Development by depletion of sylvan treasure
By H Narayanan
17th August 2012 01:05 AM
Coming from different Air Force stations we would converge in Bangalore for our promotional examinations. Prior to our movement to the garden city our barrack-mates would remind us of the need for carrying blankets, woollen vests and jerseys. Those from Madras, Poona, Coimbatore and other stations in the south would feel the nip of the cold climate of Bangalore. We were put up in barracks with high ceilings seeming to be of British construction from the unusual thickness of the walls and the pediment at each entrance and above the widows. Ceiling fans were out of sight in the barracks nor did we ever want them.
By about 1 pm our examinations would be over letting us return to our barracks after our lunch in the mess. Following the day’s grind we used to have forty winks on our cots covering ourselves partly with blankets since Bangalore was always cool irrespective of the hour being diurnal or nocturnal. Night duties we could never goof off albeit that our stay in the city would be for a week at the most. Our woollen habiliments stood us in good stead on such assignments since the hours after the nightfall were comparatively colder than those in the day. Such was the climate during the late Fifties in what came to be known as garden city. Fearing robbery outside Jalahalli Air Force station thick with jungles, we dared not stretch our legs in the evenings. Pick-pockets being rampant on all the bus routes in the metropolis was the seamy side of Bangalore. Not a day passed with at least a few of the Air Force personnel losing their watches or purses on the city buses.
It was towards the end of 1973 that I returned to Bangalore and stayed at Jalahalli West for three months to attend a technical course. The climate in Bangalore was completely contrary to what it had been during my previous visit. My course-mates and I would keep the fans on in our barracks that were quite similar to the ones where we were put up the last time. A stroll outside the camp presented to us an entirely different Jalahalli. Vast expanses of land once abundant with lush green trees and thickets appeared as barren tracts with white markings over a vast stretch of the ground supposedly meant for construction of condominiums. The city was hot and sultry. Lakes, unlike before, were a rare sight.
Towards the fag end of my long service I landed at Yelahanka in 1990 on a choice-posting. To my surprise I found the garden city poles apart from what it used to be in its landscape. Sparsely populated areas in and around the ‘metro’ were found closely spotted with innumerable houses, high-rises and skyscrapers. Where all we dared not walk were awash with apartments. The city lost its arboreal gift of nature. Yelahanka that once stood with its sylvan beauty had put on the look of a man-made concrete jungle. Given the swell in the number of vehicles on the fast-widening roads, coupled with the process of perennial denudation of tree-cover, the state of pleasant living of our posterity is anybody’s guess.
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