Bengaluru or Bangalore.
Recently in India there is a trend of renaming places from the names that the British gave during their occupation, back to the original Indian names. Bombay is now Mumbai, Madras is now Chennai, Calcutta is now Kolkata, Trivandrum is now Thiruvananthapuram, etc.
It makes me wonder how some of the colonial names came to be.
“I say old chap, what is this place called?”
“Well done old chappy, Bombay it is then”
“Nahīṁ, apanē nāma Mumbai” 1
“Yes, it looks like it might rain”
“Tuma kyōṁ itanā pīlā hai? Tuma bīmāra hō?” 2
“Some biscuits and a cup of tea, and for main course I’ll have the roast beef”
“Kisī dina hama apanē vāṇijya kō niyantrita karēgā”. 3
There are a few exceptions. New Delhi has kept it’s colonial name (although that may change soon), and no one wanted to call India by its original name of Bhārat, and although Bangalore has been officially renamed to Bengaluru, almost everybody still calls it Bangalore
Bengaluru is the capital of Karnakata and one of the fastest growing cities in the world. It is the main hub of India’s booming IT industry. Microsoft, Intel, Dell, HP, Motorola, Apple, and all of the technology heavy hitters have offices and factories here. It’s also the biggest call center in the world. When you call to complain about your cell phone service, your microwave oven that keeps burning the popcorn, or the rude teenager behind the till at you local Burger King, you are probably talking to a Bangalorian who is working the “North American night shift” (the time difference is about 11 1/2 hours ahead of Winnipeg).
This brings a very low unemployment rate, a booming economy, and a lot of money into this town. Because of this, certain parts of Bangalore look and feel like any North America city with traffic of newer vehicles, big billboards, shopping malls, restaurants and bars. The biggest difference is that everything is advertised in rupees instead of dollars, and Telugu and Kanada are the main languages used instead of Hindi (although almost everything and everybody uses English as well).
The entire city of about 10 million people seems to be under construction. The drive into town from the airport (which is about 40 Km away from the city limits) was one long construction zone as the city builds an elevated train system from the airport into the city. Other mega projects include a huge shopping mall, major infrastructure changes, and a plethora of condominiums and housing improvements.
The traffic was busy and crowded, but never stagnant. A mix of cars, auto-rickshaws and motorcycles, dart in and out with horns blaring. Not as chaotic as Kathmandu, but still a roller coaster.
I had been looking at hotels online and chose a 4 star hotel that had really good reviews and a very moderate price. The Grand McGrath Hotel looks like a colonial throw back with huge rooms, marble floors and high ceilings.
The room includes breakfast which is served outside on the terrace and includes western and Indian options… But it was the fresh pineapple and papaya that was served that makes up most of my meal. Fruit over here just tastes better. The fingerling bananas are especially flavorful and make me think “Ohhh… That’s what a banana is supposed to taste like”.
The hotel is situated in the middle of the M.G. road district (Mahatma Gandhi) and one of the main shopping districts. Street vendors, clothing shops, antique stores, restaurants, and electronic stores are all crammed into buildings, and some of the store fronts are so small that if you blink, you miss it.
There are also some touts here, but not nearly as many as Kathmandu. Which leads me to an observation.
Most touts usually try to sell you something vaguely useful or something that makes sense. Poor knock off sunglasses, out of date maps of the city, or various crafts like musical instruments or sculpture. But one of the more common items that they try to push on you is poorly constructed travel chess sets…
It’s not only in Bangalore that these items are peddled. Mumbai and Delhi have them too… And I just don’t understand why they feel that this is a good item to push on the westerners. I mean, even though the sunglasses are fake and have “You-Vee” protection, and the maps are from 1972, they still make sense as items to rip-off the western people… But a travel chess set? How can that be a good idea?
Even if the sets had all of the right pieces instead of 7 bishops, 9 queens, 1 pawn, and some new piece called “The Magic Toothpick” (that I’ve never heard of and not sure how it moves on the board), I still can’t see it being a draw.
You hear of shoppers looking for cloth or carpets or carvings, but I’ve never heard someone say “Ohhh! You’re going to India? Well pick me up a chess set, and then we can play.”
After walking around the area for a bit, I got myself a new shirt, some supplies that needed replenishing, and some sweets from one of the more famous sweet shops in India called K.C. Das Sweet Shop. I got me a Kas Kadam, a Kshir Kadam, a Chitra Cut, and a Khir Chop. I’m not exactly sure which one was which, but they were all very good. They really know how to do desert over here. I returned to the hotel and decided to eat at the attached restaurant because the breakfast was good… And found out why the hotel is not a Five Star.
The food was fairly unimaginative and I think the naan was packaged. Added to that was the cheesy live entertainment of a guy with a Casio keyboard playing bad Abba covers in one of the worst lounge reverb settings ever to be subjected on an SM58.
Oh well, can’t win them all, and If I don’t get food poisoning from the place, it will just be the first food disappointment of the trip…
Next will be a tour of some of the gardens in the city. In the mean time, it’s my move. Queen to magic toothpick 6, check.
1 – No, it’s called Mumbai.
2 – Why are you so pale? Are you sick?
3 – Someday we will control all of your commerce.