Take a step back in time at Basava Ambara to rediscover the spirit of good old Bangalore amidst lush greenery, while browsing through handcrafted merchandise or relishing a bowl of fig salad, at an unhurried pace

It is a mad, mad city out there, in a hurry to get everywhere. Lost in transit are the days when Bangalore was all about being laidback and taking in life at a leisurely pace under leafy trees and jacarandas. And it is this missing piece that Basava Ambara brings back.

Located in one of Bangalore’s oldest neighbourhoods, Basavanagudi (which lent its name to RK Narayan’s ‘Malgudi Days’), Basava Ambara is housed in the outhouse of the Mahadevan’s 19th century heritage home.

Time stops for you as you stroll down the walkway engulfed by greenery, courtesy the garden store, ‘Hybiscus’, run by Anita Shah who travels across the world to bring together the very best garden products from hammocks and planters to the ceramic that is imported from Vietnam.

The path leads to Basava Ambara, set up in 2009 by Jaya Mani who has been a part of the art scene for 30 years with an interest in crafts and textiles. Back in 1984, Mani opened Gallery Dravidam in Delhi to promote south Indian artists. She moved base to Bangalore in 1997 and Dravidam promoted contemporary artists with a grounding in traditional arts. She hosts an art show in Delhi annually.

The first Ambara store took root in Indiranagar eleven years ago and later moved to Ulsoor, where it continues to draw a loyal clientele. Mani wanted to promote arts, crafts and weaving traditions through Ambara. The second store is larger and the product range includes furniture and children’s clothing.

You cannot ask for a better setting to browse through the handpicked selection of sarees, dupattas and stoles that have been sourced from over 40 suppliers but are not mass produced. Unhampered by the unsolicited attention of the staff, one can linger over the textiles, stopping to admire the paintings and art work by artists like Suresh Muthukulam, Ramesh Gorjala and JMS Mani, and battle (or not) a desire to splurge on the gorgeous jewellery, handcrafted leather bags, and the newest addition to the collection, laquerware lamps with silk shades.

It is a tantalising spread with brands like Rehwa, Terra, Bailou and Reeth Mumbai showcasing their exclusive merchandise. This November, shoppers can look forward to an exhibit and sale by Arnav known for its fabulous antique jewellery or an exhibition of traditional sarees by the Delhi-based Utsav.

The outdoor space, another rarity in Bangalore, is put to good use. Basava Ambara has hosted book readings like Shilo Shiv Suleman’s ‘Pampasutra’ and Pepita Seth’s ‘Heaven on Earth’, and looks forward to bringing in dance, music and theatre performances.

Once your shopping bag is full, you can retreat to the al fresco restaurant, ‘The Rogue Elephant’, run by Sheila Appa and Anand Chettur. Their Continental menu boasts of comfort food like Moroccan stew, classic Kolkata-style katti rolls and roast chicken. Wrap up the meal with a yummy banana walnut cake. Or quench your thirst with a glass of freshly-squeezed nimbu paani. Tucking into freshly cooked food, with Appa making the desserts herself, you feel right at home.

As Sushma Desai, a fashion designer, says, echoing Basava Ambara’s many clients, “A store in an old house is a brilliant idea. The old world charm is all encompassing. It makes you want to stay forever.” At Basava Ambara, ambience is everything.

By Anuradha Prasad/ Raintree Media Features/ www.raintreemedia.com

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