India in pictures

Our old neighbourhood

6:57 AM

I have spoken of that rooftop terrace flat we had in Bangalore a lot, this was after all the flat in which we stayed the longest. What I never did was share the fact that it was in one of these typical residential block in Bangalore, were all the streets are called Main and Cross and are numbered. The layout is a grid and it function a bit like in New York to get around inside the block in question.

The picture above was taken on the day we moved in. As you can see all the houses around us are no more than two or three stories high, there is a lot of greenery, and the houses are close to one another. In the neighbourhood it was about 5ft between houses, but I have been in other areas in Bangalore where you barely have two feet. Needless to say that your neighbour will alway know what you are doing. Almost all the people who like us have the top floor of the building have a terrace, but we were the only one using it for something else than hanging laundry and dumping garbage. Over the years our outdoor space turned into that :

We bought a patio table and chairs, added a lot of potted plants, at one point we even had a large wooden bench. Every weekends our friends would come over in the evening and we would spend our time there, drinking, eating and chatting. We spent every New Year's Eve at our place, piling on the sweaters as the night became chilli and watch the fireworks in the distance. And because we had world class gossiping Aunties in the neighbourhood, we always had one or the other peeking from their own terrace on ours to see what we were doing. We didn't care, we never let them stop us, they would usually hide the instant we stared back, and gossip never affected us, the only time one of them said something to me was when I was watering my plants while pregnant, apparently she had a problem with that and told me I should ask the maid to do it as pregnant women aren't supposed to walk around like this...I ignored her of course.

Before high rise made their appearance, this is how the middle class lived, in Bangalore and other cities, and how some still do of course. In Bangalore, these houses usually have one independant flat per level, the landlord usually live in one of them and rent out the others, the staircase always run on the outside of the house. In real estate listings these flats are listed as Independant house, but unless the add mention it is a duplex or villa, don't imagine you are going to rent the whole house, you are really just renting a flat in a house that belong to an individual instead of a flat in an apartment society.


  1. apple2:36 PM

    I remember we used to sleep in the terrace of our government flat. There were single storey constructions with each top floor flat having a terrace. People used to sprinkle water on the terrace to cool it and sleep there. We spend many nights counting stars lying on the terrace. People would also sleep outside their houses neat the road on folding beds. Those were innocent times, with little fear. It all stopped sometime in mid 1980s when terrorism in Punjab was at its peak. Delhi being the capital, was always a target. Generations of Delites grew up with the advice "look under your seat after boarding a bus" "don't touch unknown objects in parks or public places". This was followed by horrific anti sikh riots of 1984. We were witness to the turning of an idyllic peaceful city into a fearful one. We learned the word "Aatanwadi" (terrorist). I realized at that tender age that something has drastically changed in our society. For the first time, we felt fear. I cannot describe what it was like in those days. We were no longer safe. Society changed, people became more greedy, crimes have gone through the roof.


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