City of Fraser Vignette: La Tribune India

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NJ Ravi Chander

I have lasting memories of my childhood spent in the town of Fraser, Bengaluru, where my brothers and I grew up. In the 1960s, the century-old city was home to a significant number of Anglo-Indians, Muslims and Hindus, dominated by military families. Residents lived in quaint monkey-top bungalows (these gave way to skyscrapers) filled with fruit trees and flower beds. Modest accommodation could be found for an incredible Rs 2 per month – Mysore’s rent control law was widespread then. Many Anglo-Indians attracted to greener pastures then migrated to distant lands.

An unforgettable memory was of the monkeys descending into the orchards and looting the fruit, but we loved their antics. They are no longer visible. Residents walked or cycled to their destination or were transported by the ubiquitous pedicab or tonga. Winter cold meant keeping warm by putting on sweaters. The weather was fine even at the turn of the century.

The beautiful Madhavraya Mudaliar Road (Palm Road), lined with majestic coconut palms, was a favorite spot on our salad days. It has been embellished with monuments such as the Lakshmi Bhavan hotel (since closed) and the Everest cinema (still there).

The Independence Day Cup, held at the East Ground, attracted promising football talent. Theater troupes have performed here on festive occasions, and the Bangalore Muslim hockey team – a misnomer because it included players of different faiths – trained there. The Buddha Vihara was another famous landmark in the city, and the road passing by is named after him.

Street performers were a big draw. They entertained us with their acrobatics, stunts, music and trained pets. The two cinemas, Ashoka and Everest, mainly screened Tamil films. Watching movie posters and photographs of movie stars displayed inside theaters was an obsession. In the pre-generator era, power outages would see theaters issue free passes. Movie tickets cost a few annas, but black traders made hay.

The authorities sold firewood using ration cards and a rented cart dropped them off. The vendors have asked us to sell anything from curds to crabs. The donkey was a ubiquitous part of the dhobi identity. The laundromat made a weekly appearance to pick up the soiled clothes. No clothing has ever disappeared. I remember an elderly lady who peddled appetizing appams, vadas and idlis by the side of the road for an astonishing 3 paise a piece. She also sold exotic fruits, such as blackberries and Madras thorns.

Another lasting memory was that neighbors of different faiths displayed camaraderie and called each other to chat, gossip, or exchange views. The festivals witnessed exchanges of hugs, jokes and homemade treats. The evenings were filled with fun and frolics, and we stopped a street game and waited for the strange car or scooter to pass. Fraser city of yesteryear is just a memory!


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