Sunday, October 3, 2010

Lalbagh Gardens: Greenhouses, Feral Dogs, Somewhat Relaxing

Lalbagh Gardens is one of Bangalore's green centers, and it is also a source of sanity for a large proportion of the area's people. Lalbagh has stands of flowers, a surprisingly mostly-clean lake, an old English greenhouse, and a general air of orderly greenery that is sorely needed in the traffic-choked heart of the city. It is also Bangalore's supreme make out point, giving the young and amorous of the city a chance to wander through the grass, hold each other's hands, and maybe even kiss surreptitiously if no one's looking. It's hard to be an Indian teenager.

A nice enough temple near Lalbagh. If someone could tell me what this kind of structure is generally called, I'd be most grateful.

Tipu Sultan can be credited for Lalbagh. Like many Muslim rulers, Tipu was inordinately fond of gardens and flowers. His father, Hyder Ali, began Lalbagh, but it was Tipu who finished it off, designating it as a protected place in the midst of the at-the-time mid sized town. Bangalore grew around Lalbagh, and the English appreciated it too: they erected the classic-style greenhouse in the park's center.

There is a very big rock in the middle of Lalbagh. It's one of the highest spots in Bangalore, and accords decent views of the cities admittedly not super-prepossessing skyline. If you look the other way, there's a (usually smoking) trash heap. Well, you know. India.

There really are an unusual amount of bird species in Lalbagh, which is impressive for a very urban center. Then again, birds seem to have adapted remarkably well to India's urban localities - you see immense vultures and remarkably pretty little green parrots feeding off trash (or bodies, in the vultures case), perching in people's somewhat emaciated looking backyard trees, and generally going about their business.

I usually avoid stray dogs in India - I'm not too keen on getting rabies - but the dogs in Lalbagh are generally extremely friendly and thus hard to ignore. I recall a torrid but sadly brief love affair with the friendliest stray dog ever here, a few years back. I hope she's still around. The paucity of stray dogs in the USA often shocks Indians. "But where do the dogs go? What do they do all day?" they ask. Well. We usually just give them lots of Puppy Prozac....

Indians love to eat cucumber with chili and salt on them.

Indians like to venerate trees. This is no exception. Indeed, the Peepul is of course the Bodhi tree under which the Buddha himself sat. King Ashoka's son and daughter are said to have brought clippings of the original Bodhi Tree (in Bihar) to Sri Lanka, preserving it after the original died.

The English style greenhouse, one of many Raj-era nods to the Homeland. The greenhouse is of course totally out of sorts with the rest of Bangalore, but I think it functions well as a metaphor. The English wanted to replicate their homeland, their climate, and their foliage wherever they went. It was for this reason that they built up the cool weather and intensely Anglo hillstations in Mussorie, Darjeeling, and Shimla. It was why they stubbornly refused (mostly) to adopt native dress, sticking to wool and cotton clothing that proved uncomfortable and downright dangerous in the Indian heat. They brought over their food, they brought over their language, and they brought over their modes of etiquette and their mail system and thousands of other things beside. (They also brought over some thrilling new venereal diseases, but let's not get into that). The greenhouse stands for all this: it is a glass house made to enclose delicate Continental flowers, it is a contained ecosystem with no relation to the immense and seething India all around it, it is controlled and orderly and gentle. Or was.

Now, of course, the Indians have got it. It is not used for much, although there was a swiftly rotting Independence Day flower arrangement stuck inside this go-round.

Riotous tropical flowers.

Lalbagh also has a considerable amount of cultivated flower species - exotic and local- that are maintained by a small army of dedicated gardeners. It's nice to wander around the rows of flowers and attempt to ID what they are.

The other big attraction of Lalbagh is its lake. It's quite a lovely lake, especially consdering that it is located inside a park in a major Indian city. If one overlooks the occasional patch of suspicious and trash-related bubbles, it's possible to imagine one is somewhere else entirely. There's a surprising number of storks, herons, and other wading birds here.

I love India's occasionally worrisome efforts at public art.

There's a rose garden in Lalbagh, but you can't go inside it. Mustn't pick them. At least you can walk on (or roll on, or play on, or eat) the grass here. I spent a summer in Beijing, once, and grew desperate for the sight of a tiny patch of grass in that grey and highly polluted city.

I went to one of the former Imperial parks and managed to find myself a tiny, table-sized spot of grass, the only one I had come across for weeks. I promptly sat down on it and opened a book. Two minutes later, a young and apologetic looking park attendant came by, and shooed me off. "It's not for sitting on," he explained, "just looking." I could have cried.

But that is beside the point. There is grass here, and it is good.

Lovely and glossy black millipedes in the heart of the park.

1 comment:

  1. Umm the millipede was red...otherwise...great article!