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Exotic Bangalore Street Life

Exotic Bangalore Street Life

December 13, 2011

Women in burkas, nuns in belly tops, cows, stray dogs and the infamous Sleeping Beauties - just another day in Bangalore.

Imagine if you will a quiet village on the Mediterranean Sea, south of Barcelona in Spain.  There aren’t many people around, you hear the waves crashing on the beach and can walk around town at times without running into another soul.  No horns, no traffic…and kilometres of smooth sidewalks to stroll down.  Then – BAM – you’re in Bangalore!  There are people, people, people…everywhere people, people, people.  There is insane traffic day and night.  Zero sidewalks to stroll on aside from a few designated streets.  And only two to three seconds will pass without the sound of a horn being blown.  Welcome to my world.  Welcome to everyone’s world who lives in Bangalore.  It’s fantastic!

Honestly, it took a bit of adjusting to in the beginning.  My home for the past eight years was Sitges, a fantastic village in Spain where every street was cleaned every single day.  There were lovely commercial streets where cars weren’t allowed to pass.  No one sounded their horn except in an emergency.  The architecture and views of the sea could take your breath away.  On top of that, I worked in Barcelona, which is one of the most pedestrian-friendly and beautiful cities in the world.  There is pride in the massive sidewalks and walking paths in Barcelona.  It’s squeaky clean and chic and groper-free.

But for many, many reasons that I still can’t 100% nail down, I love and prefer Bangalore.  Well, I still detest the horn blowing with a fevered passion.  But given that I have still only seen two accidents in the 7 months I have lived here so far, I do see that the horn blowing works here.  And I know that I could never grow old here because I will eventually have a bad right knee and bad back and that saucy combo would certainly not mix well with the nightmare sidewalk reality in Bangalore.  But…I really do love Bangalore.  It’s exotic and beautiful with oodles of parks and amazing trees that are pop up everywhere around town.  The cows and goats and dogs still excite me.  The food is amazing and I will even admit that I have started to like the mocktails when wine isn’t an option.  A half sweet, half salty lime soda pretty much tastes like a really limey margarita if you close your eyes and don’t dream about tequila!

Yet it’s the people here that make Bangalore the reason I call it home now.  Other cities have a charm about them because of the infrastructure, or maybe the architecture or the extraordinary monuments.  And I think we can all admit that Bangalore has none of that charm that literally drips off cities like Paris or Barcelona!  Yet what it does have is the friendliest people I have come across in ages – people who are curious about foreigners and always so generous with their smiles.  This is definitely something that neither Paris nor Barcelona can boast.  In fact, both are famous for being quite rude to tourists or foreigners.

The diversity of the people here is fantastic too.  Now, we are not talking London or New York “diversity” with respect to the number of different nationalities of people who live here.  What I mean is that on any given day when I walk out my door and hit the Frazer Town high street where my daughter and I live, I am guaranteed to walk past women wearing burkas, cute chubby-cheeked girls in frilly frocks, groups of women in stunning sari’s, and guys in hip jeans and a nice dress shirt.  There are cool looking groups of young guys pulled over on their motos chilled out talking, little grammas out doing the shopping, and tiny little boys walking home from school with backpacks that are bigger than they are.  One of the coolest things I’ve seen just outside my door was a group of 10 nuns in training walking down the street in matching pink saris with belly tops, which to me was very Madonna sexy but here is no big deal.

I even quite enjoy the scrappy, half-drunk gents hanging out at the tiny whole-in-the-wall (literally) local liquor store where I buy my wine and spirits.  The men who have never seen me before always look quite shocked to see a woman walk up (the manager has confirmed that I am the first woman to shop there EVER) but I don’t care, the manager and regulars know me now and they’ll greet me very pleasantly so the drunks leave me alone.  And yes, I know that women in India should not be seen buying wine or spirits and yes I know that I should have a more ‘when in Rome’ mentality about this but I just don’t care, I want equality on this point.  Plus, it’s FUN to be bad sometimes!

People-watching is amazing here.  Whether it’s in the normal upscale restaurants and clubs that I frequent or around the lovely park where we live or just several blocks away at the oldest goat market in Bangalore and the surrounding slums – there is always something or someone to watch with awe and fascination.  There are so many millions of people packed into this city that it’s impossible not to be a gawker around a town like Bangalore.

My number one favourite guilty pleasure people-watching subjects around my neighbourhood I tenderly refer to as Sleeping Beauties.  You see, I like catching a glimpse of the guys who are either completely zonked out taking a cat-nap on the street or who are just sooo damn drunk that they have literally passed out on the street or a sidewalk.  I say guys because I have never seen a woman asleep on the street to date so I assume that, like buying wine, this is an all-male sport.  And I’m hooked!  I have even started a photo album just for them!  These guys are my Bangalore Sleeping Beauties and recently I found the best Sleeping Beauty ever – well, maybe best is the wrong word.  Maybe I should say INSANE.  The guy was so drunk that he was laying a third of the way onto our tremendously busy high street.  He had fashioned a pillow out of a half filled sandbag, and was happy as a clam asleep there on the road trying to catch up on his beauty sleep.  I get nervous just crossing the street so it is beyond all comprehension how he decided to snuggle up in that exact spot and not have a heart attack within the first minute!

Life on the street in my neighbourhood in Frazer Town is wonderful.  Sure it’s dirty and loud and it can be dangerous for me after dark (I’ve already had one run-in with a groper only a few blocks away when I was walking around at 6pm and it turned dark).  But I can’t imagine living anywhere else at the moment.  From my warm and gracious Muslim and Hindi next door neighbours or the friendly shop keepers who give me amazing customer service…to our neighbourhood cow and two stray dogs that the security guys in our building have adopted.  I love the sights in our neighbourhood and…well, some of the sounds.  So much so that I feel like I am home-sweet-home! 

23 Comments

  • shwetha
    By
    shwetha
    28.01.12 01:33 AM
    i stay a little ahead of mosque road and yes we get to see such beauties way to often
  • vaibhavGhevde
    By
    vaibhavGhevde
    20.12.11 10:45 AM
    whatever you said here also applies to Mumbai. But I think you'll find a lot more variety of people in Mumbai.
  • Angela Carson
    By
    Angela Carson
    18.12.11 01:54 PM
    @shil - thanks for your peppy comment :-) Makes me happy to know that the articles bring you back to Bangalore for a few minutes!
  • shil
    By
    shil
    16.12.11 01:06 AM
    Hey Angela,
    Glad to meet a fellow Bangalorean. LOve your posts on Bangalore and makes me so nostalgic about the city. Don't mind what Indians say about India. We are a proud people and some people have a tendency for jingoism (guilty of it too). But now that I live in a different country, I can see where other people are coming from and their cultural context. Also, there are 3 groups of people there. The third ones are the ones that love to hang out with friends and go to pubs occasionally(may or may not drink). They exist too.
  • Angela Carson
    By
    Angela Carson
    15.12.11 02:48 PM
    @captainjohann - glad you liked it! That was taken just down the street from us on Mosque Road :-)
  • captainjohann
    By
    captainjohann
    15.12.11 12:15 PM
    A brilliant account told with lot of humour. loved it being a Banglorean
  • Angela Carson
    By
    Angela Carson
    15.12.11 11:54 AM
    @Arun, Shooting Star, Deepeak, Neelam - thanks so much for your kind comments. I really do love my neighborhood, it factored greatly into our choice of flat to rent and I don't regret it :-)

    @bhupendra - My friends and I have been calling drunks taking a snoozer Sleeping Beauties for years now and I find it much kinder than "ugly, poor or dead". Regardless of your negative name for them or my positive light, these guys are going to do what they are going to do regardless of how people judge them or label them. And it's not my place to judge them...

    @Keri - you rock, thanks!
  • Bhupendra
    By
    Bhupendra
    15.12.11 11:30 AM
    A poor man either drunken lying on road unconsciously or sleeping in Leela palace, that’s not what I meant. I just said, it shouldn't be labeled as sleeping beauty. A foreigner cannot be more frustrated than native Indians seeing the so visible disparities everywhere in today’s India. Trying to feel someone else’s pain for a limited period is not equal to live frustrated for whole life.One can write and put anything in blogs to get hits,I just didn’t like the word sleeping beauty. Do you really think that was beautiful and he was sleeping on road ? To me this scene is ugly and dead.
  • sulagna
    By
    sulagna
    15.12.11 11:23 AM
    Angela, let me be very honest with you ! you are the second NRI i am coming across who is so much in love with India. I have a blooger buddy from Australia who now lives in Mumbai with her two little muffins and its amazing how she finds Mumbai so charismatic. I have never been to bangalore but can almost visualize everything you wrote about, living in pune. I am one of those tough not B*&%#$ who absolutely loves her country and does not think twice before speaking out her mind to anyone who does'nt !! love you page and shall be regular now !

    ps: got you through Indiblogger :)
  • satish
    By
    satish
    15.12.11 11:17 AM
    Hey Angela,

    Its nice to read some real facts about the life in Bangalore. welcome home(Bangalore). If you start comparing this cities with any of your western cities, probably you will get disappointed , because there is lot of difference in the way of living, life style of people in Bangalore, its mere curiosity makes other ppl to stare at you as by looks you will always look different to them :)but thanks for making this as your home , if so , you will enjoy it lot. have a happy stay here. if you get time go through my blog link, it tells you lot about woman life in india ..check this.. http://feelthroughme.wordpress.com/

    cheers!!
  • Keri
    By
    Keri
    15.12.11 09:50 AM
    Well, Bhupendra, if you had read the blog and, especially, read the comments, you would know that Angela herself took the picture above, and I think she's pretty capable of telling if someone is really DEAD or just dead drunk and sleeping off the effects.
  • bhupendra
    By
    bhupendra
    15.12.11 07:46 AM
    I didn't read your blog, but saw the pic you took. And you can not call a dead poor a sleeping beauty even if your are trying to be sarcastic. Very sad!!
  • Neelam Kamdar Bhamani
    By
    Neelam Kamdar Bhamani
    14.12.11 08:24 PM
    quite an endearing account! I am glad you find the Bangalore streets charming, it would've been hard to survive there otherwise.
    I didn't pay any attention to these things when I was living in India, but now when I visit, I find the visual stimulation all around me quite entrancing!!
  • Deepak
    By
    Deepak
    14.12.11 08:12 PM
    Articles written based on experience will be thrilling and will be full of fun to read along,Every city and town in India has multiple faces, Banglore is not an exception, In India whatever you have mentioned are an integral part of culture, people calls them as weirdos but to me they live up what they like to :)
  • shooting star
    By
    shooting star
    14.12.11 01:25 PM
    such an interesting read....
  • Arun
    By
    Arun
    14.12.11 11:37 AM
    Good one! I enjoyed reading this post..
  • Angela Carson
    By
    Angela Carson
    14.12.11 02:36 AM
    Hey Keri - yes, actually, I see the same hijra every day at the same stop light on my way to work :-) We have super black tinted windows though so I have never spoken to him or looked eye-to-eye.... but I would like to for the fun of it but not sure that is the best reason?
  • Keri
    By
    Keri
    14.12.11 12:00 AM
    Welcome to India, Angela! It's just not Bangalore. When I visited India last year, I traveled all around, going to 7 different cities in 3 states and territories, and I saw the same things in all of them. And yes, in a strange way, it was all very wonderful and lovely, while at the same time, very loud and disconcerting. And that's coming from a person born and raised in New York City, the proverbial "city that never sleeps." We've got nothing on some cities there. :-) Glad you're enjoying your experience and look forward to hearing more. (BTW, have you come across any hijra yet? That was also interesting and disconcerting at the same time, especially when one started chasing me down the street and I had to stop and argue with her.)
  • Angela Carson
    By
    Angela Carson
    13.12.11 11:18 PM
    Thanks for your kind words! I love it here... and that photo was actually taken BY ME of the Sleeping Beauty I mention in my article :-) And the restaurant across the street is my favourite local spot in Frazer Town :-)
  • subhorup dasgupta
    By
    subhorup dasgupta
    13.12.11 08:36 PM
    It is always interesting to see what people notice about a new city that they make home. When I moved to Bangalore from Kolkata back in 1995, I fell in love with the city. When I left the city a mere three years later, much of what I loved was overpowered by the pollution, the rapid disappearance of the traditional Bangalore politesse, and the growing lack of civic amenities. Yet, it will still remain one of my most favorite cities.
  • shirish patwa
    By
    shirish patwa
    13.12.11 03:31 PM
    I also ,when on a trip to U.S. feel almost the same curiosity and amusement.In India you might have observed half naked men and women because they are too poor to have decent cloths.In U.S. I observed half naked men and women but they don't appear to be poor.As Bertie Wooster says in P.G. WODEHOUSE novels,it requires all type to make this world.Once you leave your own home or town you find everything new and amusing.In addition India is a country where people from different cultures,languages are staying together.This motley is too amusing.
  • Rajpriya
    By
    Rajpriya
    13.12.11 02:00 PM
    Yes, it is an excellent description of Bangalore and so much to endorse what I have seen and experienced. There are places on this earth one can learn to love, in spite its flip side.

    The way you see the brighter side is what really matters.
  • Arnab
    By
    Arnab
    13.12.11 11:07 AM
    That is quite a topview of the city I know so well!Thanks for sharing your thoughts on Bangalore,lovely post!

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