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1.28.2008

"It's India"

On Thursday, we began learning Kannada, the local language of the state of Karnataka. Most people in Bangalore speak Kannada fluently, although English and Hindi are well known as well. The sounds are fun to hear and I suspect that speaking the language might encourage rickshaw drivers to stop ripping me off. After our language lessons, we were treated to a traditional South Indian banana leaf lunch. Large, verdantly green leaves were spread in front of us on the floor. Each course was delicately placed in a precise spot on the leaf. The meal consisted of 13 courses in all; sweet dishes, curry, rices, vegetables, pomegranate seeds, lentils, bread, deep fried bananas - all incredibly delicious. After gorging on the meal, Indians traditionally chew a Beeda, a betel leaf filled with rose petal spread and a betelnut, as a digestif. Following prescription, I stuffed the entire leaf in my mouth, and chewed. The taste is impossible to describe - a mixture of listerine, sugar and roughage an added mouth-numbing sensation. My manners prevented me from spitting out the entire thing, but I felt sick the rest of the afternoon. We finished the day with a discussion of general cultural differences - we talked about our different experiences and impressions of India. Our group being predominately female, we discussed in depth the challenges of being a women in this society - even Indian women are familiar with the staring and groping that somtimes happens in public places. I have not had any horror stories so far, but I can't help but notice that most people take at least a second look as I walk by. Most of it seems to come merely from curiousity, but a few of the bolder souls make a comment or whistle. 
 We ended the week with a day-long tour of the city. In true Indian-style, we set off practically an hour late. We first visited the impressive government buildings. Built in a colonial/ornate styles, the buildings were deserted, due to the political unrest that caused the governor to dismiss the legislature. Elections are set to take place sometime soon, I gather. We drove throughout different parts of the city - at one point we simply pulled over on a highway overpass too look over the railings onto the market place below. A Christian church we passed presented a statue of Jesus christ protected by a colorful umbrella.  We stopped at the ancient fort of Bangalore; outside of the fort, locals gathered to watch us sip the milk out of young coconuts. The vendor wielded a huge knife, which he used split the coconuts in front of us, carving out an opening for our colored straws. 
The fort was incredible - a huge sandstone edifice carved sporadically with charming creatures. The domineering fort doors were accessorized with foot long spikes to discourage invaders. Inside, priests made their morning offerings in a temple to Ganesha. 
Outside of the fort, I saw a elderly woman, with her head completely shaven. Though our teachers were unsure, since they did not see her, I wondered if the woman had followed the traditional practice of shaving her head when her husband dies. 
After the fort, we drove to a temple of Shiva. Near the temple, a group of elementary school kids were meeting the truck that brings their government sponsored lunch everyday. The little boys were so excited to see us westerners, and when I pulled my camera out, they all posed and ran over to see themselves on the screen.
The temple was surreal; it was a cave with a natural formation within it that was said to resemble the symbol of shiva. Shiva's mount, the bull, was carved out of stone in front of the cave, and many other deities and energy representations/idols were placed in a circle around Shiva. In some places, the cave opening was so small, we had to hunch over to pass the next statue. Worshippers filled the temple, chanting prayers and making offerings. The scent of insence was almost overpowering. Outside of the main temple, spaces were reserved for other deities. One room contained statues of 9 gods, representing the nine planets, and walking around them was supposed to give power to your destiny. I walked 9 times around the statues, clockwise, and at least imagined I felt some kind of cosmic pull.
After a huge lunch on tin plates, waiters weaving through tables to bring us each new course, we indulged in a little shopping. As the boys waited impatiently, we girls played dress up in a sari shop. The colors are more vibrant than any you see in the U.S., and even more so, the combinations of colors feel so daring. Add to that combination the luxury of pure silk, and you can understand our breathlessness. Although I walked away with no purchases, I gained a greater understanding of Indian dress.
With a full belly from lunch and a bit of fatigue from the shopping, we all fell fitfully asleep on our drive to the IT zone of Bangalore. IT companies and their workers are located on the outskirts of the city, in their own miniature city. I can't speak much about the details, however, because I was asleep. 

1 comment:

  1. Bangalore, with a wonderful climate and with well developed residential areas, broad roads with well grown trees on both sides, good shopping malls, no wonder people prefer to move here permanently.
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    Apartments in Bannerghatta Road South Bangalore

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