|Side walk activities|
At a quarter to five, every morning, we are woken by the ringing bells of the Holy Ghost Church, a huge house of worship just around the corner from our residence. This is, about fifteen minutes later, followed by the beautiful but loud, amplified, minaret calls of the muezzin, who urges his fellow believers to begin their daily prayer; not wanting to be left behind, (btw, the firecrackers of Diwali have kept us up all night) we hear the chanting and footsteps along our bungalow wall of many devout Hindus, on their way to one of their many temples, to worship another one of their many gods.
|Every market sells flowers for different forms of worship|
If this wasn’t enough and to complement this religious cacophony, at around seven the traffic system starts to get seriously into gear and within minutes, there is a swelling of noise of old backfiring cars, air polluting autorikshas (they all have impressive sounding horns) decrepit buses, two, three and four wheelers not to speak of the tens of barking stray dogs and wailing cats. Add to this the never ending construction sounds of the city (drilling, hammering, cementing..) which, seemingly are coming from anywhere and you have an idea what Bangalore, where we have made our home for six months, sounds like in the morning.. O yeah! Add to this the morning chorus of birds – crows, koels, sunbirds, pigeons, bulbuls, mynahs, hawks….
We have arrived in India and yet so far are loving every minute of it. Apart from the never ending sounds, the many smells, colors and experiences are overwhelming and mesmerizing. Christine seems less impressed than I am; after an absence of around thirty five years she has effortlessly glided back into the Indian way of life that seems to be still ingrained in her genes. I realize now, that her Hindi is not as bad as she made it out to be. With expert instructions, she manages the house-hold and makes sure that everybody knows who the memsahib is. Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far..
When we announced to a couple of Indian friends, that, after our extended stay in the Netherlands now the time had come to visit India for a serious length of time (we were planning a stay in India for over six months) they chuckled and predicted that we would be running towards the exit gates within two weeks of our stay. This never happened; on the contrary; people say you love it or hate it here, there is no middle-way; we love it but circumstances might also have something to do with this.
|TAATAAA !!!!(honk please)|
In the first place, we are staying at a truly wonderful place, from which we make and plan our trips into the country. It’s an old colonial bungalow in Richards-Town, part of Bangalore, a former British garrison town with big trees and gardens. The bungalow or banagala (as the locals pronounce it) is the property of Hazel, Christine’s old school friend who also hosted us in perfect conditions in Australia. The place has been in the family for several generations. This whole area used to consist of houses like this, but, tempted by huge profits, many of the owning families decided to sell off their beautiful homes and gardens to developers, who build/built luxury apartments or huge flats on the plots of land. Some families are holding out, Hazel’s one of them.
|Hazel's and for six months our oasis..|
The bungalow comes with a big garden with a lot of fruit trees , staff (Azzam, the gardener and general go-to guy, the cook, Mary who makes the most wonderful Indian meals, (the only thing we do is the shopping) and Padma, the (almost) full time cleaning lady), a small Maruti , with which I try to frighten the locals on the over-congested boulevards and streets and Toffee, the adopted guard dog, who does little guarding and doesn’t look like a dog but a bandicoot.
|Mary, cooking up a monsoon....|
With this set up and within this setting, it’s very tempting and easy to spend days in complete pampered bliss, oblivious of the real world problems directly outside the garden gates. After our trips into the country, it’s great to come back here, reorganize and retool for a couple of days and then be off again.
|Russell market...shopping for Mary|
In the second place, Bangalore seems to be one of the “better” Indian cities to hang out in. When we arrived at the airport mid November, I expected masses of people trying to fight their way through customs and an arrival hall full of harassers and cabbies, niggling you with outrageous taxi fares or “fantastic” hotel deals but none of that occurred. We went through customs quickly, the newly built arrival hall was as quiet as Perth International (there are hardly any people there) and the cab driver was courteous and friendly. Bangalore is called the garden City of India and one can still detect the old beauty of the place, although, of course, the population explosion has done tremendous damage to the environment and tree-lined streets. Here, though, in and around Richards-Town, the old trees have taken precedence. Roads, which followed, give way to these old giants. Driving along, suddenly you will find that the road takes a sudden curve around a old ‘gol-mohur’ or tamarind. Driver beware!!
|Another market scene|
Also, walking around here is not an unpleasant and interesting experience (as long as you don’t mind trash, pot holed side-walks and exhaust fumes). Bangalore is an international city, there are many campuses and call centers of big multinationals such as Microsoft, Canon, HP here and people are used to foreigners; not only as tourists but also as neighbors or colleagues. Yet so far, we have hardly been bothered by beggars or begging children (although they are there) and the interactions with the shopkeepers and store owners are great and almost always make you smile.
|There's always food here|
Last but not least, Tajikistan prepared us well; a dysfunctional infrastructure, smelling (or even worse, lack of) toilets or big piles of rubbish are not really fazing us anymore after a year in Central Asia. The dreaded Dehli Belly, as well as the feared BIB (Bangalore Irritable Bowel) have been kept at bay or not arrived yet. Moreover, India has all the luxuries you need, if you can afford them. Shopping malls bigger than in Hong Kong, wireless internet access, the best restaurants, the latest I-phones and a never-ending stream of television channels if you care to watch (we can enjoy Comedy Central's Jon Stewart here, be it a couple of days after the original broadcast). So, in spite of all the trash lying around (there is an ongoing garbage strike here and we think, that even if the matter gets resolved, they will never be able to clear all the garbage efficiently) the potholes, pollution and overcrowding, it’s something we can easily live with.
|Happy New Year everyone.....|
So here we are; blissfully happy in Bangalore. We made one change to our daily routine and both became members of the local gym (the Bodi Quest) to stay relatively fit. It’s hard to have a decent walk here; the exhaust fumes are really bad and build up steadily during the day, as reported, the sidewalks are uneven with potholes and trash and drivers of all stripes don’t hesitate to use the various walk ways as an alternative route or parking space, if they a get a chance. Time to pack our bags and head off to the gym......