Bengaluru: Paul Fernandes is one of the city's best loved artists, never failing to put a smile on the face of every veteran Bengalurean, with his heart-warming, nostalgic, always humorous take on the sleepy little suburbian haven that once was. Paul's a man of few words when he's asked to speak, as he contents himself with smiling genially at me from across the table at his gallery, Apaulogy. "I never get angry," he agreed, a claim seconded at once by his son, who happened to be nearby. Paul's latest coffee table book, Bangalore: Swinging in the 70s, is an enchanting collection of watercolours done over the last 15 years, capturing the city he knows and loves so much.
Swinging in the 70s comprises prints of 100 paintings and what's more, each comes with its own little story. "When I did a painting of The Only Place, I had a woman come up to me and tell me I'd gotten it all wrong," he laughed. "She said there was a Bougainvillea tree that extended outward in the yard and she remembered because she's very tall and the branches often became entangled in her hair! I have my own little stories and the people who see my work add to them." Paul didn't begin his career as an artist, however, he was, by his own admission, "too busy earning a living in advertising. I started paying attention to old buildings then," he said. "That's when I started doing simple, light-hearted nostalgic paintings of the city." Paintings of the much-loved Victoria Hotel, which made way for a mall, Plaza Theatre, the United Services Club (now Bangalore Club), the Good Shepherd Convent and Mount Carmel College all have prominent displays at the gallery - Paul keeps me entertained with an array of factual tidbits as we walk through it.
The Bengaluru of today leaves one with plenty of room for complaint, which Paul doesn't attempt to deny. "There's a lot I don't like," he agreed. "At the same time, though, it's better in a 1000 ways today than it was back then. Life was different in those days - you knew everybody, you could walk into someone's house uninvited and stay for lunch. It's not the same anymore, but Bengaluru is still a beautiful place to be."
Apaulogy, in Richard's Town, does actually sit in a world of its own - nestled in the heart of Bengaluru's Cantonment area. Paul himself is the very embodiment of everything his work seeks to recapture - a slow-paced, carefree little existence. Still, he adds, as a parting shot, "It takes a lot of work to be laid back! You choose the things you want to do but you have to work really hard to ensure that you can keep on doing them!"