February has always been my favourite month of the year. It’s when the stardust from New Year celebrations and resolutions makes way for spring flowers. Birds speed date in Bengaluru parks and the bees are equally busy. Trees prepare to bloom, the weather is perfect.High above the city, the sky blushes coral pink at sunset. It’s all quite romantic actually, and just in time for Valentine’s Day coming up on the calendar. And so, in this age of social media relationships and smart phone courtships, I was requested recently, to identify some `offbeat but traditional old Bengaluru style romantic things to do.’ And here they are.
Back when we were still a Garden City, nature loving old Bengalureans conspired with the Messenger of Love and his flower tipped arrows in its parks and gardens. You could take a leaf out of their books and head out for a pre-breakfast stroll together at dawn through Bugle Rock Park and the rose scented Gandhi Bazaar or admire the rare specimens in the Lalbagh Botanical Gardens and walk around the misty Lalbagh tank. It wasn’t called the Sultan’s Pleasure Garden for nothing in the 18th century when it was first laid out by the Mysore ruler Haider Ali and his son, Tipu Sultan.
The horticultural nurseries here are where you can ditch the flower bouquets and gift potted flowering plants that will endure, like your love. Or buy a sapling and plant a large canopied tree together to mark your love-for each other and the city. If you want to up the nature quotient, then pack a picnic basket and drive to Jakkur Lake with a pair of binoculars. Watch the sun come up over the water while you spot birds, including the deadpan migratory Painted Storks.
It’s easy to get starry eyed over breakfast at the Indian Coffee House on Church Street. You know you’ve found The One if they can share your deep feelings for those soft, buttery scrambled eggs on soggy toast (while seated at that secluded corner table). If they do, then walk across to the Blossoms Book Store and sift through the literature section for a vintage poetry book or a Gabriel Garcia Marquez love story. It’s the effort that makes a romantic gift priceless. Not the price tag.
Vintage memorabilia from Balaji’s Antiques on Avenue Road makes for original and personalised gifts; pick up perfume bottles with stoppers, prints and postcards or even furniture! Indulge yourself and each other over tea and beautiful things at lifestyle store Cinnamon (in a painstakingly restored traditional Bengaluru building) or a lazy lunch and browsing through Basava Ambara (store and eatery housed in a wonderful old Basavanagudi home) to bring back memories of a slower time and pace.
Because slow is romantic, your city afternoon could be dedicated to pursuing beauty at the gracious National Gallery for Modern Art housed in the heritage Manickyavelu Mansion, or reading aloud from that afore-mentioned poetry book from Blossoms while falling purple Jacaranda flowers pool at your feet in Cubbon Park. Then head to Koshy’s Parade Café where Bengalureans exchange hearts over a pot of `tea-for-two.’ Or sip `By-Two’ filter coffee with a single Vada where permitted in our unique stand (shoulder-to-shoulder) and eat city Darshini’s. Romantic=Inventive.
Make it to the ancient Peninsular Gneiss Lalbagh Rock by early evening.Get an eyeful of the city while sitting near an old watch tower said to have been built by the founder of Bengaluru, Kempegowda I. About thirty years ago, city folk went on to party at Amjad Khan’s swank restaurant Top Kapi on the top of Utility Building. A decade later, they headed to 13th Floor at Barton Court to drink in the spectacular view at sunset. They still do. Ask for a table outside and watch city lights twinkle at dusk. Dinner dates ended with a drive-in dessert at Lakeview or Corner House with its irreplaceable Hot Chocolate Fudge that has been known to heal even heartbreak.
While we may not have monumental scale on offer, Bengaluru is filled with small, heart-warming moments, if you’ve got the heart for them. Local Bengalureans will tell you that there are plenty more options than just the afore mentioned listing, and in the most unlikely places, I’m sure. But while it’s always wonderful to have someone special along to share them, there’s really no reason why you can’t romance this city with the one person you ought to love first. Yourself. And that’s why my list contains all the stuff you can do on V-Day in Bengaluru, with you. I hope you fall in love this weekend.With my city.