Ever thought of going jogging or doing community yoga on a murder site? This has been the transformation of the Horamavu Agara Lake.
The Horamavu Agara Lake is nestled in the northeast of Bangalore where it sits amongst mostly high raised apartments and a few houses that managed to survive real estate vultures trying to sell them apartment benefit schemes. The lake, in its recent history, has been infamously known for the many floating dead bodies it surfaced and the murder stories that come with them. For as long as I can remember, the lake itself and the pathways toward the lake were strictly forbidden to walk by after 3 PM and if you needed to after sunset it would be a death wish.
The lake seemed to welcome no crickets or frogs during the nights, just echoed the chaos of traffic in its darkness. These unwritten rules were followed with undisputed obedience because the lake was often surrounded by flashing red lights, sirens, pale white omni vans holding local news reporters and Police officials almost every two weeks. The only living beings that seemed to be there of their free will, were the occasional vagabond cow with a crow on its back that somehow made it to the middle of the lake and stayed there.
No one came to rescue these cows either it was like once they set hoof in the lake they were left to their damnation. The lake soon became synonymous to death, it looked like it, smelt like it and it was all passers-by were worried about. This seclusion and the open land also seemed to attract the trash of Horamavu’s entire living population, most of the apartments in the vicinity also illegally released their untreated sewage into the lake and because of all the excessive dumping, the lake grew all the more nasty and secluded.
Horamavu, with no surprise, obviously did not house so many people 30 years ago and was considered to be the outskirts of Bangalore by the older generations because of the thickness of its forests. Like many localities it also came with its own gundagiri. It is said that it is as prominent now as it was then and I always imagined it giving off a very Veerappan essence. In addition to these ghastly murders there were drug cartels next to the lake (presumably still are) and scarf-necked men were always loading and unloading their stuff and threatening anyone that might have come in the way.
Maybe it was always known for crime and now it just had an audience? I had to take all my questions somewhere and my acquired target was a certain Ramchandra uncle who sold tender coconuts opposite the lake for as long as I can remember. Ramchandra uncle was born in Horamavu and so were the generations that came before him, the first thing he told me about the lake is that it used to be clean, so clean that everyone here drank its water. Guava and Mango trees surrounded the lake, the easy access to food and the view made it a popular hangout spot for the surrounding youth. They’d go fishing and swimming in it and they would even make rafts to do their own sort of boating on.
The lake; he said was a place filled with love. It housed happy fishing men and women, makeshift rafts, and lovers watching reflections of the sunset in their shyness towards each other. “The lake is where I met my wife but now Yama surrounds it,” he said. The increasing crime and unsanitary conditions moved the local panchayat and many other organizations to take action and file complaints. However, the smell of untreated sewage and ignorance of the BDA stirred up protests and a ‘Save Horamavu lakes’ walkathon was organized by the Save Bangalore Lakes Trust (SBLT) and other local communities.
Five years later, as part of the state’s afforestation plan, The lake is now a tree park and attracts different masked activities throughout the day. Group yoga and fitness is the most popular but there are also a few bird watchers who occasionally come to spot birds but get to see mostly just a majority of cattle egrets. The most common thing I’ve noticed is old people dressed in their Sunday bests just for a walk. The pandemic seems to have driven the children of these old people to kidnap them from their natives for safety purposes and now they are cooped up in apartments with masked walks as their only escape.
One such Mr. Harish said the lake wasn’t even close to the serenity Hassan gave him but it was something after all. The lake meant different things to everyone at the different times in which they experienced it. To me it meant a whirlwind of things, it gave me the chill of crime, the thrill and terror of gundagiri, and it somehow allowed me to spectate and relive the warmth of other people’s memories surrounding Horamavu Agara. I thought of Ramchandra uncle and his jolly big group of friends by the lake laughing in the setting sun and swimming in the summers, how it made Harish uncle even for a second, to think of Hassan or not think of Hassan and how so many people looked forward to coming here and dressed as they did.
In a city as paradoxical as Bangalore, even more so in our times, there are small escapes like these; the lake Yama is said to have once surrounded brings together the most life I’ve seen since the past year.
Yama: The God of Death according to Hindu Mythology