Sunday, June 8, 2008

On Driving

Advice on driving in India:

1. The driver sits on the right side. If you are riding, don't try to get into the cab on that side.
2. Drive on the left side of the road, at least most of the time.
3. Don't try to wear a seat belt. If you do, you will find that the belts themselves exist but they don't actually have buckles.
4. If a cow has decided to cross the road, there's nothing you can do about it.
5. If several cows have decided to cross the road, you should probably just turn off the car and wait.
6. If goats, stray dogs, or people have decided to cross the road, full steam ahead and hope that they get out of the way.
7. The lines on the road don't mean anything. Driving into oncoming traffic is totally permissible.
8. Even if it looks like you can't possibly squeeze the cab in between two other vehicles, just go for it and honk a lot, they will move.
9. Do not let your speedometer fall below 90 km/hr.
9. Honk loudly and enthusiastically. This translates to "Get out of my way, I'm coming." Especially useful for going around corners if you are going too fast to avoid unexpected obstacles.


India is amazing. I had a few more adventures into the city, including the memorable FRRO registration . . . I'm not sure what it stands for, but apparently all foreigners with certain types of visas have to register within 14 days of arrival in India. So on Friday at 9:30am, ten or so interns squeezed into cabs and headed to a tiny, dusty government office in downtown Bangalore, where we each were supposed to hand in a thick sheaf of forms, photocopies of forms, pictures, photocopies of visas and passports, etc. Theoretically, we would then receive a stamp on our visas and be done. However, this proved to be easier said than done.

We stood in line for a cumulative total of eight hours, trying to get the paperwork done. However, the man behind the counter may have been the most unpleasant person I've ever had the disappointment of meeting. Each time we finished waiting through the line and approached the desk, he found another thing wrong with someone's form and made us fix it and go back to the end of the line. Often it was something like the photocopy having one word of text missing, necessitating new copies of everything. Or one person had forgotten to fill in one box, which was self evident anyway. Manav, who was familiar with Indian bureaucracy, took charge of the group and worked with the Infosys employee who had come with us to make sure that everything was done correctly. Finally, desk-guy got sick of us and yelled at the Infosys employee to just give him the forms. Eying Manav, he said "you can come too . . . but don't bring the foreigners." HILARIOUS. but definitely the worst day so far.

I spent most of the weekend in the city. Saturday morning, we went to the Bannerghatta Zoo. I don't know what I was expecting-- certainly not an American zoo-- but I was saddened by what I found. All of the animal enclosures were small and not well kept, and you could tell that the animals were unhappy. It was depressing. Normally I feel that the educational value of zoos outweighs the captivity of animals as long as they are treated well, but this was not an example of that. We did see several monkeys not in cages . . . they jumped on and robbed another zoogoer of a plastic bag full of stuff, only to discard it when no food was found (I'll try to figure out how to put up pictures soon! I promise!). There was also a lion and tiger safari.

We had lunch in the city and walked around Bangalore for a while, seeing various landmarks like the Parliament building and several memorial statues and gardens. As the group dwindled down to Ami, Sasha and I, we asked our cab driver Khan to take us to Lalbagh botanical gardens, famous for their beauty. Bangalore is known as the garden city of India.

Lalbagh was absolutely beautiful, but the best part was that Khan actually left his taxi and gave us a tour of the gardens, telling us stories for almost every landmark. He told us stories of Hindu mythology, ancient Sultans who fought tigers with their bare hands, and more. He then took us to a temple to Ganesh (who, among other things, is the god of wisdom), where rats were allowed to roam free through the temple as Ganesh's preferred mode of transportation. We went on to the Bull Temple, home to the largest bull in India carved from a single piece of granite. I'm not sure which god this temple was for . . . maybe Shiva? I think Shiva rides on bulls. Khan then helped us buy MANGOES from a street vendor, which we ate right then and there. Mangoes are probably the most delicious thing known to man.

In the evening, we met up with some other interns to see the Iskcon Temple (International Society for Krisha Consciousness), which was built in 2000 and is enormous. Thousands of people stood in line to worship golden statues of Krishna, one of the gods. As far as I can remember, Krishna is an incarnation of Vishnu, the Sustainer. He's most often depicted with blue skin, playing the flute. It was definitely an experience, but probably not one I care to repeat.

After the temple, we walked around the crowded city, grabbing pizza for dinner and sitting with coffee (Bangalore's equivalent of Starbucks is Cafe Coffee Day-- they're everywhere). It was a long, tiring day.

Today I went into the city again to shop, explore, and grab dinner with several friends at an Italian restaurant called Sunny's, a favorite of interns past. It was quite good, but pricey-- around ten dollars (I'm so spoiled-- an equivalent meal would cost about twenty dollars in the states!). The cabs took us back and we walked around Infosys campus for a little before calling it a night.

Sorry for the long post! I'm going to have to learn how to keep these short. Anyway, tomorrow is the big intern induction day-- interns from all over India have been flown to Bangalore for the ceremonies and to meet N. R. Narayana Murthy, who is the founder of Infosys and kind of a big deal. I'll take lots of pictures, and post them eventually!

1 comment:

steph said...

no! don't learn how to keep them short, they're so fascinating! sounds so exotic :)