Paul Fernandes is a Bengaluru-based cartoonist, illustrator, and entrepreneur. His gallery Apaulogy located near Richards Park, is a beautiful museum of color and creativity. I can guarantee that no matter what mood you are in, you are sure to leave with a smile plastered on your face, and a good laugh.
The whole atmosphere screams out Bangalore of the 70s. Familiar hotspots such as M.G Road, The Only place, and Airlines Hotel are animated and make you go back in time to the good old days of our very own “Sylcon city.”
Paul’s work also portrays stills from his childhood and memories shared with his family. The best part is that he never reveals who’s who in his work. You might just walk in one day and notice that you were the subject of his inspiration.
The Coffee House on MG Road was “the centre of our universe”, it was “very popular” and often frequented by journalists, Mr Fernandes says.
The place did – and still does – great coffee, it served dosa and omelette and was always packed at meal times.
“Sometimes, we would have journalists sitting on the next table and they would chat about headlines and it would be in the next day’s papers. It was so thrilling.”
Commercial Street was the centre of shopping in Bangalore – it’s a place where one could buy anything, from clothes to jewellery to household stuff to footwear. It also had toyshops and many tailors.
“My mother would drive me and all my nine siblings there once a year at Christmas to buy us clothes,” says Mr Fernandes. “She would buy the same bale of cloth, take us to the tailor who would take our measurements, and all of us would get identical clothes.”
This house in this illustration is the cartoonist’s ancestral home and the girl was one of his sisters.
“She was very pretty and young boys would come by to greet her. A protective uncle would be hovering nearby, scowling, with an airgun, trying to scare away the boys,” Mr Fernandes says.
Just below the British Council in Bangalore was the very popular Koshy’s bar and restaurant. It is still hugely popular, so much so that even the state’s chief ministers come here for a coffee or a drink. During a visit to the city in the 1980s, Britain’s Prince Charles dropped by for a cup of coffee.
“This very picturesque railway line crossing is barely half a kilometre from my present home,” Mr Fernandes says.
In the 1960s and 70s, a daily train from Madras (now Chennai) to Bangalore used to pass through the area and the gates would shut for 10 minutes.
“Whenever we were at the gate, we would wave at the passengers, and they would wave back at us.”
The cartoonist’s “sprawling home ground” was filled with trees, birds and dogs and this artwork shows a corner of that house.
“It was customary for gentlemen in the house to have a good lunch and a siesta in the gardens. It was a man’s domain – by some unwritten rule a lady would never sit out there. I was told it was considered not dignified for a lady to sit there.”
The Plaza was the iconic cinema hall where the finest Hollywood movies were shown.
“My favourite story of the theatre is when an aunt went there with her family to watch Gone With The Wind. When she came out of the cinema, she found that all four tyres of her car had been stolen.
“They were gone with the wind,” he says.
Russell Market was built in 1927 by the British and was named after civic engineer TB Russell.
“It still exists as one of the busiest markets in Bangalore. It’s crowded and wonderfully chaotic and you can buy nearly anything you want here,” Mr Fernandes says.
The Cubbon Park police station is a “very beautiful” building. It was an old British house that was converted into a police station in 1910 and it is still “pretty much the same”.
“In the 60s and 70s, Bangalore was a very laid back place and there was no real crime, occasionally maybe a cycle would be stolen,” Mr Fernandes says.
“I was in school then and my friends and I would cycle around the city and the policemen looked so silly in their flowerpot hats, so we would tap them and run away. But once I got caught and was detained in the room you see on top here. I was let out only after my mother came to the police station and apologised,” he remembers.
The Bangalore Club, one of the finest examples of British architecture in the city, is still looked after well. Established in 1868 by a group of British officers, the club boasted some exclusive members, including former British prime minister Winston Churchill who still owes the club 13 rupees (20 cents; 14 pence) in unpaid bills. It is also the place where famous filmmaker David Lean filmed parts of his critically-acclaimed Passage to India.
“It is still looked after very well and it still has very exclusive members,” Mr Fernandes says.
The Brigade Road was Bangalore’s “most iconic hangout” place in the 70s – all the city’s fashionable people would go there in the evenings for fun.
An Indian-American couple set up a restaurant there and introduced Bangaloreans to apple pie and waffles, there were a couple of pinball machines and musically-inclined people would hang out with their guitars; and there was a coffin-maker nearby.
“In those days, we used to say you come to Brigade Road for recreation, sustenance and death. Unfortunately, it’s all gone now, replaced by a huge mall,” says Mr Fernandes.