[2011-04-25] “Peter Colaco’s Bangalore”

Peter Colaco’s Bangalore” is little book containing several light essays and entertaining anecdotes about Bangalore by Peter Colaco. The book is richly illustrated with water-color sketches by Paul Fernandes (who has created great posters like “Bang, Bang, Bangalore” and the “Shine Boards” series). The book contains “a century of tales from City and Cantonment”, told many a time using the stories of members of the P. G. D’Souza clan, of which the author represents the third generation.

The book dwells a little on the history of Bangalore before presenting little anecdotes and commentary on the evolution of the city. In particular, it talks about the genesis of the very-apparent cultural split of the city into the conservative and somewhat-homogenous “City” areas (Malleswaram, Basavangudi, Jayanagar, etc.) and the liberal and fairly-cosmopolitan “Cantonment” areas (M. G. Road, Lavelle Road, Richmond Town, etc.). Being a man from the Cantonment areas himself, the author talks a lot more about the the Cantonment areas than the City areas. This still leaves the book with lots of entertaining material though and some great insights into why the city has turned out the way it has.

Almost everything that you would expect from a book of this nature is there. For example, the book talks about how large areas of Bangalore came to be occupied by the army, why so many old houses in the Cantonment areas have distinctive “monkey-tops”, why there is such a pronounced influence of English culture compared to other cities in India, how the city came to have so many tanks (and lost so many of them in recent times), etc.

The text doesn't feel dry at all due to the wit and humor of the author. While the author reminisces wistfully about the charm and accessibility of old Bangalore, he is not too bitter about how Bangalore has turned out (except of course for the chronic traffic-congestion and the lack of infrastructure that make it difficult to get from one place in the city to another, which are the pet peeves of everyone here any way). His enthusiasm for the current generation is a welcome relief from the usual grumbling and despair of the people of his generation.

This book doesn't seem to have an ISBN and is very difficult to buy on-line. Even in regular brick-and-mortar shops, it's a little difficult to come by this book. Maybe it's because only people from Bangalore or living here might find this book interesting or maybe it's because this book is probably self-published with a limited number of printed copies.

Unfortunately the lack of editorial oversight shows through - there are quite a few spelling-mistakes, repeated words, spacing-issues and other typographical errors. Many paragraphs are too short and somewhat disconnected from those nearby, leading to an incoherent narrative in places. There are some annoying repetitions - for example, I encountered the sentence “I was born in Bangalore in 1945, the sixth of a family of seven” in at least four different places. I also found the reluctance of the author to spell out relatively-harmless words (“d-mn”, “b-st-rd”) rather amusing.

One notable omission was any commentary on the emergence of newer, more-amorphous areas of Bangalore like Indiranagar, Koramangala, B. T. M. Layout, etc. These are even more cosmopolitan than the Cantonment areas and have changed the character of the city, being home to a large proportion of the “floating population” in the city.

If you have lived in Bangalore for a while, you will very likely find this book quite interesting and fairly insightful. That is, of course, provided you're able to lay your hands on it.

Other Posts from 2011