December 27, 2006

Bangalore Day 2 - afternoon

Bangalore is an almost overwhelming maelstrom of impressions. There are women wearing beautiful saris carrying large budens on their heads past barefood sewer workers blithely carrying on in the middle of traffic rushing by on both sides of them as they work.

The sidewalk is cut stone slabs laid on kerb stones, but in places have fallen through or broken exposing the trench beneath. In some places it smells of urine, in most places it is dusty or dirty, often there is no sidewalk at all, and you share the road with traffic.

There are exquisite small shops in almost every block where local people shop and enjoy their daily lives, but as yet despite my curiosity I haven't had a chance to try them. I'm sure we'll get our chance.

Besides the small stores, there are also street food vendors selling all sorts of foods. Roasted peanuts, chaat, snacks of all sorts that I don't yet even have names for. Our local friends tell us not to eat at the street carts, but I'm sure we'll try them sooner or later...

The traffic is bad, but not so horrendous (yet) as we've been lead to believe. There have been a few cases of gridlock, often lots of traffic, but it's just traffic. There's dust and haze, lots of unfamiliar vehicles, but on the other hand it makes sense. Smaller vehicles, bikes, lots of small two-wheelers. It may be hard because we like to walk, and we like to take busses but it'll work out.

One thing that's taking some getting used to is how dogs are treated. In San Francisco we meet a lot of our neighbors through their dogs. We see them on the street, we say hi, we pet them. In Bangalore I have yet to see an obviously "pet" dog. We see lots of dogs, but none of them seem to have owners. Maybe they're "neighborhood" or "community" dogs, or maybe they're just strays, but they're all over. I have have no desire to try to befriend or even pet these dogs. It's a shock.

In spite of all the differences, there are pockets of familiarity. Not necessarily the things I find most attractive about my world, yet they are familiar. Global brands, designer labels, and rows of high end stores. MG Road and Brigade Road have all the familiar names and storefronts, but with a distinctly Indian twist - they all have generators waiting in front of them for the inevitable power failures.

We quickly found the shopping streets, the malls, and the big hotel restaurants. While they have their charms, I look forward to spending more time and enjoying more of the things that make Bangalore, and India what they are. It's not Dominos, malls, traffic, or even fancy restaurants in five star hotels. I don't know what it is yet, but I look forward to learning more.
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