Bangalore Express

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I arrived in Bangalore early in the morning and had to wait until my last-minute host (found thanks to a new friend who proved fantastically helpful and kind in rushed situations) contacted me – the one I had arranged on my own had suddenly cancelled. At the train station I obtained a map of the city and decided to take a local bus to a big green patch I had spotted: Lal Bagh, the botanical garden. I was quite pleased at the entrance to see that there was only one price for everyone and I dutifully paid my 10 rupees. After only a few steps I already quite liked the place but I was also quite tired so I decided to have a nap on a bench there, my bags and guitar next to me. I chose a bench away from the main path, in a bonsai garden that was empty and naively thought I could have a few hours to myself, resting. That was forgetting two rules in India:

1) you will never be alone – the extreme version being “there’s always someone watching”

2) Indian people don’t give a damn about the fact that you might be sleeping. Whether you have your eyes closed in a train or on a bench or wherever, if they have decided to talk to you they will. They will wake you up as if it were the most natural thing to do and will never apologize or mention the fact that they just woke you up.

Following those rules, I only slept a little before being awoken by a random Indian guy who had some time to kill and wanted to kill it with me. Since every rule has an exception, this man actually apologized for waking me up and said half-heartedly that if I wanted, he would let me sleep some more. He was obviously bored and looking for company so I sat up and we chatted the morning away, going around the garden.

I guess the garden would look completely different after the monsoon, it was rather dry that time but still very enjoyable. When my host finally contacted me I was glad to have an excuse to slip away and I crossed the whole city in my first ever Indian AC bus to get to the posh parts. Although I was quite cold in the stupid AC, I enjoyed the ride along the large streets shaded by big old trees. The ticket attendant was very kind to me.

When I finally got to my host’s I had a great time there with Pooja and her husband. Pooja showed me how to cook a dal and chapatis. Watching the precision of each movement of her hands was a delight. She was obviously a fantastic cook and it looked as if she had already done a million chapatis but she obviously still enjoyed it.

With her I also went to the mall – there are apparently in Bangalore no old-style markets where one can buy cheap clothes, or so I was told. I had expressed the unusual wish to go shopping because in the train the day before, I had suddenly realised how dirty my only pair of trousers looked and I had become desperate for a second one so that I could wash the first pair. Pooja helped me choose my first salwar and kurta ensemble – I didn’t have the budget to go for the total Indian look and buy the sort of scarf that usually goes with it. I slipped into my new clothes as soon as we got home… it felt wonderfully comfortable and more adapted to the hot weather than my own stuff.

I left the next day. It was a day when India was supposed to be “closed” which mean that there is a strike going on. Pooja therefore dropped me very early at the bus station but as it turned out, if other parts of India were more affected as I was soon to find out, Bangalore was not closed at all and I arrived a good three hours before my train without any trouble.

My 24 hours in Bangalore left a good impression – I might go back another time to confirm!

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