Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Life in India: What It's Really Like

A couple of weeks ago, Katie (from Paperback Planes) and I did a cross cultural collaboration expressing our perception on life on the other side of the world. For those who don't know, Katie lives in America whereas I live in India. Neither of us have ever visited the other's home country, although we do really want to. We thought it would be interesting to share our assumptions of what the other country would be like, more to each other than the rest of the world. A lot of our assumptions is based on this awful thing called the media and it's obsession with everything wrong in the world.

Read the first part of our collab here (mine) and here (Katie's).

In the second part of our collab, we thought we'd clear out someone of the doubts expressed in our first post. So here I am, responding to all the things that Katie expressed in her post.

This post is basically going to be me responding to Katie's post and not going over every little detail as that would take me ages to write, and would probably bore you to death. Also, India is filled with so many intricacies associated with different sub-cultures and parts of the country. Each state/city/town differs from the other in so many ways, and I can't say I know them all very well. What I know best is the city where I live which is called Bangalore. All that I say in this post is with reference to Bangalore alone, unless otherwise stated.
The first thing Katie brought up in her post was that it's pretty much hot here all year round. That's not true everywhere, but in Bangalore you definitely would not need winter coats. Summers here are brutal though. In Bangalore it went up to 38 degrees Celsius this year whereas in places like New Delhi it went up to about 50, I think. We do have other seasons though, like monsoon and winter. Autumn and Spring aren't very prominent. They kind of blend into the others so it isn't noticeable. My favourite season has to be the monsoon. Since Bangalore is located on a plateau, it is much cooler here and cloudy all day long, which is categorised as the famous Bangalore weather that people of other parts of India adore as well. In the monsoon, the temperature is usually around 22-24 degrees during the day, and it is quite breezy making it unnecessary for air conditioners. That being said, when it rains, it pours! It would be a major inconvenience. The rains can be pretty harsh here and along with the strong winds, have resulted in trees falling all over the city and roads clogging and overflowing with water. All due to bad politics and planning of our city.

Monsoon sky in Bangalore. It's actually one of the most calming views you'll ever see. 
Another horrible thing about the rains is that it makes it hard to travel via public transport. Buses are always crowded, but when it's raining outside it makes it all the more uncomfortable. If you decide to take an auto-rickshaw instead, first of all: good luck getting an empty one! Second of all: good luck getting an empty one to stop for you.Thirdly: be prepared to pay nearly double the price just because it is raining. If you don't know the way and don't have Google Maps on your phone (the inbuilt iOS map is a bust here. Don't even try using it. It's a waste of time and data.), don't even think about travelling by autos. They will rip you off.

Auto rides in Bangalore.
Recently, a lot of cabs have been introduced onto the streets and they can be hired instantly with the help of the apps designed by each company. The taxi drives cannot cheat you as their routes are tracked and they are really affordable which makes it super convenient for tourists. They're also really friendly so if you don't know the way, you needn't be afraid to let them know.

Apart from taxis, the Bangalore Metro is under construction at the moment. Two phases have been opened for use as of now but several others are being completed and tested. Thank our greedy politicians for delaying something that should've been finished last year, according to the official plan! Travelling by metro is really cheap. The minimum is about INR 5 to the max of INR 15 as of now. (Convert it to your national currency and be surprised!)

Bangalore metro captured by me from a rooftop restaurant at Indranagar, Bangalore.
Public transport is safe during the day as there are a lot of people using it, but you have to be vary of pick-pocketers. In Bangalore, it's safe to travel anywhere during the day but if you feel like an area is particularly desolate, it's probably best to avoid it. Also, best not to flash anything expensive when out. There have been cases of people on bikes snatching gold chains or cell phones from someone's hand. You don't want to attract the wrong kind of attention, trust me!

When it comes to going out at night, it is best to go out in groups. When I go out with friends, we usually head back together to a friends and stay the night so this way we can share a cab and needn't worry about alternative transportation plans. If you're driving, don't drink. There are cops located in places where you'd least expect them to and they stop youngsters all the time. I have heard that they don't stop girls if they're driving, but I'm not too sure about this.

As for nightlife, there's plenty of things to do here. I don't know if you know, but Bangalore has the most number of pubs in South Asia. The clubs aren't necessarily cheap, but if you can con some drunk idiot to buy you a drink, why worry about money?! (Sorry if I sound like a bitch but they know they aren't getting anything more than a few words from me.) There are also a lot of parties happening every weekend, so many DJs playing in different clubs (if you're into that sort of thing), bands playing in pubs sometimes. Basically there's a lot to do.

DJ Ivan playing at Loft 38 on Indranagar, Bangalore
As for food, there are so many different cuisines in this country. Each region pretty much has it's own cuisine. I haven't tried it all but I have found that the food is generally spicier in hotels than the usual home cooked meal. I cannot handle spicy food at all so my mother's food is considered to be quite bland by a lot of people.

I live in South India and the general South Indian food consists of lots of dry vegetables, different accompaniments for rice (as steamed rice is a staple), chapaatis (which are like rotis but made slightly differently), many kinds of mixed rice, curd (we love curd! No meal is complete without curd.), and various kinds of salads. If you attend South Indian weddings, you would notice that the food is usually served on banana leaves. This is the traditional way of eating and serving South Indian food. It's quite an experience but it can be quite messy.

Traditional North Karnataka food served on a banana leaf.
Speaking of weddings, you will not believe the number of people who attend a wedding! There are no plate counts and the outlook generally is "the more, the merrier!". The bride and groom usually don't know half the people who attend their wedding! Granted, they probably don't even know each other because they met the day before. Don't get me started on arrange marriages and the whole anti-divorce ideology!

It isn't just at weddings that there are a lot of people. There are people everywhere during the day! I'm pretty sure there are more people than ants in this country! The large population can be a good thing, especially in the day, because it means that there are eyes and ears everywhere. It ensures safety for the most part. If you've followed the news, you've probably heard of all those cases in New Delhi where girls have been attacked in public and bystanders have done nothing but record the incidents on their phones to forward later on Whatsapp. Bangaloreans aren't like that at all. They will always come to offer their assistance. Especially if you're a girl. If an auto driver suddenly starts to demand extra money from you, a crowd will gather and begin to argue with him for you. If a shopkeeper tries to rip you off, someone will be there to stop you from paying extra. In that sense, I really like the people here because for the most part they are friendly. If you're nice to them, they'll return the favor.

Avenue Road, Bangalore. Still holds the old Bangalore charm and is also one of the most crowded places in the city.
As for the whole caste thing, it is quite prominent in places. My maid always says that she is paying for her sins from her previous life. I see it as them consoling themselves. They feel like this is God's lesson and if they survive this and smile through it, in their next life, they will be rewarded.

In the upper classes though, we are all pretty much equals. At least, that's how people of my generation see it. We don't bring up caste and religion in conversations because it does not matter. We all receive the same opportunities, there is no disparity of any kind. The older generations still hold some bias when it comes to people of other castes. In some families, they will not allow inter caste marriages. This is one of the main causes of honour killings in India.

The first thing anyone says to me when I tell them I'm Indian is that they love our traditional clothes. To be quite honest, I don't wear traditional clothes very often as they make me boil! I wear them to weddings and other religious events. That being said, I usually wear a kurta and leggings, or a lehenga if the bribe is good enough. I've only worn a saree four times in my life. It takes a lot of practice (and safety pins) to be able to carry it off! As good as it looks, it can look just as bad if you're uncomfortable in it. I'm always afraid that it's going to fall off! It is literally a long piece of cloth wrapped around your waist 5-6 times. One little tug, and you'd be left standing there in your underwear! That's a terrifying thought!

This post has gone on long enough so I'm going to end it here. There is so much more to say about India but I don't want to bore anyone. If you have any questions, ask me in the comments and I'd be happy to clear any doubts for you.

For all the flaws there are in this country, there are just as many good things. I absolutely love the fact that I live in Bangalore and I love being Indian. Everything is super cheap here and the community is really nice as well. I hope this post (and my pictures) have helped put Bangalore on your Wander-list!

For more pictures of Bangalore, take a look at my Instagram.

Make sure you check out Katie's post about Life in America. We had so much fun collaborating and hopefully we can do it again soon!

Thanks for reading!

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