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Bengaluru's MG Road: The boulevard of broken dreams

Posted April 18th, 2017, 12:31 PM IST

Bengaluru's MG Road: The boulevard of broken dreams

The M.G. Road Boulevard has all the trappings of a bustling hangout, located as it is in the heart of the city. But it’s no man’s land after sundown as BMRCL’s misplaced safety concerns result in it being closed off by 7 pm. Officials, who cite security as an issue however also say that a skywalk is being planned near the metro station to improve access to and from the stretch, reports Priyam Chhetri.

Pink and white bougainvillae and a cool breeze welcome you to the Metro Art Centre boulevard adjacent to the Mahatma Gandhi Metro Station in the city. Refreshingly green and clean, it is a sharp contrast to the busy road it sits next to. The half -a -kilometer stretch, which extends from the station all the way up to the Anil Kumble Circle, offers a variety of activities to keep visitors engaged : three art galleries, a Rangasthala auditorium, a children’s play area called Chillipilli, an upper walkway and an open area for outdoor performances, besides two restaurants.

While it has all the potential to become Bengaluru’s favourite hangout after sundown, it is nowhere close to being one right now because it shuts downs after 7pm. “It is a pity that the art galleries are closed so soon. People usually like to visit galleries in the evenings at their leisure. The entire stretch is beautiful and if kept open for longer, could become a big attraction,” observes Smrithi Mannar, a regular visitor.

Others believe the space hasn’t been utilised to its fullest. “One can do a number of things with the boulevard. Why limit it only to an art centre? It could be used for jogging during the day if some amount of shade is added to the upper walkway and more people would go to its restaurants if the prices weren’t so exorbitant and they offered more variety,” says Shruti S, a resident of Lavelle road, who is a regular at the Metro station nearby.

It could be used for jogging during the day if some amount of shade is added to the upper walkway and more people would go to its restaurants if the prices weren’t so exorbitant and they offered more variety
It could be used for jogging during the day if some amount of shade is added to the upper walkway and more people would go to its restaurants if the prices weren’t so exorbitant and they offered more variety.

But ask spokesman of the Bengaluru Metro Rail Corporation Ltd(BMRCL), Vasanth Rao, and he says there are no plans to keep the galleries open after dark owing to security concerns. “The galleries have expensive paintings and could be vandalized if kept open after dark,” he reasons, pointing out that the upper walkway,however, remains open to the public even after dark.

As for Mr. Balaji Murgonda, an assistant curator of the centre, he says only the BMRCL can decide on extending its timings. But he reveals there are plans to build a skywalk near the Metro station with the help of the BBMP to draw more people to the boulevard.“The busy road makes it difficult for people to cross over and so there are plans to add a skywalk, preferably with an elevator, for the convenience of the elderly,” he discloses.

Bengaluru’s favourite hangout after sundown, it is nowhere close to being one right now because it shuts downs after 7pm.
Bengaluru’s favourite hangout after sundown, it is nowhere close to being one right now because it shuts downs after 7pm.

Authorities too cautious, citizens missing out
So tight is the security at the M G Road boulevard that the entrance of the art centre is barricaded after 9:30 pm and the park as early as 7:30pm. But seeing this as being too cautious, those who make the most of its activities during the day, argue all it needs is a few more guards to take care of security concerns to help it remain open for longer and add to the city’s night life.

“The security concerns can be tackled with a couple more guards and some surveillance detail. We’re missing out on some quality time at a place like this because the authorities are being over cautious,” protests Mr Sandeep Anirudhan, a frequent visitor. He believes with the addition of a few more restaurants and better lighting, the stretch could become a lot more popular than it is today. “After all, what is the point of a public space if it isn’t open to the public all through the day?” he asks.

“Business could definitely benefit if the entire space was kept open for longer. People throng here on the weekends but the weekdays are quite slow,” says a server at a restaurant located on the walkway.

Mr Ashwin Mahesh, a civic evangelist, stresses that better security will be a must if the boulevard remains open for longer. “If the Metro allows this, it would mean a lot more security detail not just in terms of surveillance but also manpower,” he underlines.

‘Citizen campaign needed to fight restrictions on public spaces’
Naresh Narasimhan Architect, Urbanist, Activist
It is sad that a city like ours that boasts of a metropolitan culture doesn’t have a proper nightlife. It seems to think that nightlife has to always involve alcohol. But spaces like the MG road walkway and the Metro Art Centre can provide an alternative. I believe the boulevard shouldn’t be closed to the public so early, as being perched right in the middle of the busiest areas of the city, it can be used by people to relax and enjoy themselves late into the evening.

In fact, why not keep the art centre open till the last train leaves the Metro station? We must organise a citizen campaign to fight restrictions that bar us from making the most of our public spaces on the pretext of security. After all, it is easy to increase security. All you need to do is add more lights and more surveillance. Our city needs to actively promote this sort of a nightlife and we must reclaim our public spaces to help achieve this.

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