How to cross a road in Bengaluru!

So, 3 days now we have been savoring the greatest food in India, rediscovering Rasmalai, Masala Dosa, Rava idli and Mango lassi... the list continues! All the raw adventures of the last months seem like a long gone memory. I'm sure I need a proper detox as I ingested tons of poisoning dust particles with the meals, when walking along the super busy roads or riding through the traffic stream in a rickshaw.

The last days were filled with research, list writing, phone calls and crazy search for a sim-card! Today was our lucky day and we didn't even need a passport, nor a proof of address (unlike in the polished vodaphone palace, which requested just that, while not accepting a proper council tax letter, but wanting a British driving license which of course I don't have, being German..). I'm not surprised anymore how unlogical and high the Indian hurdles of bureaucracy can be!

More adventures in rickshaw gambling awaited us! If the meter works, suddenly the driver has no change! A new trick to get a few extra rupees. Surprisingly some drivers used the meter without much hassle, were chatty and helpful and we had our pleasures in tipping those lucky honest ones.

I still can't figure out how Bangalore really works, I miss Pahar Ganj and its many cheap fabric shops. A delight to find FABINDIA again, my favorite garment retailer! The city is much more glitzy, posh and modern as I thought, no wonder, we are in IT city full of IT students, IT businesses and internet cafe's. Today we checked out the coolest hot spot in cafe culture: Matteo! A leather-sofa freezer-like air-conditioned smooth cafe with pumping techno schnulz and Bangalore hipsters galore! The trendy folks in jeans and t-shirt (it's 30 degrees Celsius by the way) are smoking elegantly outside while sipping their ice-cream mocha-shakes. A few meters further some shopping temples are crumbling apart under huge advertising banners and the broken sewer covers are releasing their typical stenches while the dust swirls around a honking brigade of mopeds who are fighting their way through the tight bustling streets. Fascinating to watch the clockwork machinery of traffic in Bangalore. Crossing a street became our adrenaline rush of the day! St. Marks road is a constant stream of traffic stuffed with buses, huge lorries, rickshaws, cars, mopeds, the odd cyclist and us standing dumb folded trying to figure how to cross this bloody road! Thanks god we are not the only ones and with a group of Indians we figured out how to sneak in between the stinky exhaust clouds of rushing traffic! Crazy! I'm glad my parents don't see this!

Todays past time of the afternoon was the visit to the Lalbagh Botanical Garden, a monster of a park stuffed with crazy huge trees, a rose garden, some sculpted shrubs and a huge artificial lake at its edge.
This little adventure in a lovely green space without the deafening honking for 1 hour was much needed and followed by another classic, a delightful meal at the Maravelli Tiffin Rooms. As much of an Indian institution as it gets, bright pink, lime green or baby blue painted rooms with cheap red plastic chairs stuffed with locals waiting for their rava idli, dosa and chai tea. Of course this place is busy and there is a waiting room outside where you sit with the families and couples until your name is called. The friendly doorman then showed us how to best eat our rava idli, and oh what a flavour those cashew nuts and coriander leaves were unfolding!

Stuffed to the brim we had some horrible rickshaw experience followed by a very nice one, now home, in our quiet apartment winding down.
One more day of city buzz and then we'll be off to the BR Hills and hopefully the adventures are then infused by new discoveries of tribal life, plants and wildlife in one of India's great forests! I'm keen to check out the tribals shade grown coffee beans too! Bring it on!


Greetings from Bengaluru - The research trip begins

Long ago seems this last blog entry, and like yesterday it seems I was in India. Last time it was the autumn trip me and Tove went on in 2010. Being here not even for 24 hours I feel like home in an instant, thanks to the welcoming honks, dust, Kannada chatter on the corners, the flapping of the ceiling fan and the sight of huge bats on the evening sky turning pink.

We arrived late last night at our "serviced apartment" in Lavelle Road right of big MG Road in the centre of Bangalore. Great place to stay as it is sooo quiet compared to anything else closer to the roads!

Our first mission was getting a permission to go into the BRT Sanctuary, something that felt absolutely crucial in our mission to research a documentary about tigers and tribals in the dense lush forests in the south of Karnataka. Our mission failed and still succeeded in many ways. We met with the Chief Conservator of Forests, Mr. Singh and his friend Dr. Ullas Karanth, a tiger expert for many years with big achievements in tiger research. We had a good chat, got some very helpful advice and are now searching for other ways to approach the tribals, sanctuary etc... more info coming soon.

But what is far more stunning is how quickly I adjusted to the Indian bustle! Getting a riksha with a working meter is still an art, but surprisingly achievable with lots of smiles. Even better to get the smiles returned when paying a bit more than the meter price.
We first walked around quite a bit, through a huge park (Cubban Park) to Karnataka Government Forest Department, then with a rikshah to another subdivision forest department somewhere far outside and still in the middle of town, on the bustling Sampige road of Seshadripuram. Our riksha dropped us off at some 18th cross directly in front of a coconut stall. Brilliant! My first fresh coconut in such a long time! It went down like oil (as we Germans say) and tasted sooo delicious.

We found the huge shopping mall (Mantri Square) with any European money-spending institution you can imagine from Adidas, via Marks & Spencer to Plus and Puma.. they had them all plus a great cardamom coffee, much needed to fight the dawning afternoon tiredness! What a lovely coincidence, a bunch of smiley westerners walked passed, and suddenly I recognized them! Our stewardesses from flight AF 0192! So different they look without their blue costume and strict hair-do's.
Though it was much more fascinating to walk around; all the wee shops, the chai wallahs, towers of bright red and yellow turmeric powders (kum kum, or sindoor for married woman's forehead spot), flower garlands, poori stalls, jewellery and sari shops, posh phone shops (that don't sell sim cards.. still haven't found our sim cards), sleeping street dogs and a rare sighting of a cow in the corner. We went into a bustling self service food place where we got a filling masala dosa, made from scratch. How much I missed the spicy coconut chutney! Crossing even the smallest side road was a mission slightly impossible! Honks everywhere, dust and dirty exhaust fumes in your face. Trip hazards with every second step and yet this place is just so cool! Now the brain is unwinding from a first day of wondering around, sucking it all in, that crazy place India can be (amongst so many other things). The bats showed up on time at 7pm like they used to do in Mysore, swinging their huge wings (1m wingspan) across the bright yellow pinkish evening sky, back in our lovely wee guest house, back in lovely big India!

More stories and some pics soon.. the (re) search continues...