Bengaluru – September 21, 2008

September 21, 2008

This morning, I woke up at 10, feeling very good. I was surprised that I was comfortable all night with just the ceiling fan and no AC. When I woke up, I realized that I had turned off the switch that controls the AC. Duh. So that’s fixed.

As soon as I was ready, I headed out for MG Road, intent on getting a coffee at the Indian Coffee House. As it turns out, they serve full breakfasts, so the stop was ideal. The place was packed, but I was able to grab one of the yellow formica tables and sit down. I ordered a masala dosa and a coffee. 28 rupees (about 50 cents). It was absolutely amazing. While I waited for my food, a man and his young daughter joined me at my tiny table, something that would almost never happen in the States. He was an independent software consultant (welcome to Bengaluru!), and we had a pleasant conversation about the economy, business and personal debt. I’ve had several people want to know where I’m from since I’ve been here, but very few who have actually felt confident or comfortable enough to have a full conversation. It was nice to connect with him.

I left the coffee house and headed up MG toward Cubbon Park, which is like a slightly shabby and rundown version of Central Park in New York, containing lots of open green space, beautifully landscaped gardens, the State Library, a few museums, and even the Karnataka High Court. My first stop was the Children’s Playground, which is a huge area with tons of playground equipment and even a little kids’ train that runs all over the park. I watched some of the kids play, missing my own, and then wandered on to the Government Museum. This is a rather drab and depressing collection of various archeological findings (primitive tools, sculptures, musical instruments, documents) and drawings of historical sites throughout India. It was very interesting, in spite of the lack of explanatory information. From there, I wandered into the Venkatappa Art Gallery, which contains artwork of all sorts by the 20th Century India artist, Sri K Venkatappa, who was the court painter to the Wodeyars, and also seems to have been capable of nearly any artistic feat. All of his art is on the main floor of the museum, but the other two floors contained art by other Indian artists that was equally compelling. As I wandered through both museums, I cursed my art history education for leaning so heavily on European art and teaching me absolutely nothing about Eastern art history. Oh, for the record, admission to the two museums cost 4 rupees – about a dime. Yep.

A funny conversation with the man at the government ticket window:

“What country are you from, sir?”
“I’m from America.”
“Are you from Mexico, sir? Mexico City?”
“No, United States of America.”
“Oh.”

After the museums, I wandered through Cubbon Park and watched the various picnicking couples and families. I then wandered up and down Cubbon Road, looking for the Karnataka State Tourism Development Corporation office to find out information about city and Mysore tours, but never found it. I then wandered up to the furniture district, for no particular reason, before returning to the the MG area.

I’m now situated in a coffee shop called Java City, where I’ve just finished a paneer tikka roti roll and a cold coffee (which was really coffee and milk and chocolate syrup) and got caught up on not being online for the past couple of days. Amazing how dependent I’ve become on the internet – for everything.

One thing I’ve noticed about myself (and you’ve probably noticed it too): I’m kind of a wimpy traveler. I get overwhelmed really easily (though I do soldier on through it), I get self-conscious about my language skills (though I still try to talk to people) and I periodically need to retreat to my hotel room to recharge (though I spend most of the day out on the street). All of this aligns to what the Myers-Briggs folks would call “introversion.” Maybe so.

One thing I’ve noticed about Bengaluru: there seem to be a lot of laws that just aren’t enforced at all. For example, there’s apparently been a law on the books for ages the prohibits smoking in public places, but I’m currently sitting in a coffee shop in a cloud of tobacco smoke. The other area where laws seem irrelevant is on the road. There are signs everywhere, reminding people to stay in their lanes, to mind their speed, to stay off certain parts of the road – and yet, when anyone does any of these things, there is no enforcement whatsoever. I wonder if this explains, at all, what’s going on with the attacks on Christians. Even though religious persecution of any kind is a violation of the Constitution, the local government just seemed really reluctant to get involved, almost as if to say, “Let them work it out amongst themselves.”

Thanks for making it through all of this. As you can see, I’m not exactly editing these entries, and I’m writing them as I would for myself. I hope you’re not finding this too tedious.

p.s. i had to shrink the photos for faster uploading since my internet connection isn’t the best. hope they still look ok.

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