Hello, India! Day 6

Our first few minutes in India may have been a hint of what the rest of our stay will be like…exciting, confusing, difficult communication, noisy, overwhelming.

We arrived in Bangalore, at the bottom of India, at 1:40am.  At the Immigration desk, they sent me to a separate lane instead of looking at our documents as a couple.  My Immigration guy barked something.   Sign! as he threw my immigration form and a pen across the counter at me.  I couldn’t figure out what I was supposed to sign.  He kept barking “sign”.   Thankfully, the person behind me pointed out a tiny box that needed my signature.   So much for a gracious Indian welcome.

Steve was expecting a driver to meet us.  Zip.  The taxi sharks were circling, but we found the hotel’s transportation rep and he got us into a car pronto.  I took a deep breath as we passed through the door to India outside.  Very relieved there weren’t beggars and hawkers grabbing at us.  The ride into Bangalore City was 45 minutes, mostly expressway.  Amazing how many people were on the road at 2:30am.

Our hotel looked like an impenetrable fortress at first.  There was no clear entry, just a tall wall that was doorless.  Suddenly the wall moved. It was really a big gate being pushed by a thin, old man.  But the hotel’s inner courtyard welcomed with backlit bamboo and a cutting-edge contemporary glass lobby.  The night manager, dressed in a black suit and jacket with Nehru collar, personally walked us to our room.  Check-in took five minutes tops.   Beautiful room, but at 3:00am, too tired to explore.  At 3:30am, we laid our heads on soft pillows and very high thread count sheets.  I said a goodnight thank you to the Gods of Linen, happy for my ultra-sensitive skin.

At 9:00am we raised the blinds to see India in daylight.  Big (6.5 million in Bangalore), hazy sky, leftover colonial buildings, modern high rises, dead-end construction, active construction, the din of traffic, and yes, slums mixed with all that.  I think my heart stopped for a second when I took that first look.   Beauty and poverty hand in hand.

Generally I am good with languages and accents, but I’m having trouble here.  It’s British English, spoken fast, and it hits my ears with a whoosh of word bites.  I have to ask people to repeat several times.   Steve said he had the same problem today during his meetings.

This afternoon I left the safe confines of the hotel.  As soon as that big wall gate closed behind me, I was in the thick of it.  Mopeds whizzing like bees, small trucks atop motorbikes, cars, streams of people, the construction roar of a new rapid transit system.  A 3-story market beckoned.  I spent a great hour browsing, comparing prices, people watching.  The produce section was my favorite: lots of intriguing vegetables.  I bought a few snacks and the clerk closed the bag with a locking plastic tie.  As I left, a guard asked for my receipt and punched some holes in it.  No clue.

I walked a while, very conscious that I was one of the few white-skinned people on the street, let alone a blonde.  I’d like to think they were staring because of my exceptional gorgeousness, but I’m pretty sure it’s because I’m a stranger.  Several touts fell in as I walked, wheedling me to take a look, take a look, more persistent than I’d expected, but they finally gave up and fell away.  Sidewalks were hard to navigate…potholes, broken pavement, sometimes it disappeared altogether.  After a few hours, I felt like I’d run a gauntlet.   The hotel beckoned with air-conditioned refuge and chilled bottled water.

Because Steve had an online meeting, we ate in the hotel and ordered from the Indian cuisine section:  mushrooms and corn cooked in spinach, lentils and mixed vegetables cooked in coconut milk and coriander, and mutton in spicy red sauce.  The two “mild” vegetable dishes both kicked, but all were delicious, especially sopping them up with multi-grained  fresh bread baked on a grill across the room.

We decided to attend the Manager’s Reception in the bar.  A dozen men were milling around a small buffet of appetizers, but we were politely told those were snacks for a private meeting and were ushered to a table set aside for Manager’s Reception guests.  No manager.  We had a drink, were asked several times did we want another, and with two swallows left, the bar waiter appeared with three heaping plates of appetizers.  We tasted all three dishes, good stuff, but we were stuffed.  Complimentary but confusing.

Look forward to tomorrow:  car with driver guide who will whisk me around Bangalore City’s attractions.

About to be sleeping in Bangalore as jetlag kicks in,

Globetrotting Donna

One Response to “Hello, India! Day 6”

  1. Margaret says:

    Hey y’all,

    I’m enjoying your trip, especially now that you’ve hit India. Good luck tomorrow, hope you see some fabulous sights and wow the locals with your own blonde self. Just don’t lick anything weird.

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