Straight Oota, Bengaluru: Basavanagudi's Bounty For Foodies
Image Credit: Illustrations by Preetam Casimir (Instagram/@preetamcasimir) for Slurrp

FOR A LONG TIME, my nickname in my Tamilian family was “Bengalooru”. Maybe because I was the only one to be born in Bangalore. Or because I preferred the Karnataka dosa and sambar. Or because, when asked my name in Kannada, I would append an “-u” at the end.

It all started with my parents moving to Bangalore in the early ‘80s. Like so many others, they fell in love with the city and never left. And as they built their life and the family grew, they stayed in different parts of south Bangalore. They were a real estate broker’s dream, moving almost every year. From a one-bedroom near Madhavan Park to the first floor of a house near Ragigudda. My father stopped showing me their old addresses out of nostalgia when we encountered his senile former landlady outside the room they lived in, in Jayanagar 4th Block.

“Sridhar ah? Where last month rent man?”

Eventually they moved further south to JP Nagar. You knew you were in the outskirts because the landmark for our house was a gun shop. 

While Jayanagar 4th Block market was usually our port of first call for most things, visiting Basavanagudi felt more like an occasion. The only store that sold my school uniforms, Vittal, was in Basavanagudi. Every year, we would buy a Ganesha at the large market that would pop up near Lalbagh. And shopping in Gandhi Bazaar was on the itinerary for every relative who was visiting us in Bangalore. They couldn’t get enough of the fresh veggies, fruits and flowers. It was always bustling, and a return was impossible without bags bursting at the seams.

My attitude as a child being taken shopping was consistent across here and Commercial street: I expected to be bribed for my company. With a snack or a meal. Be it a potato bun or rusk in VB Bakery, or a guava with masala on DVG Road. Or kadlekai outside the bull temple. And of course, the dosas! I can’t remember the number of times my parents and grandparents have been dragged to Kamat or Dwarka by me.

But the one dosa to rule them all, was at Vidyarthi Bhavan — an institution that had already been around for more than 50 years when I first went there in the ‘90s. I’d even heard of it as a punchline for a joke on how to spot a true blue Bangalorean, known for being relaxed and accommodating of (almost) anything that gets thrown at them:

“Saar, the government has fallen!”


“Saar, your house just got robbed!”


“Saar, they are putting less benne on the dosa in Vidyarthi Bhavan.”


It was my favourite spot in Gandhi Bazaar. I would continue to frequent it into my late teens as I got sucked into the only athletic pursuit in parts of south Bangalore — preparing for the IIT-JEE. Disregarding parental advice about “jumping into a well” I had signed up for this modern, societally-approved torture because my friends from school had as well. This meant spending Saturdays and Sundays in a poorly ventilated classroom in Tata Silk Farm. The only panacea would be a dosa at Gandhi Bazaar. One could say I was going from one ‘Vidyarthi Bhavan’ to the other. 

None of us made it to IIT. A few of us, however, including me, ended up studying in Bangalore. And in this phase and the years to come, our mission was to frequent as many “bar and kitchen” combinations as we could find. The more tasty the naati food, the better. Including the rare offerings in Basavanagudi, like the New Prashanth Hotel in Gandhi Bazaar, whose kitchen more than compensated for the lack of a bar.

Funnily enough, it would be a play that one of these friends acted in a few years later that gave me even more insight into the neighbourhood. It was a retelling of ‘The Plague’ by Albert Camus, repurposed to focus on the bubonic plague that ravaged Bangalore in 1898. One of the results was that extensions of the city like Malleswaram and Basavanagudi developed as people moved and built houses.

It seems hilarious now to think of these places being extensions in light of how much our city has exploded. Especially when a visit to Basavanagudi now gives you flashes of what the city used to look like. Like when I went there with my wife in the early hours of a day in February this year. We were still jet lagged from our flight from Toronto. I could feel my excitement building as I felt the breeze as we drove past the tree lined streets. We got a table with no wait. And once I took a bite of the piping hot dosa, I knew I was back home.

Deepak Sridhar was born in Bangalore and has spent most of his life there.He is the author of 'Home For The Hallidays' and 'One And Half'.


Sample the delights of the Basavanagudi Breakfast Food Trail with Slurrp. On 29 June, from 7.30 am to 11.15 am. Click here to register. 

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