Friday, July 2, 2010

Logistics: Life in Bangalore

Medalis and I have finally adjusted to life in Bangalore, and want to share some information about our daily routine, navigating the city, and cultural differences. We’ve adopted a “when in Rome” attitude, and have enjoyed immersing ourselves in Indian culture.

We are staying in a hotel in Jayanagar, which is a residential neighborhood in one of the oldest sections of Bangalore. Jayanagar is extremely safe, and we are able to return to our hotel at night without concerns for our safety. Our accommodations are very comfortable, and the hotel is similar to what one would expect in the US.

In terms of transportation, we have relied on rickshaws for most of our travel within the city. A couple words of warning to those who visit India: make sure that your driver knows how to get to your destination, and as soon as you get into the rickshaw make sure he puts on the meter. Many drivers will attempt to charge you exorbitant fixed prices, and using the meter ensures that you will be charged a fair (and much lower) price. Finally, beware of the metal bars on the roof of the rickshaws. The roads of Bangalore are riddled with speed bumps, and I had a couple of near-concussion encounters!

Bangalore offers an overwhelming variety of food which we have really enjoyed exploring. For breakfast, we usually order a dosa (essentially a pancake rolled up with some type of savory filling, a classic Indian dish) or kesari bhath (India’s answer to oatmeal – semolina prepared with sugar, ghee, almonds raisins, cardamom, saffron, and water). For lunch, we order some type of rice dish. We have eaten dinner at a different restaurant each night, sampling everything from Indian-Chinese to chaat (another classic Indian dish, usually consisting of some type of fried dough, potatoes, yogurt, onions, and spices). My favorite simple treat is a coconut, purchased from a street-side vendor for about thirty cents. After sipping the sweet coconut water, the coconut is sliced in half so that one can scoop out the sweet flesh.

In spite of the warm weather, one must dress conservatively in Bangalore. Short sleeve t-shirts are appropriate, but tank tops, sleeveless shirts, and anything low-cut is frowned upon. Another word to future visitors: leave your shorts at home. Even venturing out in capris will draw stares, so it’s best to wear long pants. Most Indian women wear a salwar kameez (a three-piece outfit consisting of loose pants or tights, a long shirt, and a scarf) or a kurta (a long shirt) and pants. Medalis and I wear kurtas and jeans or pants, a comfortable option that doesn’t draw too much attention. Sandals are a necessity in Bangalore, as the heat doesn’t lend itself well to wearing sneakers. Upon returning home from work, most Indians wash their face and feet, the latter of which are usually quite dusty!

Bangalore has much to offer. I would advice future visitors to plan on spending at least a month here, and to embrace Indian culture. If your experience is anything like ours, this warm city will welcome you with open arms!



Mysore: Part II

The second trip to Mysore came about unexpectedly in the middle of the week during our second week in Bangalore. According to the program coordinators it was really important that we register with the local police within fourteen days of arrival to Bangalore. Eva and I immediately rushed to collect all the necessary documents to present in the police station. We were told by the SVYM program coordinators that processing our documents in Mysore would expedite the process. Since we had been here for more than ten days and we were closing to hitting the fourteen-day mark we had to travel to Mysore. Thanks to the resources of SVYM we were provided with a driver that would take us to Mysore for the day.

Upon our arrival to Mysore we visited the Mysore Institute of Indian Studies, another project launched by SVYM. We met with Dr. Balu’s sister-in-law who helped us through the process. By the middle of the day, we had registered with the police. We were told that a couple of years ago, a student had not registered with the police and upon his departure he was forbidden to leave the country. Days later, after the paperwork was cleared he was finally able to leave. Needless the say, a blog from a detention center would not be a pleasant experience!

Later in the afternoon Eva and I visited Brindavan Gardens. Since the Cornell graduate students were also lodging in the same hotel where we were having lunch they joined us. It was a lovely place, with many fountains and a lively crowd.