Saturday, February 26, 2005

Kannada Rising

I had a surprise today when I went down to Brigade Road -- one of Bangalore's main shopping streets -- to pick up some dry cleaning and buy some groceries.

Up and down the street, black paint defaced many of the store signs in English. Some signs had just a little paint on them. Others had been obliterated. Store workers along Brigade Road were busy scrubbing the signs.

The Kannada Committee, a group supporting the local language known as Kannada and opposing the use of English, had thrown the paint during the previous night, according to three people I talked to separately.

The most badly hit stores included a big Levi's jeans store whose building also sports a big picture of an attactive young woman prone in tight jeans (that got a lot of paint, too) and the Planet M music store, Bangalore's answer to Tower Records, Virgin Music and HMV

The sign for Nilgiri's supermarket, which I mentioned in a previous post, was one of the more striking metaphors for the protest. The left side of the sign displays the thick, rounded characters used to write in Kannada. The right side is in English.

A little black paint had been thrown on the right side. The left side was clean.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

It's All Relative

In the States and the United Kingdom, we call the region "the Middle East" or "the Mideast."

In newapapers here, it's called "West Asia."

Have a look at a world map.

Friday, February 18, 2005

A Moving Moment

I'm slated to move on Monday for the third and (I hope) final time. The good news is the new place -- which is one flight up in the building I'm in -- has broadband.

Which means:

-- More blogging!

-- Pictures!

-- More time on the computer for a man without a life! :-)

Seriously, it will be good to have broadband again. I have not had ANY Internet connection at home for about two weeks. Painful.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Old Faithful Redux

An old friend who's more widely traveled than I am tells me that water heaters like the ones I have in my apartment (one for each bathroom) are more common around the world than not.

Apparently, my experience of water heaters in the United States and Western Europe is atypical. And I should not have been so surprised by my Geyser water heater (it's pronounced "geezer" here, by the way).

This is one drawback of writing from the viewpoint of a newcomer -- many things that are new to me are old hat to a lot of folks.

But I'm writing for people like me. And these things are new to me are new to them, too.

So, my apologies if you some of this stuff already. If I write something that's old, silly or just plain wrong, please add a comment.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

What I'm cooking (and eating)

My friend John Barth asks where I shop, what I eat for breakfast and whether I'm cooking.

The answers:

I tend to shop at Nilgiri's, a grocery chain that is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. Nilgiri's and Food World are the closest thing you'll find here to a supermarket. They're good but tend to be small.

The markets have a mix of Indian food and Western food. So, if you want (and I did), you can buy Skippy chunky peanut butter for about $6. Expensive but cheaper than therapy.

The Nilgiri's I use is on Brigade Road, about 15-20 minutes from where I live. I tend to walk there on the weekend, then take a rickshaw home with my purchases (You don't see shopping carts around here. A rickshaw is my motorized shopping cart.)

There is also a little place near me where I can buy things like bottled water if I don't feel like walking to Nilgiri's.

Breakfast is pretty ordinary: toast with jam or cereal with milk or yogurt, washed down with tea or coffee are what I start the day with.

As for cooking, I do a little, mostly as a break from eating out. Restaurants tend to be not too expensive and often it's almost as cheap to eat out as it is to cook at home. My cooking tends to the simple rice or pasta and sauce variety. Nothing fancy.

Rick Racket

If you use rickshaws to get around Bangalore (and I do), sooner or later, you will encounter a rick driver you offers to take you to a handicrafts shop for "just five minutes" en route to wherever you're going.

And, no matter how much you resist, he WILL take you to the handicrafts shop. Last weekend, I wound up buying a sandalwood Ganesh (elephant god) keychain. Luckily, I needed a keychain ... and Ganesh is said to bring luck.

This weekend, another guy took me to another shop despite my repeated, shouted insistence that I wanted to go elsewhere. I gave up, walked into the shop, walked out after a decent interval and got back into the rickshaw. Without buying anything.

The guy tried to take me to another shop. At this point, I insisted very definitely that I wanted to go to my destination.

So, he stopped, chatted with another rick driver and asked me to get into his vehicle. The other guy took me where I wanted to go.

This explains why a fair number of expats hire drivers with cars to take them around. For now, I plan to stick to ricks. But I could change my mind.


Yesterday, my friend Jane and I went to the City Market, which is -- to put it mildly -- an experience. The market consists of people selling from stalls and from a big, central building that looks like it dates back to the days of the Raj.

Stalls selling spices cannot be missed -- there are big cones of some of their spices colored purple, yellow (saffron), etc. You see one after another.

Others sell housewares, mainly steel, aluminum and iron cookware (I bought a teapot).

Still others sell vegetables: cucumbers, little cloves of garlic, onions, ginger, tomatoes and just about anything else you can imagine.

And, finally, in the basement of the building is the flower market. Marigolds, roses and other flowers I can't name are sold by WEIGHT (If you ever want to buy a pound of marigolds, this is the place.). The market is a riot of color. We took picture after picture (and showed the results to the merchants, who asked us to snap them.).

You have to be on your toes -- a couple of times I got whacked by guys carrying big bags of something (fertliser? dirt?).

As we were leaving the market, we saw ... an elephant! Walking down one of the roads by the market, with a man aboard! (There is a name for an elephant rider and I can't remember it.) The elephant was friendly, taking food from passersby with his trunk.

It's things like this that remind you that you are in India and nowhere else.

We walked around a bit, peeking into a large mosque nearby and then walking some way until we came to the wall of a fort built by the famous Tipoo Sultan (and breached by the British in one of their earlier battles for India, in 1791) and then finally to Tipoo's Palace, whose main feature is dark, beautiful columns. Nearby stands an impressive temple for Hanuman, the monkey god.

We ended the day by walking along Commercial Street and around the area. Jane says it's like New York's Canal Street, funky and full of merchants. I agree.

Thursday, February 10, 2005


In addition to wild dogs, banana trees and coconuts, Bangalore has monkeys.

I saw my first monkeys this week, on the way to work. Two monkeys were on a fence. One was pulling the tail of the other.

They were across the street from the Passport Office on Brunton Road, near Mohandas Gandhi Road (known here as M.G. Road) and not far from where I live.

Maybe they wanted passports?

Monday, February 07, 2005

Old Faithful

When you want to take a shower in Bangalore, you turn on the geyser ... then wait.

The geyser is a small, water heater found in each bathroom that gives you JUST enough water for a shower. When you get out of bed in the morning, one of the first things you do is switch it on. After 20-30 minutes, you can take a shower.

This means a change in your morning routine. Previously, I'd take a shower first, shave, then eat breakfast. Now, I eat breakfast while the geyser warms up my bathwater.

You don't want to take too much time in the shower. If you do, the water will turn cold before you're done. This is not as bad as it may sound. The climate is tropical, and what would be miserable in London or New York is merely a small discomfort in Bangalore.

In the States, we tend to go for big water heaters that keep water hot all the time. In Britain, they have on-demand heaters that produce hot water only when needed. The Indian approach is sort of a compromise.


Last Friday, Sting performed in Bangalore ... and I had a ticket! He played at the Palace Grounds (the palace is Bangalore Palace).

Sting performed hits like "Message in a Bottle," "Desert Rose" and "Every Breath You Take," as well as a few songs from his new album, "Sacred Love." He did one of the LONGEST versions of "Roxanne" I have ever heard.

The crowd was up but nowhere near as noisy as an audience in New York or London. And there were some odd moments (which you get at any concert). Like the guy who insisted on singing along at the top of his lungs. Or the three "wanker brothers" (as I came to think of them) who snapped their fingers to "Fields of Gold" and generally did not have a clue.

There were lots of police. The cops tend not to wear handguns. They have long, wooden or plastic batons.

But, all in all, it was a good concert and a fun time.