During my Rs 200 pre-paid government taxi ride to my hotel, I saw a cow walking down the city sidewalk. A bit strange, perhaps, but Indians do love their cows, right? A short time later I saw another cow, this one running down the sidewalk!
Today is the 60th anniversary of India’s Independence. The Times of India headline reads, “60 & Getting Sexier” and “Celebrating 60 Years of Independence. LIVE IT UP INDIA.” I read the Bangalore Times section while eating my delicious complimentary breakfast of chai, iddli, sambar, those donut things that I always forget the name of, coconut chutney, and a grain dish (not quite a porridge) with small dried berries and perhaps cashews. The section focused mostly on “Young India,” reporting that 94% of young people (16-24) would want to be reborn as Indians, and that they rate their freedom in India as a 6 on a scale of 1 to 10.
My bags are reorganized, I’m fed and (a little) rested, wearing clean and not too wrinkled clothes. I’ve been serenaded by the symphony of honking all morning. It’s time to leave my room and step out on the street!
I accomplished the things I needed to do today, including getting a cell phone. Who knew that you need a photo and copies of your passport in order to get one? After many trips back and forth to the shop, I was finally set. In the process I located a small internet service (the ones in Lonely Planet didn’t seem to exist anymore, but no matter, there are small internet services everywhere). With that mission accomplished (she says wryly – will that phrase ever be usable again?), I wandered around the MG Road area where I am staying. There were lots of people out and about, presumably off work for the holiday. I went up Brigade Rd. and turned left on MG (Mahatma Gandhi) Road. Well at least that’s what I assumed I did, because I can’t for the life of me find any street signs in Bangalore. Occasionally, a business will list its address on a sign, which gives reassurances that you are indeed where you thought you might be. There’s a local map in Lonely Planet which seems pretty accurate, but the LP Bangalore map and the map in the City Info booklet provided by the hotel don’t really match up. Or rather they show different things. And of course none of the places I need to go over the next few days show up on either, so I will have to hope that the autorickshaw drivers recognize the addresses. I turned left on Museum Street, and then left again on Church, tracing the boundaries of the neighborhood. I quickly discovered that there are many excellent bookshops in this area, and that I needn’t have brought books with me to read, because there are many excellent selections here. My favorite was Blossom (address: opposite Amoeba, Church Street), with three floors of used books. There I picked up the amusing little volume, Learn Kannada in 30 Days Through English. Wouldn’t that be great if it could be true! I am here to take Kannada lessons, among other things. The book will probably end up being a good reference for me, but the letters are printed so small that I would need a magnifying glass to really see the differences in the characters. Still the book claims to provide phrases with “maximum possible commonness of Indian languages and Indian culture,” offering helpful phrases such as “My name is…” “Where is the stable?” and “I am a virgin.”
I was prepared for the chaos that is Indian streets through stories from friends, but actually trying to cross the street myself was an adventure. An intersection with a traffic light is a real treat. My method so far is to notice when a group of people are waiting to cross and following them.
I passed the Karnataka Office of Pollution Control on Church St. – evidently a needed agency, given that my eyes are full of gunk after only one day.