Sri H Gopalakrishna is a long time resident of BEL Layout, Vidyaranyapura (earlier called Narasipura). This story, by him, in its original form, appeared on the Facebook page Vidyaranyapura – The Original. It is been edited and reproduced with his permission.
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When I first visited the site where my house now stands, the scene of the lake stole my heart. It didn’t take much for me to decide to build my home right there. I moved to Vidyaranyapura in 1984.
The present park between Fifth Block and Second Block of BEL Layout, Bangalore was originally a pond with water at all times, whether summer or monsoon or winter. During the rains the boundary of the pond would extend onto the adjoining roads. You could see the grazing cattle and other animals stop here for a drink of water. During the early mornings and late evenings, a noticeable number of cranes, ducks and other birds would sit around the lake in a disciplined manner, as if they were having a round table conference or a family get together. This spot reminded me of the renown Kokkare Bellur Bird Sanctuary. Sometimes we used to chase people who came here to test their hunting skills on the birds, and in the process take home dinner to be cooked!
Three to four chappadi stone slabs resting on vertical pillars made a small path through the lake, enabling passage from Second Block to Fifth Block. This work must have been done by some good human and the path remained for long time. There was no compound wall around the lake and it was accessible from all the sides. At the left side of the lake there was an area where heaps of earth were used to store water. This area supported one resting platform. Resting platforms consist of a stone of 6/3, placed horizontally on two imbedded vertical pillars. They are common in villages and village bus stands and are much used by people who carry heavy loads on their heads – to rest the load and in the process give the head and body also a rest!
All around the lake, a large plantation of various forest trees existed. There were about half a dozen toddy trees (Eeachalu Mara). When in season, there would be bunches and bunches of the fruit waiting to be harvested. These must have been also used for extraction of toddy. One such tree still exists at the corner enroute to the Venkateshwara Temple. One more Eeachalu Mara was at HMT Layout and the bus stop there was called Eeachalu Mara Stop! Mornings and evenings were filled with the tweets, chirps and hums of various kinds of birds. I remember a small bird of about two inches whose loving sound still echoes in my ears!
When it rained, the otherwise silent night would be filled with the singing of hundreds of frogs, and in the morning, you would be hit by a leaping frog at every step you took. We used to wonder how so many frogs came with a single rain. The easy answer was that it was god sent!
Normally after the rains, lots of people with varieties of nets would throng this lake from neighbouring areas for fishing! By evening they would have heavy bags, full of fishes!
Almost every house had a small garden, growing a variety of vegetables and fruits. We had the pleasure of distributing varieties of greens (soppu), gauva, seethaphala, dalimbe, huruli kayi, badane kayi, tomato, avare kayi and other stuff grown in our back yards to our neighbours and relatives who lived in the then Bangalore City!
Almost every house had a well and water could be reached by hand! If we just dug for five to six feet water would spring! It was good and potable. This is what we drank as there was no mineral or RO water, and no Cauvery water for us either.
In the early years we used to get fresh vegetables and milk from Thindlu, Kodige halli, Sanjivini Nagara and surrounding villages, from the farmers who had agricultural fields. Vast fields could be seen just across the Thindlu Circle. A small channel of water could be seen on the way to Thindlu and in the rainy season we would have to take a round route as the roads were muddy and sticky.
The nearest entertainment was at BEL Kalakshetra and HMT Auditorium on the city side, and there were two tent cinemas – one in Bettahalli, at the entrance of Ramachandrapura and the other at Gokula Main Road. Gokula was the place which had sheltered many employees of BEL and the old Gokula is now gone. The nearest eat-out places were at Gokula and Maththikere. I, my wife and my son would ride to Maththikere, trebles, on my bicycle for samosa!
Slowly other layouts like HMT and NTI took shape, and private layouts started being developed around the late 1990s. There was no connection from the lake to the main road. The present connecting road (Venkateshwara Temple Main Road) was built many years later. As a large number of sites were vacant we could take short cuts all over!
With building activity all around, the lake area soon became an open toilet for building workers and between 6 and 8 in the mornings, one could see groups attending to their natural calls.
As the area developed, there was a need for a domestic effluent plant and this lake was chosen for installation of the plant. Till then there were no such plants in the residential areas of the city. Protests were made and the answer we got was that there was no other place, and the government rules say that the new layouts should have their own plants. During this time I had written a letter to Prajavani with a photo of the lake requesting the authorities not to go for the cleaning plant. One of our colleagues who was an officer at BEL and residing on the main road went to the Apex Court opposing the plant, but the Court gave the nod. The cleaning plant was planned only for houses constructed on BEL HB Society sites – numbering approximately 1000.
When the plant started working, aerators were installed to clean the effluent water. They were like churners and worked on electricity. After treatment, water was passed into an artificial pond which was built on the side of cleaning plant. The water after final treatment would flow into the vast pond. Two artificial islands were constructed in the middle of the lake and a hanging rope bridge was installed to make the place look more attractive (like Singapura!). Also some saplings were planted at the effluent plant and on the islands. I remember seeing some medicinal plants and Chinese grass. The authorities had also made arrangements for boating in this lake. One small room was supposed to house a Children’s Library. This room still exists at the entrance of the Main gate to the park from Second Block. The practiced of open toileting continued because nobody had toilets for the workers.
For the inaugural function of the boating facility, the then Chief Minister Sri J H Patel along with Sri Ananth Nag, the then Urban Development Minister had come. They went around the pond in a boat and complimented the authorities for this eco-friendly work. Residents also appreciated them. We were also elated as this was first of its kind in Bangalore. A light music program was arranged by the lake shores, rendered by Sri Shivamogga Subbanna and Smt Rathnamala Prakash. Initially three boats were available for boating. Relatives who visited our houses would be taken around in the boats, a luxury which they did not have in their areas and they would pat us and our area! We would feel bloated! For some years the show went on. The place was almost second to Heaven. Then for us poor people….
– By H Gopalakrishna
Part 2 to follow.