The trip, started in Bangalore. As mentioned in the introductory blog its real name is Bengaluru but everyone still calls it Bangalore for some reason.
The city has the basis of any developing city in South Asia; traffic, noise, dirt, new high rise developments, poverty and so on. I was expecting all this in my rickshaw ride from the airport but when you have rickshaws, cars, dogs, buses, mopeds, cows, pedestrians, goats and more vying for the road it’s a bit different. I now know that it is a prerequisite for all drivers in Bangalore to constantly have their mobiles glued to their ears, so when I tried to point out the pitfalls of this approach to my driver I guess I should have expected him to turn full circle, focus solely on me and not use his perfectly good mirror. Now I’m quite happy for them just to have mobiles glued to their ears. But it’s these rickshaw journeys and the complete organised chaos of road life that has got my adrenaline going. After a few days of not doing much before setting off with things started to play on my mind, like why the hell am I going to India, it’s what I needed. I love going in rickshaws as it’s a great way to see the city and Indian life, but mainly because of the mayhem.
Since I’ve been here I’ve heard gripes from people about how miscreant Karnataka State (the state which Bangalore is in) can be, i.e the ciphering of public money into greasy hands, but my main gripe is the spend on road signs; albeit highly amusing, definitely unnecessary. Bearing in mind what I said above, the state clearly get their kicks from producing light-hearted, jovial road signs. The most common are ‘Follow lane discipline’ and ‘Follow traffic rules’ which can only be short for ‘go where you want as long as you honk’.
I’m quite into football, it’s certainly more than a passing interest, so when I go away it’s always in the back of my mind that I’ll have to go and watch a match or at the very least get into a stadium and conduct my own private tour. I scoured the Bangalore map for the football stadium and made it out, just. The cricket and tennis stadiums were en route so I thought I’d have a look. From previous experience of getting into stadia in developing countries you need to have a bit of patience to find the right opening and you’ll be in. To my significant annoyance it’s a bit different in India, there are security guards all around. The cricket and tennis stadiums aren’t due to be used till November but were still guarded. The same was true here but I just had to win. After asking three different guards to let me in and getting refused I managed to climb over a gate and hop in. 1-0 me. Whilst snooping around the lower tier I heard cheering and shouting from the tier above then looked at the pitch and two teams were walking out….happy days! (I failed to note that if I’d have gone the full way round the stadium there was a gate open and banners advertising the 2nd tier Bangalore match which everyone else used, but still). The match was hilarious, the funniest match I’ve ever seen and terrible quality.
The one major problem I’m having in India is working out the head wobble. It doesn’t help that every time someone does it I let out a little immature giggle but I just can’t work it out. Instead of doing the normal western nod for yes, shake for no, Indians wobble their head regardless. My hostel owner goes one step further as his head wobble is so extravagant it’s like a jack- in-a-box and his neck springs every time he wobbles yes or no. The only way you can definitely work it out is if it’s a definite yes as they will crack into a big smile – if it’s just an agreement or no their facial expression doesn’t change.
So to my final point and the most overwhelming part of my trip so far….
I’ve been going round Bangalore with an American called Scott, he’s quite cultured and knows a lot about India and Nepal having been here on and off for nearly 4 years, so he’s been giving me and introductory guide to India which has proved quite helpful. He suggested going to a Hindu temple and seeing a ‘service’ (that’s definitely not the right word to use but I can’t think of a better one) which seemed a decent idea, when in Rome and all that.
Apparently 9,000 people go to this temple every day and at a guess, I’d say there were at least 1,000 people there when we arrived. Scott got talking to a local girl who said she would guide us round. Instead of observing which is what I had in mind, she made special arrangements for us to join in (don’t laugh, it really was not funny). For some reason part of the ritual was closed off to everyone, but this girl made special arrangements for us to do it. So in front of 1,000+ worshippers, all their eyes on two western guys getting special spiritual privileges over them, in their place of worship, we followed this girl around 108 steps in the centre of this temple chanting a Hare Hare Krishna chant on every step (I hasten to add I did try to get out of this but was pushed back by security guards straight away and scared of an even bigger scene bottled it and continued). Once we’d completed the 108 steps we joined a queue to carry on. The temple was now rammed with people pushing everywhere and finding it hard to breath I had to stand on tip toes to get some air. The queues were like this for the remaining 40 minutes we were in their so when we got out I was drained, mentally and physically and I felt as though we were intruding on others’ beliefs, none of which I understood and probably lessened the seriousness of the experience for them as we had turned into the main attraction. The whole experience was extremely uncomfortable and unexpected. I felt more on my guard than ever before.
So now I’m in Pondicherry on the east coast (French architecture, French food and French drink), the setting for the start of Life of Pi, ready to watch the second day of The Ashes as it’s a bit too hot to be walking around.
I’m off back to Bangalore for the weekend on Friday then probably onto Mysore which is east of Bangalore. I say probably because I wasn’t going to come to Pondicherry until October, so we’ll see how it works out!
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