Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Idea Mani: How to Cross the Road in India

My dad's apartment in Bangalore is opposite a restaurant. Both my dad and I being not such great cooks, we would often trek across the main road and down the some 50meters to eat fantastic food at a groovy vegetarian restaurant. When my dad wasn't around, my brother and I were totally lost as to how to cross the road! We both came up with several ideas on how it could be done. Some are listed below.

Idea Mani-yin idea No: 5
Look left. Look Right. Continue to look left and right. Once you have looked both ways, go back inside, pick up the phone and order takeaway.

Idea No: 4
Approach the security guard at the gate and ask him to accompany you across.

Idea No: 3
Look totally lost (not hard to do!). An auto-rickshaw will find you. Ask the driver to drive you to the otherside.

Idea No: 2

Wait for someone else to cross the road. Slowly inch towards them and as soon as they start crossing, cross the road with them - using them as your safety shield.

Idea No: 1 (apparently this is how it's done)
give yourself the honorary title of "traffic police". Stick your hand out so as to order all traffic to stop for you and nod your head authoritatively. Close your eyes and walk across.

Pat yourself on the back for making it alive once you have reached the otherside!

First Impression

NOTE: I typed this up on my first day - after which I didn't have as much time. I did however, take notes on most days and so will write up a complete summary of my holiday. As I took absolutely NO photos, I am going to have to make up for it with words. The next few posts will be more for my benefit than anyone else's! Shobha: Your post will be appearing soon!

Day 1:

Well I am alive and well in India!! First impression: India is full of Indians! As silly as that sounds, it is completely true!

I arrived in Bangalore at around 11:00pm but didn’t actually step out of the airport till 12:30 am! Something about how they were scanning the bags before sending them out – don’t ask me why they had to scan it all again once we stepped out though :P It was hilarious watching all the men yelling in English in their strong Indian accents about how this wouldn’t happen anywhere else in the world! I can amuse myself for hours here – just listening to people talk!

I was picked up from the airport by my dad and his friend and I drove home thinking, “This isn’t so bad!”. The roads are obviously more empty at night than they are during the day!

On my first day here, I went and met a few of our family friends here and two of my cousins from Chennai came over to see me. The train my cousins took (Brindavan Express), had apparently run over some guy who had tried to cross the rails, and so it was delayed by some 1½ hours. I also visited my grandparent’s bookshop – the guy who looks after it now was telling me how late trains are the only way his bookshop survives and he said, “Accident case-na engalukku unnum jolly!”

The Drive…

I also had a lot of “fun” watching my dad drive – we only had two “small” accidents. One with an auto rickshaw and another with some other small car. For both, my dad stopped and yelled at the drivers in Kannada – they did the same back to my dad. There was no exchange of licence details and still more, they didn’t even pull over for their verbal outburst! They each rolled down the windows and yelled things that I can’t say I actually understood! I’ll just say that it was all very interesting! People – including my dad, honk for no reason! The other thing I noticed is that almost 50% of cars seem to have no side mirrors!!! The other 50%, just turn it inwards and prefer to not use it.

Apparently the way the roads work is that “You check your front, the person behind you will check your back for you!”

My friend Roopa was telling me, “If you are alive on Bangalore roads, its not because you are good driver. It is simply because everyone else has been driving well on that particular day” Good to know!

I know I am rattling on about the driving, but it is only because I spent much of my first day in the car. The only other thing I need to mention is the look of absolutely no alarm, distress, worry, sympathy or anything apart from perfect calm when two vehicles (this includes {herds of} cows) come face to face on a REALLY narrow stretch. I will leave the rest to your imagination.

The Pyormaniac

The evening was spent playing with fire crackers. I initially spent some half an hour watching little kids (about 5/6), playing with explosives, fire and other flammable goods without any supervision. I then decided to join them :P What really worried me was when kids would light a cracker, than go back to check whether they had lit it properly. If only I had a rupee for everytime I yelled out “WATCH OUT”!

However, as soon as I lit my first “Atom Bomb” all fear vanished and I unleashed the pyromaniac in me:P The evening was only slightly spoilt by two kids saying “Aunty can he have your stick [meaning the sparkler]”, but I am over it now – sort of! I should have burnt a whole in their new clothes and said “You will call me Akka dammit!”

“Saaka? Baeka?”

Also, I cooked yesterday! I made pavakai kari, dosai and polangai kozhambhu. So we ended up eating out…

For dinner, my two cousins, my dad and I went to “Adighas” for dinner. I was totally blown away by the food – and the service! I ordered a “naan” and some “malai kofta” (Tash – yes the cheese stuff:P), and “masala papadam”. I couldn’t believe the number of waiters they had. I found it really funny how they didn’t supply you with any cutlery – just the plates and the food. Once we were done, they place a bowl of warm water by your side so that you can wash your hands! Our food was ready in less than 5minutes and we had people constantly filling up our glasses with water and actually serving things onto our PLATE rather than just leaving them in bowls in front of us! What really threw me in the end was how much it cost. All four of us had a full meal (including dessert), and it came to $8! I said to my dad, “I hope you are going to tip the three waiters who have been serving us – I feel bad eating for so little!”

I then asked him “So is this the average price of food? Or have you just bought me to a cheap restaurant??” My dad looked at me and said, “Its slightly on the more expensive side.”

We are getting a driver today. Appa has bought lots of sweets, so we are going to play Santa and visit families with Diwali sweets. It should be fun! I am also hoping to do some shopping – with glass bangles right at the top of the list!

Bangalore is surely a land of contrasts. Only here can I feel like I am in Sydney – or any other developed city when I am within the confounds of these apartments, and then feel truly guilty for what I have as soon as I step out.

After a very eventful first day, I am looking forward to a more exciting second!

In summary – I am enjoying every bit of Karnataka!