Monday, December 17, 2012

The Unexpected Can be The Adventure

On the road to nowhere

Often as a traveler, you stumble onto interesting little mini-adventures when en route to somewhere else. And thus was the case when my friend Jacqueline (who is here in India for a visit) and I decided to go to the Bannerghatta National Park on my motorcycle. We planned on also stopping off at the Bannerghatta Zoo. No problem; I’d set the navigator with the destination and it would talk me there. Well, no....

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Four Months of Contradictions

With her pending visit, Jacqueline was asking me "what's it like," in India.  After four months on the ground I still can't answer that question.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Sound of Diwali

It thundered all around me. As I sat on my terrace watching fireworks light up the sky, more omnipresent was the sound of what could be compared to cannon and musket fire up close and in your ears in the street. This is just a part of Diwali, the celebration of lights.

Friday, November 23, 2012

The Road to MYSORE

I felt tense; my mind racing, my adrenaline flowing. I was being assaulted by the rain as we streaked along the Bangalore-Mysore Highway at speeds up to 100-120 kilometers an hour, swerving in and out of traffic.  Our three motorcycles in a row (with two riders each), only feet apart, trailed the vehicles before us waiting for a crack of opportunity. Then without warning, whoosh, whoosh, whoosh, one closely followed by the other shot through the sliver of opening as we raced towards Mysore. Had I lost my mind?  Welcome to yet another India experience.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

My Front Row View of Diwali

Deepawali or Diwali is certainly the biggest and the brightest of all Hindu festivals. It's the festival of lights (deep = light and avali = a row i.e., a row of lights) that's marked by four days of celebration, which literally illumines the country with its brilliance, and dazzles all with its joy.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


Sweets, flowers and prayers mark the last two days of Dasara, yet another India holiday celebration. More celebrations  more Gods, yep, of course, I'm in India!

Dil, Gods and Muslims

What I've learned about India so far, is that they have over 3 million Gods and Goddesses, have more holidays than you can imagine, and more bare-foot people -- by choice -- walking the streets than any other city I've ever been in.

The First Rule of Travel

I had no expectations of India. But I did have an agenda, and most importantly, forgot the first rule of travel.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Search for an American Breakfast

Marketplace in my neighborhood
From The first night that I confronted a foot-long lizard on the ceiling of my shower room, to cows, goats and roosters roaming the streets,  I've known that this is a different place from any other that I've lived.  

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

I Almost Forgot Where I Was

So after an all-night-er working, we meet a beautiful sunny morning.  I'm basking in the sun, the easy breeze as I stop in the marketplace to pick up the daily paper. Then ...

Then just as everything was melding together a rooster comes waling out into the street. A few blocks later we turned the corner and there was a herd of goats -- in the middle of the city!  Oh yeah, I'm in India :)

Meanwhile they just ended the 11-day festival for Lord Ganesha -- the God with the elephant head, and now there is another 9-day festival about to start.   More on that soon (as soon as I get caught up on it). 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Don't Be So Serious

In a post by Sadhguru in The Speaking Tree, he talks about the three dimensions of the feminine  and the three basic qualities of the existence: tamas (inertia), rajas (activity), and sattva (breaking of boundaries, dissolution and melting and merging), connected by celestial bodies -- the Earth, Sun and Moon.

A Touch of Autumn

Despite the occasional rain downpours, it has mostly felt like summer since I arrived in July.  But today has a tinge of Autumn in the air;  cool, not cold, a slight breeze, gray skies.  I had to wear shoes instead of sandals; oh, such inconvenience.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Ganesha Fever

The past few days I've noticed a feverish mood in the local markets as I walk along, with dozens of stands and shops selling little elephants.  Some are in bright colors, while others are made of clay. All come in a variety of sizes, from 10" or so  to 25 feet high.  And all this frenzy is just a hint of what's to come I'm told.  

NS Ramaswamy

I was at the local cafe reading the Times of India today, well, like I do everyday, and came across an interesting article about a guy you've likely -- like me -- never heard of, who passed away recently.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Have You Heard of Piadina?

I thought there was a huge culture shock when I first got to India, yet I'm now finding that a lot of what's different is also the same.

Friday, August 31, 2012

A Joyful Start

Everyday I pass this little girl on the street; her mom and grandmother iron clothes while she sits atop the table.  She always sees me and says "hi,hi,hi" and then after a short chat as I leave she follows with "bye,bye,bye."  She is too cute and bubbling with personality.  It fulfills my daily moment of joy.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Garbage City

In an on-going, and too slow recovery, the commissioner of the BBMP (the city agency that oversees city services) got the boot from his position by the state-level government today as the garbage crisis continues. 

Getting Settled

Mysore Palace
I've really been quite lazy since arriving, but made the first moves to change that dynamic today

Monday, August 20, 2012

Indian Oddities

Every place you go you'll notice little oddities that strike you as new and strange.  India is no exception.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

India at 66

The largest democracy on the planet celebrates its sixty sixth birthday today, while remaining a land of extreme contradictions.
As I walk the streets of Bangalore the contradictions stare me in the face. World brands like McDonalds and KFC stand side by side with local bakeries, open produce markets, and traditional restaurants that serve up Thali; you can also find Chinese and Italian cuisine abundant.
Saree (or Sari)
It is indeed a land of many spices; extreme wealth and extreme poverty; progressive innovation and old world traditions.
The men all wear western fashions — whether its dress slacks and shirts, or jeans and polo shirts –, while the women still mostly wear a traditional saree, , or salwar kameez; loose slacks and a tunic top.
According to Wikipedia, the Republic of India is the seventh largest country by landmass, second largest by population (1.2 billion), with the 11th largest economy by GNP (third in purchasing power). There are 28 states and 7 union territories. It is multi-lingual, multi-ethnic, and pluralistic; while Hindu and English are the two formal national languages, there are some eighty languages with 200 dialects throughout this country.

Revenge by Any Other Name

So I thought that Montezuma had followed me to India in a most dramatic expression of his Revenge.  Turns out I was wrong.
It was said that Montezuma II, who reined as emperor of Mexico from 1502 – 1520 — until the Spanish began their conquest of the Aztec Empire, enacted his revenge for the invasion through what most North Americans have come to know as  Montezuma’s Revenge.
However, the (diarrhea) condition that affects so many travelers exists in many parts of the world and is not exclusively reserved for westerners; many from Asia and India that travel to Europe and North America are affected too.
The condition doesn’t stem from unsanitary conditions — as commonly thought –, nor exclusively from the water.  The E. coli bacteria exists within every body already, but when when it is introduced from a foreign source, that is when this lovely gut-wrenching condition props up its ugly head. It is usually uncomfortable, lasts for days, and in some instances can be serious.  I can attest to the first two!

Continue reading this here

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Movie Maddness

I had time to kill and headed to the local Forum Mall to stroll around and perhaps catch a film. With Bollywood being the largest output producer of films in the world, I wasn’t sure what to expect.
A short 5-minute rickshaw ride — I love these things (without doors they’re easy to get in and out of, and you can smoke during your ride) and I’d arrived; it cost eighty cents!
The mall was a big change from the local shopping district I toured yesterday. It was very modern, with all the western and worldwide labels you’d see in any mall in America; clothes from Lee, Wrangler, Polo, Tommy Hilfiger, mixed in with other traditional Indian fashions ; electronics such as Apple and Samsung, eateries such as KFC and Pizza Hut (I ate lunch at Pizza Hut and to my taste their menu was a step up from the U.S.A.), cafes and a food court with the Subway chain, Chinese and other stands as well.
They had a movie theater there (PVR), and among the Hollywood offerings was The Amazing Spider-man (which I had previously seen and
Security checking bags at mall
reviewed) and The Dark Knight Rises.  I bought a ticket for the latter: R1200 (1,200 rupees), or about US$ 24, which seemed incredibly steep considering my lunch — consisting of soup, chicken quesadillas and a bottle of water — only cost me US$3, and my hotel was only US$30 a night.
However, this was unlike any theater I had ever been in — I’ve read about them (in Texas and even Moscow).
As I entered through the lobby doorway, I was struck by the lounge area of overstuffed club chairs and couches, though I couldn’t imagine why anyone would opt to hang out in a theater. Inside the movie room itself, there were only thirty-two seats; incredibly large, plush, wide chairs with a side table and individual controls for the chair; they even provided a pillow. The sound within was extraordinary, which for a partially deaf old man like me was welcome.
The lounge out front?  That was there to relax in during the intermission.  Attendants also came around to refresh any order you might have for drinks, snacks and/or food; “you can pay after the film” he said.   Having just eaten shortly before, I ordered only a bucket of popcorn (R$120 = US$2.25); they also had sandwiches, and a wide array of other foods and appetizers that one would find at a restaurant.
So all-in, my day at the movies cost me US$26, which with popcorn and ticket was only about US$2 more than a ticket and popcorn at a New York theater, but was far more comfortable.
Moreover, as the lights came up for the intermission, I had a lovely chat with an Indian woman in the seat next to me; she provided some insight to the city, and recommended that I visit Mysore — only a few hours from Bangalore, but a nice tourist place she said, with a grand palace to see.
If and when I visit, I’ll you know what I find there.

Jet Lagged, Day one in Bangalore

Saturday.  I’m jet-lagged, but decided to see some sights.  I left the hotel and was immediately reminded that I was somewhere else: there were four cows roaming the street. I flagged down a rickshaw and ended up at the Lalbagh Botanical Gardens.  After an hour or so, I headed back to the neighborhood by my hotel to see what I could find.
Lalbagh Botanical Gardens
The Lalbagh Botanical Gardens (click link to view photos) covers 240 aches. It was a nice couple of hours to enjoy the nature: the sound of birds were everywhere.  Compared to the NY Botanical gardens I was used to, this was more of just a park.
I flagged another rickshaw and a few minutes later was back near the hotel.  I walked a few blocks and stumbled onto the fresh produce market. I haven’t tasted anything yet. I think I’ll wait until next week to experience that.
The locals of course spotted me a foreigner immediately, but it was my cigar that drew the most intriguing looks: one guy approached to ask me what it was, what it was called, and where I got it.
Along a few streets were wood carvers applying their craft (I’m told they come from villages outside the city). The statues range n price from R150- R300 (about US$3 – $6).
Nearby Villagers wood carv

Getting a NY Visa to India

Bureaucracy is what it is, but the people at the Indian Visa office were very easy to deal with even if the process caused a glitch for me.
Having flown so often to South America, plus a trip to Mexico without needing a visa, I hadn’t thought about one for India until Tuesday afternoon — my flight was Thursday morning.
NOTES: (1) for U.S. citizens, it can take up to 72 hours to get your visa application processed, approved and delivered, so plan accordingly,  (2) a tourist visa can be for as long as 6 months (with multiple entries in and out of the country) and a business visa up to a year, (3) you must apply ONLINE, and then print it and present it at the visa office on east 53rd Street.
After decamping to Argentina in 2004 I no longer had a permanent address in the states. However, after  my six month stint in Mexico, during my visit in Colorado, I was able to use my sisters address, and also get a drivers license (had let mine lapse years ago and never got a new one).
Here was the glitch: even though I completed the Indian visa form listing New York as the mission office, they rejected it because  my address was listed as Colorado, requiring me to apply via the San Francisco office. I now had and hour before that office closed: it was Tuesday night.  I had to jump hoops to get the address on my bank account changed to a NY address, print it and race to complete and print the online form once again and get back to the visa office before they closed; I made it with minutes to spare.
While doing errands Wednesday I could only hope that my visa would be cleared and delivered by end of the day: I was to fly out Thursday in the morning.  As it turned out, everything worked out.
What a way to start a journey!

It's Not Driving, Not Really

I was born and raised in New York, lived in New Jersey, Manhattan, Los Angeles, Buenos Aires and Mexico, and I thought that I encountered some pretty extreme drivers. In Los Angles, even though they usually obeyed all the traffic laws, they were just plain bad. We used to sit at a cafe on Sunset and take bets on how long it would take to see or hear the next crunch up. As opposed to NYC and Buenos Aires where they can drive, but traffic rules there are interpreted by drivers to be more of suggestions than actual laws -- as they zigzag along. But ...

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Oh Yeah, Lots of Prep

As my depart date for Banagalore, India got closer, I had to start thinking about getting things done before leaving, which included SHOTS! I hate shots, don't we all?

First I needed to know what I needed.  And since I hadn't been back in New York City very long, I didn't have a doctor to ask.

However, I came across a site for the Travel Clinic of New York, which certainly sounded like the place for me.  Turns out, they were terrific. I went in for the appointment, talked with the doctor a few minutes to determine what I needed, got the shots and was out of there in less than thirty minutes.

For India he recommended Hepatitus A, Typhoid, Tetnus, and Polio.  The cost was about $100 each. For Malaria there is no shot: you have to take pills DAILY! What a drag, and they're $10 each. so a three-month supply is costing me approx. $1,000.