Now that I have passed on the baton of management of Academy Newspapers Pvt. Ltd., Publishers of Star of Mysore and Mysooru Mithra, to honour the immortal words of Poet Alfred Lord Tennyson, “The old order changeth yielding place to new, And God fulfills himself in many ways…”, besides the fact that I have to kill a lot of time being unemployed, I decided to walk down the memory lane from 1977 when I came to this wonderful city. — KBG
When I moved to Mysore for good in 1977, staying in Gokulam hillock with my wife and elder son, this city was known as Pensioner’s Paradise. Gokulam hillock area, with a Contour Road, was just developing with unpaved roads and houses far between. There were old people living here suggesting that they were pensioners. In fact, it was so. It was also known as a City of Palaces, Mansions, Gardens and Parks. This was also true.
The old residential layouts had conservancy lanes. Though roads were small, they were well-laid with unpaved footpaths and on either side of major roads huge vacant space was provided keeping in mind the future need for widening the roads. It was also a Green City. There was hardly a road without avenue trees with rich green foliage. Rain trees had huge trunks and massive spread of branches forming a canopy full of shade-giving leaves. There were also Gulmohar trees that would bloom in April-May painting the city red while Jacaranda would brighten the landscape with its yellow flowers that would also carpet the road with withering yellow flowers. Then, there used to be some trees blooming seasonally with unique flowers of violet and other rare colours.
Some of the roads like Valmiki road and the stretch from DC’s residence to the Valmiki road junction (Hunsur Road) would look like a green tunnel when you travel by bus, from that height. A feast for our eyes. Yes, indeed it was a Pensioner’s Paradise. With the population at six lakh, with the only double road called Chamaraja Double Road, the city was free of pollution and quite peaceful. This double road too was lined with huge avenue trees on either side from the Ramaswamy Circle to the Sanskrit College Junction. As for traffic, city buses were of recent introduction and very few. Famous horse-drawn Mysore Jatkas were ubiquitous in good numbers despite the presence of a few autorickshaws. If you wanted a taxi, the booking would be through agents in K.R. Circle or the old private bus stand.
Metropole Hotel was the only iconic hotel where continental cuisine was served, famous for its steaks and good dining. There was a famous Fountain Circle with a popular coffee and snack bar known as Fountain Cafe run by a Kodava gentleman. When the traffic increased at this junction, the then Municipal Commissioner Mr. S.D. Seeyam, a young IAS officer, shifted it to the RTO Circle where you can see it today.
CFTRI was a landmark institution and the City Railway Station had its old world look with an architecture that blended with the City of Palaces.
People who came here from Bombay, Madras or Bangalore used to call Mysore as a village town. The residential layouts with many vacant sites used to be without any sound or pollution; the only busy one used to be the Sayyaji Rao Road — that too from K.R. Circle to the Bata Showroom Junction on Dhanvanthri Road. Beyond that it was deserted with the huge building of the Chamarajendra Technical Institute (CTI), the school of fine arts, sculpture and carpentry on one side and the K.R. Hospital on the other side. The Government Ayurveda College at the Irwin Road Junction was a landmark building.
For politicians, to hold their public meetings, the Town Hall ground used to be the venue, while for the theatre-lovers and for indoor meetings, seminars etc., Town Hall was the only place available in the city. Naturally, Town Hall and its premises used to be always crowded and noisy!
As now, then also the Palace used to be the No. 1 attraction for tourists. The action would always be at the North Gate with the famous Anjaneyaswamy temple and the South Gate with parking for tourist buses. Those days there were only two public statues in standing postures under a canopy of Mysore Maharajas — one of Sri Chamaraja Wadiyar in the North Gate under a gold-coated glowing dome and another of Sri Krishnaraja Wadiyar IV at K.R. Circle Junction. There was no D. Devaraja Urs Road that we see today in this junction. It was under construction with a mud road.
Saraswathipuram was a developing layout and there was no Kuvempunagar that we see today. Kamakshi Hospital was considered too far away from even Saraswathipuram! And that was where Star of Mysore had its Printing Press. When we recruited employees, some would grumble saying our Press was too far away from city making it a reason for asking more salary! Of course, city bus facility was only up to the nearby Saraswathipuram. This was the story of an unfolding slowly growing city.
It was a time when D. Devaraja Urs was the Chief Minister who was at the crossroads of his political career because of Indira Gandhi losing the elections in 1977 and Janata Party coming to power at Delhi. Being the Congress Chief Minister of long-standing, I think eight years, Devaraja Urs seemed to have crossed the path of the mighty, though fallen at that time, Indira Gandhi for whatever reason and paid for it politically never to come back. His protégé R. Gundu Rao, the dark horse in politics, became the Chief Minister in 1980 through the machination of defection. Our city will always remember R. Gundu Rao because he gave us the architecturally beautiful, imposing Kalamandira, a gift to the theatre people and the city. He also gave us the Sports Complex, Chamundi Vihar Stadium.
From 1983, Congress lost its stranglehold in Karnataka politics. Old order changed yielding place to new political leaders from Janata Party like Ramakrishna Hegde, H.D. Deve Gowda and J.H. Patel. Mysore district was declared a backward-district industrially by Devaraja Urs and industrialists were given many concessions to attract them to Mysore district. Even my Press got Rs. 15,000 as seed capital at 4% interest which was paid after a decade, more to get that ‘liability’ entry in the balance sheet removed than to clear the liability for which the Government never made any serious demand!
When I came here, it was a Municipality with a Government-nominated IAS Officer as Commissioner. D. Devaraja Urs did not believe in elections for local bodies — City Municipalities or Town Panchayats. Some years later it became a Corporation. So also the city planning body — City Improvement Trust Board (CITB). Many years later it became Mysore Urban Development Authority (MUDA). But, by 1990, the Pensioner’s Paradise was gradually turning into the Paradise of landsharks, apartment builders and industrialists. MUDA was put to sleep with a purpose by the successive Governments.
Politicians began to form layouts and establish educational institutions including medical and engineering colleges under benami or family Trusts.
It was during the first term of D. Devaraja Urs as CM, Mysore District was declared an industrially backward district. Following this new industries did not come as expected because of poor road and rail connections. It was still narrow-gauge from Bangalore to Mysore and there was no air connectivity.
The only major industry to come up was Vikrant Industries Ltd., promoted by one R.B. Jesudasen. I remember its promoters coming to my brother’s house requesting him to buy some shares. And, I think, he obliged them.
Later when the factory ran into difficulties, the Karnataka Government took it over and now it is with J.K. Tyre, a Public Limited Company.
Hebbal industrial area along with the new ones became the destination for many industries, changing the face and character of the city. The proposed Green Belt for city beyond the radius of 20-km disappeared and in its place came the Ring Road and Private Layouts. And the Pensioner’s Paradise was LOST.
Note: Nostalgically Speaking – 1 on Dr. K.B. Subbaiah was published on July 19. Watch out for Nostalgically Speaking – 3 on Mr. Srikantadatta Narasimharaja Wadiyar next week.—Ed
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