Story-Man keeps the night interesting as it progresses. The Music-Buff will take care of the ambiance, and the Designated-Driver ensures that everyone has a safe and pleasant time even after the party.

But while this may be all fun and frolic, hosting house parties brings with it plenty of challenges, especially if you are a bachelor like me, and there are several things you must take care of before you let all your ‘kaminey’ friends into your house. As a host and as a resident in a shared space, you need to show your friends a good time and keep the house safe simultaneously. While this may mean more work for you for a few days before the party, remember that it’s all for a good cause!

So here are a few things to keep in mind when you decide to host a house party:

  • Keep good speakers and an even better playlist on hand to set the right party ambiance.
  • Place a mattress, carpet or cushions in empty spaces around your house, so your guests have plenty of places to sit and chill.
  • Make sure you have enough food and drink to last the night.
  • Keep a shoe-rack outside your door to encourage people not to bring their footwear inside.
  • Keep lined dustbins in every room to minimize trash on the floor.
  • Ensure that you have doormats in every room as well.
  • As there are food and drink everywhere, it makes sense to leave plenty of napkins and newspaper around to minimize damage control after the party.
  • If any area is out-of-bounds to guests, make sure to lock it beforehand as you can’t prevent people from moving around once the party kicks off.
  • Most guests typically bring along people that you may not know, so keep all your valuables safely tucked away before the party.

As the night progresses, your guests will slowly settle into their roles and carve their space for themselves. As long as you’ve taken all the necessary precautions and stocked your house with enough food and drink for everyone present, sit back, relax, and let the party take its course- you never know just how exciting your night could turn out! Remember, however, that most often, the host ends up having to drive everyone back home safe and sound- so be prepared for that. But otherwise, this is your party too, so go ahead and have a great time!

What do you think is your house party character? Are you a Story-Man or more of a Gaming-Guy?

Let us know in the comments!

Of tea, rolling hills and so much more

Rolling hills of Ooty

On hearing the name Ooty, several things are likely to come to your mind- rolling hills, cold weather, hot tea and of course, remnants of a British occupancy. For centuries now, Ooty has been a frequented destination, especially during the summers. Over these years, the town has changed beyond recognition in ways both good and bad. However, it remains a coveted holidaying location for youngsters and families alike. Some of us, though, are lucky enough to call this beautiful place home! So if you are planning to visit this ‘Queen of the Blue Hills’ as it is fondly referred to, here are some of my favorite things to do as a resident, that will hopefully help make your trip a memorable one.

The drive to Ooty from Bangalore itself is a great one. Take the Mysore-Bandipur-Masnagudi route, and you will be blessed with some great views of forests and valleys. You are also very likely to spot several wild animals including deer, wild boar, and elephants as you drive through Bandipur-Masnagudi. As you start nearing Ooty, chances are high you will drive through and over massive clouds, especially if you come in around the evening. Once you are here, you will be tempted to drive or walk around a lot more even if nobody expressly recommends it.

Take the roads on the outskirts- far away from the hue and cry of the town, they also offer stunning views of the surrounding valleys and tea estates. One of my favorite driving routes around the city is the road through Chamaraj Tea Estate. There is also an artistic little tea stall here where you can sample all the tea flavors that Chamaraj produces in its factory a small way down. Beware of the bison population in this area though; they don’t usually do any harm, but be careful nonetheless. Do take a walk to Valley View in Lovedale- you will be able to look into the valley for miles around, and if you’re lucky, you can also catch the famous toy train emerging from an old tunnel.

Speaking of which, if you have a day to spare, take a trip on this train. It goes all the way to Mettupalayam, but you can take it to Coonoor at least if you can’t make it the whole way. The Nilgiri Mountain Railway is renowned all over the south for the route it takes- through forests, plantations, beautiful terrace farms as well as some springs and waterfalls. The going will be slow because the route has a lot of twists and turns, but the views will make it worth your while.
True to its tourist-destination name, Ooty has several attractions on offer for visitors- the Rose Garden, the Ooty Lake, Doddabetta (which is the highest mountain peak in Tamil Nadu), heritage schools and properties among others. Two of my favorite places to visit the town, however, is the Government Botanical Garden and the Ooty Main Market.

The Botanical Garden is one of Ooty’s oldest establishments, and it attracts lakhs of people during its annual flower show every summer. If you are okay with such massive crowds, this is something you shouldn’t miss. If you’d rather avoid that though, I’d suggest visiting just after the flower show. A lot of the more exotic specimens will still be on display, and you can enjoy the place in peace sans crowds. To be honest, visiting the place any time of the year would be worth the effort. It is a massive property with several winding routes lined with trees and flowering plants of every kind imaginable. You can spend hours here just walking up and down these paths. There are also several artistic displays within the park, as well as a museum dedicated to the Todas, the local tribe of Ooty.

The Ooty Market, on the other hand, is a whole different world. Every time I visit, I am overawed by the sheer visual appeal of the place. Ooty and its surrounding areas are blessed with fertile soil and the kind of cold climate that best suits vegetable farming. Ooty is particularly famous for root vegetables like carrots and potatoes. Farmers from all around bring their produce to the market every day and the colors you will see here make this place a photographer’s dream come true. There are whole alleys dedicated to selling just fruit, or only bananas or even just dozens of varieties of garlic. Speak to the shopkeepers as much as you can- they are purebred locals and can tell you so much more about Ooty and how it’s changed over the years. If you like broccoli, stock up on it while you’re here- you’re unlikely to find it being sold so cheap elsewhere in South India!
If you want to venture a little further outside of town, it’s a good idea to drive down to the Avalanche Lake and Wildlife Sanctuary. While it’s unlikely that you will actually spot much wildlife during the daytime, the safari offered by the park officials takes you through some very lush forest areas and you will be able to stop by the crystal clear Avalanche lake as well as see plenty of the shola forests that formed the original landscape of the Nilgiris before the British more or less eradicated them with their tea and eucalyptus plantations. Luckily for us, however, several organizations are now involved in proper reforestation of these areas using indigenous species.

When it comes to food, Ooty has something for everyone. If you’re looking for something old that Ooty is famous for, look no further than Shinkow’s- it is Ooty’s local Chinese establishment that has been operating for several decades and has even been featured in movies like Kapoor and Sons. The Culinarium and the Frugal Gourmet are some of the more high-end options that are recommended by locals. The Culinarium is the place for you if you’re looking to sip on some beer and indulge in some to-die-for desserts (for craft enthusiasts, there is a Pony store attached to the restaurant that will take care of all your needle-and-thread needs). Nahar is another local favorite, whether you’re looking to eat some good old South Indian breakfast or a sumptuous North Indian thali for lunch. You could also check out Pankaj Bhojanalay- though its prices are much higher than what they used to be decades ago, it is still rated one of Ooty’s best restaurants on TripAdvisor and is excellent for its unlimited Jain thalis.

My favorite restaurant in Ooty however, would have to be The Place to Bee. An initiative of the Keystone Foundation in nearby Kotagiri, this place operates along a “slow food” philosophy. As the term suggests, it stands for everything that fast food doesn’t- healthy, clean food that is locally sourced. And the cherry on top is that the taste of the food will blow your mind! They serve mostly Italian cuisine, and you will not go wrong with any of their pizzas or pasta. I also strongly recommend the cheesecake and the pannacotta from their dessert menu that is served with a seasonal sauce (I am quite partial to the mango in summers). The restaurant also has a bee museum of sorts as the foundation is heavily involved in working with native honey-collectors. It will also be worth your while to visit the well-stocked store under the restaurant that offers you several organic, locally sourced food, cosmetic and cloth products.

Even after so many years of continuous tourism, there is a lot more to discover in Ooty. The place is a different shade of beautiful each season, so except during the rains when landslides make it entirely inaccessible, you can actually visit anytime; just make sure you have plenty of warm clothes and sunscreen regardless of the season (it is actually unbelievably easy to get sunburnt during the daytime here, especially in winters).

Ooty, ultimately, is a melting pot of cultures- Tamilians, people from other parts of India who have been settled here for generations and of course, descendants of the native tribes. There is so much more to this place than what it has become famous for. See for yourself, put in that extra effort to peel back the layers and look at what you might find. Interacting with locals will help you here. Above all, be a responsible traveler- do not litter and respect the privacy and culture of the residents.

Do let us know what you like best about Ooty in the comments below!

The Cubbon Park Experience

The famous Cubbon Park is one of the most favoured haunts of several citizens of Bangalore- whether they are humans or dogs. A brisk run or a leisurely walk in the park in the early hours of the morning is bound to leave you feeling refreshed and in high spirits for the rest of the day or maybe even longer; those of you who visit the place often will know exactly what I’m talking about here.

Photo by Duffy Brook on Unsplash

If you’ve been in Bangalore for a while now, I’m quite sure you would have made it to Cubbon at least a few times (I refuse to accept the possibility that you haven’t). If you are new to the city, however, and are wondering where to start exploring, pick a weekend and drop by Cubbon Park in the morning- I guarantee you will instantly fall in love with both the park itself and with Bangalore for being home to such a beautiful space.

So first, a quick lesson on the place and its history. Established as long ago as 1870, the park is located in the central administrative area of the city and has several entrances to it (such as from Kasturba Road, Corporation Circle etc.). It was originally intended to be a 100-acre park in the middle of the city but has expanded to become much bigger over the years- a refreshing piece of information in a city that has become infamous for rapidly losing its green cover. Fun fact- it was originally called Meade’s Park before becoming Cubbon Park, and also officially acquired the name of Sri Chamarajendra Park in 1927 to commemorate the Silver Jubilee of the Wodeyar rule in Mysore.

The park is lush with all kinds of greenery- according to official reports, it houses over 96 plant species. Cubbon Park is also the address of several important governmental and non-governmental offices. Some of these include the High Court, the Museum building, the Central Library and the Press Club. As you walk around the park, you will also stumble upon several statues, some of the colonial ones dating back to the early 20th century.

The park is closed off to vehicles on Sunday mornings so that people can exercise or walk their dogs without the obstacles of traffic and noise- as a runner, this is why I prefer going on Sunday mornings. Moreover, the park is just buzzing with energy on the weekend mornings because of the sheer number of activities happening. Being there to witness it all and to soak in this energy along with the Sunday morning sunlight is a feeling that I’m finding rather difficult to express in words. I would definitely advise you to get out of bed and visit Cubbon on a Sunday morning, especially if it is going to be your first time there.

Cubbon Park
Cubbon Park

Weekends also see the park hosting several events- fitness related and otherwise too. There are at least a few marathons happening at the park every Sunday morning; these could be running, walking or cycling marathons. A quick look around social media is sure to let you in on the upcoming ones. These marathons are often corporate affairs, used as a promotional strategy by businesses, but you also find several activist groups running for social or environmental causes- see if you can find something that you would like to support and join the gang. Other fitness events that I’ve seen happening in the park include zumba, aerobics and so on. More often than not, you can register for these events on the spot as you walk in on them.

Even if you aren’t that much into fitness and exercise, Cubbon Park has several other kinds of activities to offer you; there are often photography walks, portrait painting workshops, city exploration walks as well as classical dance and music performances happening at the park on Sunday mornings- it’s a really good thing the park is big enough to let all these things happen simultaneously without obstructing each other!

Dog Park

At the end of the day however, the one major thing that actually draws me to the place is the dog park. Every Sunday, people from all over the city bring their dogs to Cubbon Park, where they have a designated, closed off space to run free and wild, and play with other dogs and humans. Even if you don’t have a dog, you can still go into this enclosure and play with all the lively, affectionate dogs there. The park is truly a dog lover’s heaven!

Another exciting thing about weekend mornings at Cubbon are all the fresh produce and food. Steamed and grilled corn are favourites among the crowds, as are the fresh mango and grape juice bottles that you will find being sold at several spots inside the park- they’re perfect for after your long and tiring run! There are several stalls including HOPCOMS that sell fresh fruit and vegetable produce and the crowds are usually quite dense around these locations. Several health food companies also set up counters to give you samples of their products—the taste of a ragi (finger millet) malt drink that I had from one of these counters after a run some weeks ago still lingers in the back of my mind! And if you aren’t particularly inclined towards any of these, there are some restaurants near Cubbon Park that are big crowd favourites for South Indian breakfast- my picks are Airlines Hotel and MTR.

People go to Cubbon Park for several reasons, and however different these motives may be, the fact is that there is something for everyone at Cubbon Park. Whether you want in on the energy and vibrancy of the place as you practise for that upcoming marathon, or you want to play with dogs of every size and breed imaginable, or you just want to spend some time alone, walking under trees that are several decades old and breathing the refreshingly clean air, Cubbon Park is sure to fulfil your wishes. Get yourself there and see what you find.

Let us know what you like about Cubbon Park in the comments below.

The Best of Both Worlds

By Nirupama Rajan

Area: Panduranga Nagar, Bannerghatta Road, Bangalore, House Link

When I was graduating from school back in 2015, the prospect of college was extremely exciting mainly because it meant I was finally going to move out of my parents’ house and live by myself. I remember having all sorts of dreams about the kind of cosy apartment I was going to have, all the fancy food I was going to cook and all the late night hours I was going to stay awake through, streaming movies and sitcoms using my unlimited internet.

Unfortunately, despite the number of new buildings shooting out of the ground every single day in Bangalore, getting an apartment in a city like this is not as much of a breeze as one would expect. For starters, the size of your wallet seems smaller and smaller with every house you visit. Then, considering the rent and the comparatively high cost of living, you obviously have to share your apartment with other people- and believe me, finding students whose parents are willing to let them stay in an apartment where they have to cook, clean and pay the bills by themselves when they can just stay in a less expensive PG or hostel is not easy at all!

And so I had to give up on my apartment dreams for a while. For an entire year, I tried all sorts of things. I stayed in a PG where I felt like I was waking up and going to bed in a tiny cardboard box every day (and I won’t even get started on the food). Then I moved into an apartment-like set up with some people and I thought I would finally be happy despite the fact that our allowances could only afford a house in a shady locality whose walls would become a playground for fungi of all kinds every time it rained. However, very soon it became apparent that running behind my flatmates to pay the bills (the people at BESCOM actually threatened to cut off our power supply several times), looking for new domestic help every month and then haggling with them to arrive at a pay that would suit everyone in the house, hunting for repairmen every time the faucet broke and so on, left me absolutely no time for myself!

And so, after a year of experimenting, I finally moved back into my parents’ house. As luck would have it however, that is exactly when my parents quit their jobs and decided to move to another town. Once again the hunt for the perfect apartment began- meeting brokers, meeting owners and their various pet animals, posting “looking for flatmate” messages on every social media platform known to mankind…

It was on one such evening, when after spending hours on my laptop with 5 different property sites simultaneously vying for my attention that I stumbled upon To be honest, it seemed too good to be true; no brokerage, fully furnished, all bills taken care of, and a great looking house at an actually affordable rate! By now my thoroughly suspicious mind was reading between every line looking for a catch. However, my father convinced me to at least go take a look and so I met up with Mr Subbu the next day.

It has almost been a year since then, and for that entire period, I have been a SimplyGuest tenant with no complaints and no plans to move out unless I have to leave Bangalore itself. Living conditions wise, this has by far been one of the most peaceful years for me in the recent past. I get to have all the benefits of an apartment- I can cook my own food (and I didn’t even have to get my own cookware) and I have access to the whole house, not just to one tiny room that’s been allotted to me. I have also made some great friends and I don’t have to worry about my rent increasing if any of them decide to move out. No curfew means I don’t ever have to worry about getting home late from a party, and my friends can also come over to my place when we have to do group assignments.

The house is always clean thanks to the help who are extremely regular. I don’t have to worry about any of the bills because they are all taken care of by my rent and most importantly, I can always rely on Subbu and Ambareesh who go out of their way to solve any issues we might have at home, whatever time of the day it is.

The terrace is by far my favourite place in the house; I’ve spent several evenings there (and even slept there overnight) just watching the planes fly by and enjoying the breeze that is always cool regardless of the season. The house is also in a great locality, so when I lean over the terrace walls, I see clean streets instead of garbage dumps. When I’m too lazy to cook, at least ten different cuisines are available at restaurants within a few hundred metres of the house while there are 3 parks in the near vicinity that motivate me to run every morning.

I guess I can say that SimplyGuest has truly given me the best of both worlds- the security and the reduced responsibilities that come with regular PGs and hostels, as well as the freedom that comes with an apartment. Over the last year, the house has slowly become a home for me. The only downside is, it’s going to be that much harder to say goodbye to the place and my roommates when it’s time to leave.

Experience of a SimplyGuest flatmate – Home not House

Someone rightly said always choose the people you live with, not the place ~Anonymous

living together in a shared flat

Area: BTM Stage 2, Bangalore, House Link

I started living in a shared setup when I started my first job. I had an option to either take a PG or live in a shared flat by SimplyGuest. I chose to take the flat which for me was the better choice.

There are pros and cons to living in a flat as opposed to a PG. One of the biggest advantages of living in a flat is the privacy. I love my privacy and independence. There are some days where I just want to be alone and not have to deal with other people, and being in a flat allows me to do this.

There are some weeks we barely see each other. Everyone had work/ family schedules etc. We had dinner/drinks together at least twice a week to iron out anything that anyone was annoyed about. And we used to have parties all together every month and would all invite our friends, nothing out of hand, just some fun.

Additionally, I don’t have to eat at a specific time If I wanted to I could go out and get Taco Bell at 7 o’clock and eat it while watching Netflix in my room. I don’t feel bad about not eating with my flatmates. We are all on different schedules so we eat when we can. You always have the different kind of cuisines cooked at your place, no Aloo always. Which is a huge relief as we get to eat what we want to and not follow a menu or hog outside food. We don’t have to wait for eating on a timing. We always have food in our fridge courtesy one of my flatmate who is a foodie and hence we always have supplies to enjoy a weekday or a weekend evening.

One of the best things about sharing a flat is that there is absolutely no need to introduce my ‘friends’ as cousins to be with them for some time or trying hard to find a place to do so. After shifting into a shared flat by SimplyGuest I have been able to spend time with my friends and enjoy my evenings.

We have a TV in our flat and hence all of us has our share of time on TV and there is no need to do a real-life drama to watch TV. We also have a PS4 and hence we enjoy all the stuff together.

Sharing things with flatmate is quite easy as the trust level is way high then living in any other setup and hence I save a lot of money on the one time use things that are available with my flatmate.

We don’t have the restriction of entering our home. Yay, we can party all night but we also take care of our Flatmates and make sure that we don’t disturb each other. We don’t have to make deals with the security guard to sneak into the house.

One of the best part of living in shared flat that you can make people clean the room. SimplyGuest providers are awesome and make sure that we don’t have issues with cleaning. They deep clean the house every 2 months

We always have our share of the bathroom time, we always have our timings and nobody disturbs us here. No arguments over bills, SimplyGuest pays it all and no hassle and no need to waste the last Sunday figuring out the finances which we don’t remember.

We all have our bad and good times and flatmates are always there in our good or bad times. We become a family and that’s the best part of it.

On the other hand, I don’t have to really tell anyone about my plans and live my life peacefully.

Written by – Mayank Pokharna on