Saturday, September 11, 2010

Good Times in Bangalore!

I'm writing this with about half an hour to go before we leave Bangalore for Dharmapuri. I've been staying with my family here in Bangalore for the past week, getting my feet on the ground and getting over my jetlag (an excruciating 9.5 hours, which is still not as bad as the folks in Vietnam and China—I don't know how they do it!).

Part of the reason I stayed in Bangalore so long was that this Saturday was Eid, the festival that marks the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. I'd never celebrated it with my family, so I was pretty pumped to stick around for it. Wwe got up for prayers in the morning—I was told that they start extra early and to get ready first thing in the morning, with the result that I was changed and ready to go by 7 AM, around the time that my family was waking up!

The prayers were in Arabic and the sermon was in Urdu, so I understood very little, but it was interesting to go to nonetheless. All the men were on one level, and the small children were on a different one (I was on the men's level, if you're curious). We stood in rows and went through the motions of prayer. There's a set etiquette as to when to do what, which meant that I was concentrating pretty hard on what the guy next to me was doing.

The rest of the celebration consisted of eating a lot of biryani, which I enjoyed. Elonnai, another IDSer who is working in Bangalore, came over for the festivities. True to embarrassing form, the family album was brought out after lunch and we got to pore over pictures of my uncles and aunts in their youth. Luckily, none of my photos had made it this far, so I was spared.

Before I leave, I have to tell one other anectode from my time here in Bangalore. On Tuesday, I called the woman I'll be working for at Puvidham, just to tell her that I'd landed and would be coming after Eid. She mentioned that there was a woman working at the school whom I should meet, as she had been developing the curriculum that I would be working with. However, she would be leaving this week, so I'd have to make a day trip.

The trip itself was pretty neat, I met a bunch of people and found out a) that I had a job, and b) that it would probably keep me busy, and c) that it would involve a lot of learning Tamil. More on that next time.

The adventure started on our trip back. One of the teachers at the school was heading in to Dharmapuri, the main town, so he gave us a ride. We found a bus pretty quickly, this one was pretty no frills and stopped in most towns, so it was pretty cheap, and a really nice ride. Also, by 'no frills,' I mean that there was still a TV blasting Tamil and Hindi music videos the whole time, so there's really no cause for complaint. Anyway, I mostly slept for the first little bit, while my cousin, who was there to make sure I didn;t get horribly lost, got more and more bored. He briefly got off in Hosur to go to the bathroom, telling the bus driver to wait for him, the driver said he would, he got off, and the driver promptly left.

So things got interesting. I had no freakin' clue what to do or what to say. I was frozen in my seat and really freaked out, and stupidly said nothing to the driver. I formulated a plan on how to get home--I would get off in Bangalore, call one of my relatives, get directions and hail an auto. Seems straightforward, right? Well, after getting off in Bangalore, I looked around for an phone booth, to no avail. Okay, I figured that I'll find an auto driver, and ask to use his cell. So I did that--the dialogue went a little like this (original Hindi included to showcase just how lost I truly was):

Driver: "Auto sir?"
Adam "Haan. Ganganagar, CBI?" (the location of my uncle's house; Ganganagar neighbourhood, near the central police station)
D: (vague agreement, gestures to get in>)
A: "haan. aap ke paas fon hai?" (do you have a phone?)
D: (gives phone)
A: (get out my phone to see azeem's number)
A: (phone dies completely, can't read number)
A: (give phone back, get in)
D: "ganganager, CBI?"
A: "haan" (yes)
D: "250"
A: "nahin, nahin. 200" (no, no. 200.)
D: "220. (something along the lines of, it's dark and my meter's broken)"
A: "okay okay. 220." (apparently, the upper bounds of what one should pay are more along the lines of 150 rupees, but i really wanted to get home)
D: "fon kijiye?" (you want to make a call?)
A: "nahin. mujhe number nahin malum hai" (no, i don't know the number)
D: "aapka fon me hai?" (is it in your phone?)
A: "haan. lekin fon dead hai" (yes. but my phone is dead.)
D: "aah. card me hai?" (do you have it on a card?)
A: " nahin" (

Okay, so at least I was in an auto by this point. I even managed to get him to the house with minimal getting lost (the one notable exception being my telling him to go the wrong way on a one way street, with excellent consequences).

In the meantime, of course, everyone had been panicking and they were overjoyed to see me. My cousin had called at about 8:15 and I got in at 10, so the family was on emergency standby for about two hours. My family's capacity for freaking out is pretty legendary. One of my aunts went to the bus stop to see if I would get off there (I didn't, the driver let me off somewhere completely different). My uncle sat next to the telephone for two hours while assuring everyone "hey, he's travelled before, he'll be fine!" and pacing up and down.

At the end of the day, it was all a little discouraging because it really shouldn't have been a big deal, but because I wasn't confident enough to express myself in a language that wasn't English, I ended up getting totally lost. Oh well! Hopefully this will get better. Next time I update, I'll have started work!


  1. Awww Adam! At least you made it home! Think about how awesome it is that you got yourself home without a phone or any help!! Total win! That's totally "keeping your wits about you". Good job. Also neat that you got to see Elonnai!

    And this how how jetlag works in China: It sucks. I want to be asleep at 8:30 pm and wake up at 5am. It's awful awful business.

  2. Your rudimentary Hindi is fine Adam. Next time, try English. Most people in India know some English, so, between your Hindi and their English, you will get your ideas through.

    Next week or two would involve a lot of figuring out your work, etc. Please keep updating your blog.

    All the best!


  3. Cool stuff Adam, keep posting on this - looking forward to hearing about your next adventures.