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Simply Bangalore (because any title using a pun of “bang” would just sound dirty)

15 June 2008

So this past weekend, my flatmate Amy and I left Chennai and headed to Bangalore. The purpose of our trip was ostensibly to visit with a related NGO out there, but, in my mind, we were just going to escape the Chennasty heat. (Slight diversion: One of my flatmates uses the names “Chennice” and “Chennasty” for our lovely city, choosing which to be used depending on weather, smell, and temperament of auto-rickshaw drivers on any given day. During this third season of the year, Hottest (the other two being Hot and Hotter), when the aroma from the Cooum River reaches its all-time, gag-inducing high, as does the orneriness of auto drivers, I prefer the term Chennasty.)

We took the Shatabdi Express train on Thursday evening, and it was quite possibly the nicest train ride I have ever taken. Only 4 1/2 hours to Bangalore, and they pretty much feed you the whole way. We didn’t expect to receive anything, so when the white-bread, crustless, carrot and butter sandwich with ketchup, samosa, biscuits, and juice box arrived, we were so excited, we took a picture.

Woo woo! Food! The locals think we\'re crazy.
Woo woo! Food!

The locals must have thought we were crazy. Or at least this one little girl did —

Little Girl on Shatabdi Express tries to steal my water bottle but can\'t figure out how to get it out of the holder. Not so sneaky!

Then we really looked crazy when we repeated the whole photo process with the breadstick on a tray and, ten minutes later, the paper cup of soup. I would say, “It’s been ten minutes — where’s our elevensies?”, and we’d get coffee. Then the full meal came – paneer tikka masala, dal, chapatti, salad… oi – then more coffee, and finally, ice cream. And then we were in Bangalore.

Straight from Wikitravel: “Bangalore, officially known as Bengaluru, is one of the most hip and happening cities in India and also a major center of the I.T. industry.” Most hip and happening? I suppose, but really I just felt that I had gone home for the weekend (without family and friends, of course, but you get my point). Cleaner than Chennai, more metropolitan, bigger houses, less-obvious poverty, autos with working meters where you didn’t have to haggle up front, women in western clothing and less sarees, malls with European and American stores… I was still in India, but I didn’t feel like I was in India.

Friends enjoy the excitement of M.G. Road while a local man tries to protect his daughter from the obvious mental patients on a field trip.
Two of my friends enjoy the excitement of M.G. Road,
while a local man tries to protect his daughter from the
obvious mental patients on a field trip.

We ate at good restaurants, took in some of the nightlife, did some shopping, enjoyed the cool weather (had to buy a wrap just to keep warm enough at night – it was heavenly!), went on “safari” (another post all on its own to come later this week), met some young Indian I.T. professionals — all in all, a nice respite from my Indian city and refreshing in its own way.

(Warning: Cheesy, self-awareness paragraph ahead!) Yet, as I lay in my top bunk on my overnight train back to Chennai, I was happy to be going back. I did enjoy Bangalore, and part of me did wish for one moment that I had been transferred there. But then I thought about the differences between the two cities, and Chennai won out. I have friends I can talk to there, a nice flat, good work. And there is none of that westernized pressure to portray yourself as always put together and confident. I didn’t realize how freeing it is to let that go and just be myself until I felt reinserted into that atmosphere. And, as the train rocked me to sleep, I just felt glad to be headed back home.

And, for all its bells and whistles, Bangalore isn’t really all that much like Chicago and is still quintessentially Indian in a few ways…

A cow waits for work on a street in Bangalore.

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