Sitrep: Been in Bangalore for about 2 weeks now. That’s 14 days and nights and for several of those I was primary preoccupied with getting my act together re: baggage, glasses, phone and internet connectivity, to name a few. But now that things are settling into a somewhat less hectic routine, I’ve had a little more time to think about where I am.
Disclaimer: This is and isn’t my first time in Bangalore. It isn’t because it’s not the first time I’ve visited the city – having been here once last summer to visit my brother and extended family, and another time many many years ago for an inter-school computer symposium. However, it is my first extended stay in the city, which is proving to be rather entertaining so far.
Now, when I say “my first extended stay in the city”, I lie. Because Yelahanka, the satellite town the iSTEP team is living near is actually about 20km from the heart of Bangalore i.e. not really in the city. We aren’t living here because we’re public transit masochists – it’s because Mathru School for the Blind, our community partner is also located in the area and the commute barely takes 5 minutes in either direction.
What does this translate into? Why hour-long bus journeys into and out of the city, of course! The buses in Bangalore come in many different shapes and sizes. They range from state-owned air-conditioned low floor buses with LED displays and PA systems, to privately-owned loud and flashy buses with on-board TVs and dive bar inspired lighting.
That said, all kinds of buses get the job done. It takes at most about Rs. 15 to travel the length of one such route – the 285. I hereby dub the 285s that ply Dodaballapur Road as the team’s fleet of iSTEPmobiles. We used them hours after landing in the city to get to SL’s house in Sanjay Nagar and have been doing so consistently to get in and out of the city.
Why only last night, a troupe of 6 iSTEPers boarded one such 285 into town to get dinner after a productive week of work. When you board such a bus, a few things stand out immediately: the front of the bus is occupied predominantly by women, while the back is filled with men. This isn’t really segregation for segregation’s sake, but more of an unwritten travel safety precaution for women in Bangalore. While this is not to say that every male in the back of the bus has malicious intentions, the sheer number of people trying to pack into a bus can make things uncomfortable for female passengers at times.
So yeah, buses can get crowded and you don’t always get into an air-conditioned one to your destination. But then, who needs freon-powered climate control in Bangalore? I’m 90% convinced that the city is centrally air-conditioned. The weather so far has been more or less perfect for the past 2 weeks and for all intents and purposes I would be satisfied with a similar pattern for the next 7 weeks after the complete unpredictability of Pittsburgh’s weather. Sunny breezy t-shirt weather with the occasional afternoon shower to freshen things up on a muggy day. The weather is instrumental in determining my mood for any given day.
So the 285 reaches the stop where our trajectory and it’s route diverge. Time to switch to another mode of public transportation: the auto. I’m sure other posts prior to mine have talked at length about the virtues and vices of these little three-wheeled puttering motorized rickshaws. But what I can regale you with is the means to which drivers will go to extort exorbitant amounts of money from you. First of all we have the blatantly overpriced first offer that a naïve passenger may accept. Then you have the “meter x 1.5” or “meter + 20” method, which involves scaling or shifting the official meter fare depending on a number of arbitrary factors such as the weather, traffic, time of the day, what the autowallah had for lunch that day and your neighbor’s dog’s general temperament. Of course, this method may be compounded by a tampered meter designed to record up to twice the official fare anyway. Top this off with a tendency for auto drivers to conveniently not have change when the passenger doesn’t tender exact change. All of this means that my deep mistrust of auto drivers has seamlessly transferred from Delhi to Bangalore.
But then of course, the team reaches it’s final destination for food – Opus, a karaoke joint. Food in Bangalore so far has been received well by most, if not all, of the iSTEP team’s GI tracts. Even the Powerpuff Girls (Madeleine as Blossom, Maddie as Buttercup, Avia as Bubbles) are handling spice levels really well. The combination of lunch courtesy Ms. Muktha’s generous hospitality and a combination of SL’s mom’s cooking and dining out for dinner has exposed everyone to a wide variety of Indian cuisines. Of course, my Malayali south Indian tastes are somewhat at odds with the Kannada way of cooking some dishes, but I can’t really complain – after 9 months of cooking my own Indian food, I’m glad to let someone else do it for me.
Food. Check. Weather. Check. Travel. Check plus. 😉 I’ve covered most of what can be covered in a 2-week check in post. Hopefully I’ll be able to cover things like local attractions and similar topics in a post towards the end of the internship. If my are starting to seem extremely long and boring, please feel free to email me about how I should shorten them so I may take visceral pleasure in deleting those emails.