February 17, 2007

Arriving in Bangalore - The Bandh

After 4 days in Singapore, we left at around 8pm and arrived in Bangalore at 10pm. This time we knew the drill, picked up our luggage and quickly found our driver. The swarms of drivers waiting outside were reassuring not intimidating, and the pushy porters wanting to load our bags were just part of the scene. When the porter asked for US$10 for loading our bags I didn't get upset or confused - I just laughed. That's the price of a nice dinner for two. I instead offered him US$5 (which is pretty standard in the US - about $1/bag - and nearly quite generous in Bangalore.)

The driver was a pleasant friendly fellow named Sanjay, who it turns out has been my driver pretty much all week. He drove us to the guest house, we put our stuff away and went to bed.

Guest House

This guest house thing is pretty nice. Google has rented most of a place called the Maranatha Apartments in D'Souza layout. (If you know what Maranatha means, and who the D'Souzas are it's not really surprising...) The guest house consists of a three or four separate apartments each with a large common area and three or four bedrooms. For the first few days we basically had the place to ourselves. It felt very luxurious. Fridge stocked with juices, sodas, and milk. Lots of snacks, fresh fruit, cereal and bread. People come in and clean, take your laundry, fix meals.

The next day (Sunday) we wandered around the neighborhood a little. Had coffee at the local Cafe Coffee Day. The coffee was decent, but the "chocolate croissant" was ... interesting. More like a long choclate "snail" than a croissant. This was a fairly thick risen yeast dough rolled around some chocolate then baked and dipped in chocolate. Not exactly a "pain au chocolate" but still tasty with coffee. Walked up to MG road, bought some books including the excellent Eicher map that someone recommended in the comments after I complained about the lack of good maps. Eventually walked down MG road to Bangalore Central and took an auto-rickshaw back to the guest house.

The Bandh

Monday was interesting. The state of Karnataka, where Bangalore is, is involved in a water dispute, primarily with the state of Tamil Nadu. There's an argument about just how much water from the Cauvery River Karnataka has to release to Tamil Nadu. There's a water board specifically set up to decide these disputes, and they had decided that Karnataka had to release more water to Tamil Nadu than Karnataka thought they should have to. (The decision will have significant impact on farmers in both states, regardless of how it ends up.) In protest of the decision, various Karnataka organizations had called a dawn-to-dusk statewide "bandh."

As far as I can tell a bandh is a kind of general strike, usually organized by a political organization to make a political point. What I'm less clear about is how this bandh was supposed to advance the cause it was supposedly advocating. A general strike by the common people in protest to decisions by the government or other people in power that they disapprove of I understand as a protest technique. But this was a strike that was supported (or at least not disapproved of) by all the state political parties. Its effect would be primarily on the state that was the aggreived party, not on the people making the decisions. It seemed to me very much in the vein of "I'll show you, I'll shit my pants!"

Anyway, we were told to not come in to the office, and that everything would basically be closed from 6am to 6pm. So we hung out in the guest house, ate, read, and finally got bored. I decided it would be ok to walk the two blocks to the Google office, though Debbie was a little concerned. As we walked down the street it was a little eerie. There was basically no traffic. No autos, no private cars, no two wheelers, no bikes, and very few pedestrians. There was a police officer armed with a rifle at the one intersection we went through, and a strange quiet over the entire city. The office was open and we had internet connectivity, so we hung out there for the rest of the day. Later, we wandered over to Nandhini Paradise our local Andhara place and had spicy food and went home to bed.
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