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First Impressions of Bangalore

photoOn my first day in the city I spent nearly 5 hours in the back of a car on my way to somewhere else. Life in this amazing city seems largely defined by its traffic. My flight arrived around 8:30am. I slept so well on the plane that I completely missed the breakfast they served, so I was hungry and thirsty. Luckily, customs, claiming my checked suitcase and connecting with my driver was very easy. He was waiting for me with a handwritten sign; I wish I would have taken a picture. The weather was overcast and warm, with a light rain falling at times. The ride to the hotel took two hours as the airport is far to the northeast of the city center. The view out the window was fascinating, despite my growling tummy. The area around the airport is filled with beautiful tropical landscaping, it reminded me of Hawaii. Once we got closer to the roads became much more congested. We traveled through a sea of scooters, motorcycles, trucks, auto rickshaws, pedestrians and sometimes bicycles. Two wheeled transportation is used very creatively here, often with three people on one. My favorite is seeing women in saris perched sidesaddle on the back of a scooter. Many of the drivers were female, which I appreciated. The soundtrack of this city is mostly made up of honking, which drivers do constantly as they navigate, because there don’t seem to be many road rules.

The dirt here is reddish and it contrasts nicely with the city’s greenery; it is often full of puddles, rubble, garbage and prowled by easygoing stray dogs. From the car window I saw many sights that would not be found at home. There are scores of pedestrians, the women mostly in more traditional garb (most commonly a long colorful tunic over leggings worn with a scarf, but also many saris), men usually in pants and a collared shirt. I did see at least three cows, two men peeing in the open alongside the road and seven temples.

The area around my hotel is filled with large, modern buildings that house companies like Samsung, Accenture, Sony, Ericsson, etc. The hotel itself is nice; I have a large modern room with all the amenities. I arrived around 11am, took a shower and ordered some Indian room service items, which were a little too spicy for me. I called down to the front desk for a ride and a ride and the driver delivered me to the Xerox offices at Prestige Technology Park, about 15 minutes away. The Xerox offices are brand new and very modern. I was able to connect with my colleagues there and see Peggy, a co-worker who was visiting from Palo Alto. I hung out there for the afternoon, catching up on my email and doing some work while others attended meetings. After work, Rinku (the person I will be working with most directly while I’m here) wanted to take us to a restaurant in another neighborhood, Indira Nagar, which served North Indian food and was on the way to the airport (Peggy had a flight back to Delhi later that evening). We got a cab from the office, it was rush hour, the worst time to be on the road and it took us an hour and a half to reach the place. Although we drove through some interesting places on the way, I was tired and hungry again so the view had somewhat lost its shine. The food was good, we dined with three other people from the office and they ordered a wide variety of things for me to try. Afterwards, Peggy got in a cab to the airport, Rinku got a ride home with Om and I was picked up by my hotel transport which we had arranged earlier, Saras and Kuldeep rode part of the way with me. It took about an hour to get home.

By the end of the day, I was already tired of the traffic. However, it seems to be simply part of living here so I’m sure I’ll get used to it. I’m currently looking for a more permanent place to stay in an active neighborhood closer to city center, and a major consideration is commute time and available transportation.

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