Tuesday, July 19, 2016

100 days of Bangalore: the hits and the misses

In continuation of my previous post...

The Hits
Though there were practically just two places for breakfast near my residence, I had plenty of options at Malleshwaram, at distances of 2-3 kilometers. In fact, there were so many options that I did not visit a place more than 2-3 times in  the 100 days of my stay, and eating only once at a non-veg eatery. Most of these are the Udipi kind of places where you have tables to stand at and eat...and at times, just stand and eat.... and pretty decently priced for the quality they offer. I will especially miss all those varieties of awesome dosas there. The neatness and hygiene of all eateries, big and small, was indeed  laudable!
Initially , in summer, I slept with the doors and windows thrown wide open but towards April end, when the rains started, I started sleeping with the doors closed, then, gradually with windows closed, then fans shut off, then covering myself with two blankets and later, just before my return, shivering despite that. The weather was just so delicious!
Despite a much cooler weather when compared to Hyderabad, I found myself getting tanned whenever I stepped out in the sun. The clothes hanged to dry out would all fade quickly. Because of the higher altitude?
But yes, a pretty escape from Hyderabad summer!
Of course, I'd miss walking to office and reaching within 15 minutes of starting from home.
I don't remember, especially after coming to Hyderabad, being surrounded by so many trees. The green landscape all around was such a heartening sight. This, I am told, after being shorn of at least 50% of its green cover.
Most of the main roads I saw were so wide and clean! Of course, the by-lanes  with their potholes are a reminder that I was still very much in India. Few rains and the roads get washed out. And, same like in my city, one drizzle and the traffic would come to a stand still.
The biggest relief was not finding roads splattered with those deep, red paan stains!
Unlike Hyderabad autowallahs, I found the auto drivers there more agreeable to commuting short distances.
70%  of the time, the meters were accurate but if the distances were greater, the drivers would have a gala time literally taking you for a long ride thus upping the meter reading.The GPS on my mobile would be scoffed at. They would lay a claim to better knowledge of the streets and the one-ways.
The buses in number and frequency were commendable, making it easy (and an inexpensive option) to visit friends and relatives staying in far corners of the city. The AC buses were even more comfortable.The average waiting time would not be more then 5 minutes, unless you happen to stay in a remote part of the city.
With Telugu as my mother tongue, I had a smooth sail in Bangalore. I could have got by with Hindi too. But to interact with the autowallahs, the office house keeping staff, the small kirana shops, Telugu helped a lot.
When I said I speak Telugu, many of them would claim to be from AP too...from Rayalseema/Ananthpur areas. They speak a very accentuated Telugu with an abundance of Kannada words thrown in but it was good enough for us to understand one another.
It was amazing to see the office colleagues too slip from one language to another with equal ease and proficiency.
A mall is a mall...anywhere in India...nothing new there... but there is a difference...
I happened to visit the mall once during a weekday and was pretty amazed to find it near-empty. I have never seen malls being empty on weekends or weekdays in mana Hyderabad. That made me almost the entire population in Bangalore employed? If the majority indeed happens to be employed, that  is such a heartening thing to happen!

And the misses:
Very weird! Imagine tickets being sold for 800-900 rupees for a new release unlike the flat rates in Hyderabad. My habit of a first day, first show was quickly dumped.
Popular Indian movies run to full houses in Hyderabad, especially during weekends. On the other hand, in Bangalore all movie halls showing regional ones run half-empty till these high prices last (for a couple of weekends or more). But the English movie tickets are all almost sold out from day 1!
Is it because I stayed in the older and more conservative part of the city or is it the norm? The few eateries I found on my way back from office would down their shutters by 9-9.30 pm. If I happened to reach around that time, all that were left, were the scraps.
It is a city of the rich. Practically, everything is 20% higher than the prices back home.
Where did all my time go in Bangalore? I had so proudly claimed that I was  not going to waste any time on weekends but go exploring the city and the outskirts but then my very hectic work load drained me of any energy to venture out during the weekends. My escapades were limited to food adventures confined to a 5-6 kilometers radius from my residence.

As you can see, many things I liked about the city and very few things to complaint about.

Friday, July 15, 2016

16th July, our Carmel Feast

Those were the days, my friend!

Carmel School. Picture taken on my last visit to school  in 2010.
We celebrated Teachers' Day, Childrens' day, Annual Day ...etc. in our school but Carmel Feast  was a very, very special day for us.The whole year we'd be looking forward to celebrating this wonderful day.
Preparation would begin at least a week before. The class teacher would help plan the dishes for the day. About 10 dishes or so to be divided among the thirty of us. The feast would have varied and special items from each state we were from. There would be puris, the aloo bhaajis, sambar, pulavs, rice etc etc. We would raise hands to volunteer for the dishes. Those were not the days when we ever thought of buying anything. It was all labor of love (the mothers' obviously).

The day of the feast...there were no classes that day!
I recall distinctly the one we celebrated when we were in the 6th class. The desks were all lined against the wall, leaving a vacant square in the middle of the room. A few desks were arranged in the center. Each of us bought a piece of white cloth from our home and used it to cover the desktops. Some girls made an elaborate rangoli at the entrance. The food itself was presented in some pretty dishes on the center table. All those uncouth newspapers, and vessels the food came in were stuffed behind the desks, out of sight.
Plans to decorate the classes were made in advance. We used flowers, balloons , ribbons ...whatever we could find at home and mothers permitted us, to bedeck the classroom. The artists of the class drew elaborate welcome  messages and designs on the blackboard using white and color chalks. After we were done, it was our turn to peep into other classes to see how the competition was faring...the other section being our biggest rival in this case.
We now waited  excitedly for the teachers to come in. 3-4 teachers visited each classroom. They evaluated us on the decoration and presentation of the room. We girls all sat in a very disciplined manner at our desks waiting as they ranked us.The quiet discipline didn't last long though. "Miss! Miss!" we cried out pointing to various small things that the teachers might desperate were we that the prize for the best presentation be ours!
It was only after the teachers  tasted our food and left, did we have our lunch. The variety of food was indeed a feast. I remember distinctly a Kashmiri girl in our class bringing Dum Aloo...big stuffed potatoes in a magnificent gravy! Till date, the memory of that awesome taste lingers.
The warmth, the exuberance, the sincerity and especially the non-commercial way in which we celebrated this feast evokes fragrant memories which will last forever and ever.
Miss you, Carmel Feast and all those lovely school days!

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

100 days of Bangalore: the stay

Around the first week of February, I was asked if I was willing to go to Bangalore for a new project, working with a new client.
I may not exactly have jumped at the idea but the prospect of working in a new city and the possibility of learning something new was quite exciting. I said an emphatic 'yes' to the idea and started looking forward to this stint in Bangalore.
When I was packing, I didn't know  where I would stay and when I would find a place for myself. I booked myself into a hotel for the first week hoping to find something by the end of it.
When I saw Bangalore flats and flatmates groups on facebook, I thought that all I needed to do was post in the group and I would find a place. Foolish me! The search wasn't going to be that easy. The office being in Kumara Park West, there weren't many places for renting. Kumara Park West is close to Malleshwaram and both these places are known to be conventional, residential areas. You have many more options in the Marthahalli, Whitefield, Electronic City side of the city.
Renting an independent room in these areas seemed next to impossible as, of the few available options, no one was willing to give a room for 100 days. The minimum expected stay was six months...with a one month deposit to boot (and no guarantee of getting it back).
Finally, I found something that looked custom-made for me. A newly constructed room with an attached bathroom on the terrace of a PG. The whole terrace was mine.There was a TV and a WiFi connection exclusive for my use.
I reveled in the comfort of exclusivity and privacy but at the same time, I didn't realize how tough it was going to be to access the kitchen on a floor below.What separated the terrace from the kitchen was a steep, open staircase. So, if one were to use the kitchen, one would have to carry all ingredients/groceries from the room to the kitchen below. Not having vessels to cook in also added to the woes. I managed to cook bread, Magi and tea at times. Having a fridge and a microwave helped to an extent but then there was a jostle for space to use these assets. And because of this arrangement, I had to have all the three meals outside home. But at least I had some semblance of a home.
The office, headquartered at Belgium, was definitely a great place to work where the employee comfort was well taken care of. The product I documented was vast and challenging. But what fun if you don't get a challenging project?! The work was invigorating but also pretty demanding
My working time was from 11 am to 8 pm. I would need to complete my morning chores, get ready and decide on a place to eat before I could step out. There were very few options around the place I stayed.
The time till 11 was ruled out and coming home at around 9 ish also ruled out any possibility of venturing out, watch movies or even explore places.
It was on weekends only that I could clean, wash clothes, attend mails/bills, visit friends and relatives and search for decent lunch places for that weekend.
The commute was the best part of staying in Bangalore. Having a permanent address in Hyderabad may not allow me to stay close to office, but that was not so in Bangalore. I could rent a place, less than a kilometer from my office. The commute time, on foot, was just about fifteen minutes...a bliss for every office-goer. To top it, walking under a canopy of trees helped ward off the hot sun till I reached office.
Trees all around my residence also meant waking up to chirping birds...instead of wakening to the rude hoots and rumbles of passing vehicles...something that I have not experienced since my childhood days.
Well, back to home sweet home now.