Let us face it, history has always stood for memorization. Dates, events, wars fought and won; history was and is still seen as a theory subject. The result – it becomes flat and boring.
Poornima Dasharathi of Unhurried, a travel company that specializes in heritage and cultural tours and walks, hopes to change this. She believes that history can be fun. Through her colourful stories, she brings history alive in her heritage walks and tours. The Alternative catches up with her to know more about her specialized travel outfit.
Unhurried was started in 2012 to get people interested in local history and heritage. Unhurried started with walks. The reasons for embarking on walks was simple. “History is my passion. I love history, travel and narrating stories. So the walks had to happen anyway, they were a natural extension of my interests,” says Dasharathi.
She had another strong trigger too to start with walks. “I began with walks as a way to rediscover my roots in the city. My frequent travel trips, walks in European cities made me realize how little I knew about the city I lived in,” says Dasharathi. Thus began a series of walks, each unique and specialized to give people a hands on experience on the heritage of the city.
When she started out, Unhurried was a one (wo)man army. “It was daunting to start the company on my own,” says Dasharathi. “After registering the company, for 2-3 months I didn’t do anything much. I published two of my walks, put up brochures, etc.,” she adds.
She started out with the Malleshwaram and Pete Walks that gave information about Bangalore and one of its oldest suburbs. Enthused by the feedback and responses from her walks, she added more walks like the Bungalow Walk, Cubbon Park Walk etc. Like-minded people joined her team and brought in their own walks and trails like the Cathedral Walk, Food trails, etc.
Today, Unhurried has grown from two fortnightly walks a month to a plethora of themed walks and tours; to name a few – old city walks, park trails, food trails, day city tours, out of city tours, etc.
The slow, exploratory walks of Unhurried
These are meant to give people a true heritage experience of the city. There are four old-city walks showcasing the history of the city. Apart from the Pete Walk there is the ‘Life in the Pete Walk’ that talks about the life and culture of the old city, the ‘Nagartapete Walk’ that gives a glimpse of old communities, customs, and rituals, and finally the ‘United Colours of City Market’ that takes one through three markets present in the area, each boasting a unique history.
The City Suburbs Walks that is done in the extensions of the old city covers areas like Malleshwaram and Basavanagudi. Then there are the park trails; the Lalbagh Walk and the Cubbon Park Walk that covers two of the oldest parks in the city. The British Walks relives the British past of Bangalore taking one through old beautiful Bungalows in the Bungalow Walk and through Cathedrals in the Cathedral Walk.
There are also ‘Open Walks’ that are weekend walks, open to public, and shared on their website in advance. It is a leisurely three-hour walk that ends with a short meal.
Food Trails- understanding local history through food
“Food is one the best ways to know about people of the area, their culture and lifestyle. If you go to Basavangudi i.e. predominantly South Indian and ask about the best Kabab place you may get a laugh as a response. Similarly you earn quizzical looks if you ask residents of Mosque Road the place to get best Masala Dosa,” says Dasharathi smilingly. Keeping this in mind their heritage food trails takes one through heritage eateries and talks about the local history, the dishes, the community that prepares it and helps one better understand the lifestyle and culture of the place.
Themed In City and Out City Tours
Unhurried City tours gives a glimpse of city in a day and are handcrafted to suit tourists’ time and interests. One of their most sought after tour is the Medieval Bangalore Trail that talks about the entire medieval history of Bangalore.
“This walk is more of an interactive experience. It covers the Avenue Road, Chikpete and fort area of Bangalore and talks how Bangalore was until the English captured it,” says Dasharathi. There are others like Tipu Trail, Rural Charms Trail, etc., providing a city experience to the people.
The Out of City Tours that are also themed outings has interesting tours like the Silk Route that takes you behind the scenes of Silk industry to few others like Anegundi that gives you a glimpse of the mythical kingdom Kishkinda and Hampi, the former capital of the Vijayanagara kingdom.
Guided walks and tours enhance experience
“All palaces are brick and mortar until you go along with a guide. So it is with a city. You can explore the city on your own. But with walks it turns magical,” says Dasharathi.
Thus the Pete Walk that is a walk through the old city, showcases the heritage of the city from Kempegowda times. Though there is not much built history left of British era or any remnants of Kempegowda times in Chikpete or Avenue Road, the walk still manages to capture the imagination by narrating tales that are over five centuries old.
The Lalbagh Walk apart from talking about the botanical, geological and political history also talks about indigenous trees and brings to light the connection of trees in our culture and mythology.
“We do not connect trees with our life. When we see a Peepal Tree in a temple it has a different meaning but when we see a similar tree on a pavement it rarely registers. So in this walk we try to bridge this gap,” says Dasharathi.
The Basavanagudi Walk takes one through beautiful heritage homes and talks about the architecture of building, lifestyle, and culture of Basavanagudi.
Dasharathi encourages people to explore the city on their own and then come on guided tours to realize the difference. “Through our walks the localities relate better to Bangalore. Foreigners on the other hand understand a lot about heritage, culture and lifestyle of people living here,” she says.
Everything in the city is real estate
Dasharathi feels that there is not much of support for heritage buildings in the city. “The heritage buildings have finite shelf life as they are made of lime and mortar. They are high maintenance and they are surviving today solely because of passion of their owner,” says Dasharathi ruefully. She adds, “Unlike other countries where there is support for private properties to maintain their heritage homes, in Bangalore everything is real estate.”
Future plans – Make history fun for kids
Dasharathi plans to involve kids and get them interested in history. “I want to give kids a hands on experience so that they can touch and feel history and learn to enjoy it,” she says. So school programs with seminars and workshops on history and heritage to help kids take to the subject is something that Dasharathi plans to get involved in.