Oh baby! When she moves! She moves!
I go crazy because she looks like a flower but she stings like a bee!
And isn’t Ellen just fabulous on Idol? I just love her. But I digress. Enough about ‘Merica and Puerto Rican 90’s pop stars. Let’s get back to India. Specifically Bengaluru. So take a moment to put on your learning caps kids. I’m about to bust out the teacher voice.
Bangalore’s population is an estimated 5.3 million people according to the internetz and is the third most populous city in India following Delhi with a none-too-shabby 12.2 million and Mumbai with a staggering 13.9 million people. For comparison, New York City (oh how I love NYC!) is the largest city in the United States with 8.3 million and Los Angeles (bleh) comes in second with 3.8 million.
Were you wondering which city has the largest population IN ZE WORLD?!!!
Well I was. So I went ahead and looked it up for you.
And the winner is: Mumbai! No, wait it’s Shanghai! Err, it kind of depends on what your Google reader tells you. (Although I suspect if you are reading this from China, odds are Google will tell you Shanghai is the winner. Google = Integrity = FAIL.) Either way, it’s really, really close. Shanghai has an estimated 13.8 million. But frankly at those levels, who’s counting? And how much does that person’s job suck?
So Bangalore is crowded. Like, A-LOT Forrest. And the crowd is a rather recent phenomenon due to the explosive growth over the past fifteen years (ish) as a Dye-Reck result of the technology boom. Yes, Bangalore, the former garden city has now become India’s Silicon Valley. Unfortunately, building the infrastructure needed to keep up with such rapid growth is problematic, to put it mildly. So the city has typical big city problems: traffic congestion, pollution, power outages, sanitation issues, erratic water supply and did I mention traffic congestion?
Oh friends, how I laughed hysterically at India’s traffic! I have been warned for years, YEARS I tell you about how I would not, could not handle the traffic Mr. Fox. I would be another white-faced bundle of expired Western nerves, a seasick gal on land ho matey.
Well I remained white-faced (not much I can do about that) but as for the seasickness, I came prepared.
I had my secret weapon / aka my new BFF:
And so I rode. I rode heavily medicated. And maybe slightly drowsy. I now realize that I spent the majority of the trip heavily medicated. I took Dramamine a couple times a day for motion sickness if we were headed somewhere, Tylenol pm to go to sleep (we’ll cover the mattress situation later) once I had to take Imodium, for, well, you don’t really want to know and the occasional Advil for general soreness/headache (again related to the mattresses).
No wonder I loved India. I was friggin high the whole time. And that’s not altogether a bad thing kids.
Thanks to my new BFF Dramamine, whom I heart dearly and will luvalwaysN4vr, (what can I say I hit the big 3-0 this year and I’m trying to stay young. Hip if possible. They say lingo is the first to go.) I could marvel / giggle at the chaos that is Indian traffic. And I have to admit: despite the chaos, there is a method to the madness. I know some of you (cough, Mama) might find that hard to believe. But it’s true. At first mouth-hanging-wide-open stare, err glance, it seems as if there are NO rules. Either that or a complete abandonment of the rules…..but there is an order amidst the chaos. It’s just a different kind of order.
Cars, scooters, rickshaws, bikes, buses, trucks, lorries, pedestrians, cows, Cows & Carts, bicycles, people, stray dogs…..they all weave in and out of each other, in front of each other, around each other, behind each other….all while honking their horns CONSTANTLY, paying no regard to lanes or right of ways, squeezing and maneuvering about in a dance like rhythm. Flow is what works here. If you drove with the rigid rules from the West, you wouldn’t last two seconds. But if you can blend into the madness and just accept that cars will turn Right in front of you without warning (which is the equivalent of turning Left in the States- they drive on the opposite side of the road) or cut across and into your lane while another car *comesrightupnexttoyou*, well then, you’ll make it!
It’s a lot like New York traffic………but with cows.
And potholes. Really BIG potholes.
So think NYC – developing nation style. (If it’s of any comfort to my mother, I hear Rome is the worst place for driving – like India, but at breakneck speeds as the roads are better and thus cars can go faster. Would now be a bad time to tell you that Italy & Greece are next on the list?)
TANGENT ALERT: Lots of taxis and trucks pimp out their horn sounds and have music play when they reverse. I think this is total AWESOMENESS. I’m determined to customize our horns now and have this song play when we reverse.)
But back to Indian traffic patterns. I don’t want to imply that there aren’t accidents with all this beautiful, organic-y and Zen-like “chaotic flow.” Of course there are accidents. I don’t have statistics, but I’m betting the fatalities and serious injuries are quite high. Somanna lost a first cousin to a traffic accident, his father was almost killed in a motorbike accident years ago and recently his other first cousin (thankfully) survived a nasty car accident. Seat belts are not widely used. Like practically not at all. Not all cars even have seat belts, thus making seat belts even more of an option. Car seats for youngn’s? Helmets for motorists, cyclists? Eh, not so much. Scary? Yes. Sad, but true.
Lecture aside, I found traffic watching and people watching one of the most fascinating and entertaining parts of the trip. You see all sorts of things. Like street vendors:
You see pretty ladies dressed up, maybe going to or leaving temple with the entire family on one bike:
Unfortunately, with increased traffic comes increased pollution:
Pollution makes walking the streets of Bangalore a bit tough on the senses, particularly the upper respiratory track. I am rather sensitive to smells in general and like any big city, Bangalore has plenty of ’em. Rickshaw fumes quickly became my arch nemesis. Well ok, maybe open sewage was worse than rickshaw fumes (yes we walked by a suspicious smelling “canal.” I decided not to look. Ignorance is bliss.) But I definitely breathed in far more rickshaw fumes than open sewage fumes, increasing my disdain for them with every put, put, putter as they zoomed past.
We soldiered on through fumes and crowd and headed to Commercial Street to partake in some retail therapy, India style. Here are some pictures of Commercial Street, the main shopping road in Bangalore during the day and at night:
Hope you like billboards!
Indian shops never lack for choice – rows upon rows upon ROWS of choice! And the shopkeeper will bring out more stuff from the back if you’re still not finding what you want. And this is just Commercial Street! All the little side streets off Commercial Street have vendors too, ready and waiting to sell, sell, sell!
Now, I get overwhelmed choosing shampoos at Target. Don’t even get me started on choosing stationary because my OCD goes into hyper-drive with paper products. So imagine how I felt when we went shopping for Saris. Because that is a whole WALL of endless color, pattern and fabric combinations in front of me. And this the third shop I had been into at this point (I think.)
The clerks at these shops, while very attentive, operate a bit like auctioneers, except instead of having one clerk/auctioneer, you’ve got three or sometimes four or five surrounding you, flinging saris onto the counter and draping them on your shoulder faster than bullets eject from an semi-automatic. It helps to shrink back and let your mother-in-law handle this as you are clearly out of your league. Talking takes too much time and then your eyes get crossed and you can’t really see the fabric or pattern and you could end up with something ugly. So I found that head gestures work best, as do gutteral grunts.
It is quite the experience 😉 So here is an obligatory picture of me stammering:
But in the end I found one, and I was/am very happy. Thanks Mavi!!!
And folks that pretty much sums up Bangalore! Bright lights, hidden gardens (yes, there are quite a few around the city, but not really known), traffic and lots of shopping! We hope you enjoyed El Chaptero Uno! Stay tuned for Chapter Two where we finally get some fresh, CLEANer Air and lots of time with La Familia!
As they say in India, See you!
(which totally cracks me up…because it is an incomplete sentence. But I digress.)
See you! Ta-Ta!