>Crossing the great city divide


The cows will always come home  

The larger Bengaluru Pete area comprised of a market cluster defined by informal geo-social demarcations ( still existing ).These were divisions made not only by occupation ( like the guild system ) but by caste and class because in India occupation and caste are usually conjoined twins. The markets were named after goods or communities dominating it so Balepete is where you go to buy bangles, musical instruments and cotton mattresses. The silver jewellery stores line both sides of the narrow lanes in Nagarthpet while Chickpet is swathed in yards of shimmering South Indian silks. Tharagupet is the grains market and Akkipete is for rice.  Ballapurpete and Ganigarapete are for oil because the Ganigara community are oil pressers. Tigalarapete was for flowers ( the Tigala community were traditional horticulturists ), Sultanpet for paper, Mamulpet for plastic and essential oils, and Cubbonpet is where the Devanga community weaves cotton into fabric.

Too heavy to lift, leave alone steal !

Kumbarpet which is just after Cubbonpet, has hardware, metalware and lots of little shops for pooja items including the lovely cow bells in the picture. At one time, the area had a specific Kumbarpet Muslim community like the `Takaras’ who traded in stone home products, `Chapparbands ‘ who fixed broken roof tiles, `Sikkalgars’ who sold copper and brass vessels and the `Phuleras‘ who strung and sold flowers. Like others before them, many have moved on to find other ways of earning their livelihood since their traditional occupations now have no place in this modern world.

Doddapete also has a sizeable Marwadi Jain trading community, who along with all the other representations of Pete society, co-exist side by side in the narrow streets of this heavily congested area where you constantly dodge cows, bullock carts, cyclists, autorickshaws, paan spitting shopkeepers, scooterists and more while attempting to walk sanely to your destination. If on your own, the chances of  getting lost are pretty high but local inhabitants wander about with the confidence of homing pigeons.

Blessed by the Gods

The history of the busy Pete began in 1537 AD when Kempegowda I ( 1510 -1570 ), the founder of modern Bangalore, built it envisioning a prosperous new city filled with well laid out roads, tanks, ponds, religious institutions, flowering trees and hectic commercial activity. This vision was carried forward by all subsequent custodians of the city including the illustrious Dewans of the Mysore Maharajah, until its gradual destruction  which began in the late 1980’s and has never stopped since.

Commercial activity has multiple forms

Do spaces define social structures and relationships or is it vice versa ? With the building of the Cantonment in 1809, a fine line seemed to have been established between the Pete ( City ) area and the British Cantonment with separate municipal bodies and residents on both sides rarely crossing these boundaries physically or engaging with each other socially. In 1949, the Cantonment and the City were merged under the Mysore State banner but the invisible divide continued way into the present.

Diversity has its various hues

To me, the Pete is a symbolic space of unity and segregation. A site of contrasts where multiple urban identities have been constructed via social /commercial encounters ( transactions ) as well as social divisions ( spatial and caste boundaries ). These have now either vanished or been forced to adopt new strategies  ( such as re-location or new occupations ) to deal with the ruthless demands of development.

Avenue Road is marked by the ancient Anjaneyaswamy Temple built by Kempegowda I on one end, and the equally old Dargah of Hazrath Syed Pasha near KR Market, on the other. In between lie centuries of secrets, layers of history, the dance of sharing and separation, and the collective memories of its people.

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