Bangalore – Photos With Narration – Sidewalks Downtown

Bangalore is an impressive “garden city” best known for its large IT sector. I experienced an issue walking on the road where the sidewalk was not an option and I decided to take some photos of the obstructed sidewalks. I believe this city could probably afford to improve the situation for pedestrians so they don’t need to wander in the road with traffic so often. All these photos were taken within walking distance from my hotel, downtown Bangalore.

I am not suggesting that Bangalore isn’t a beautiful, clean garden city, these are just some things I had to walk around as I wandered the streets. I took all of these photos last night and today, it was not hard to find countless sidewalk obstructions and I did not post more photos I took that are too similar. Interesting coffee table book?

20130217-220413.jpgThe most common sidewalk obstruction that causes the pedestrian to walk directly on the road in traffic is garbage.

20130217-220724.jpgHere see see a nice variety of sidewalk obstructions.

20130217-220820.jpgConstruction materials often force people to walk on the street.

20130217-220933.jpgDid someone think this was the perfect place to dump a load of rubbish? I guess so?

20130217-221040.jpgHere pedestrians are cut off by a messily-fenced electrical panel against parked cars.

20130217-221224.jpgDo you recognize this, common in many Asian countries? See the ropes? That’s right, this was scaffolding they’ve taken down.

20130217-221439.jpgAnother pile of dirt.

20130217-221609.jpgThis permanent city-made obstruction supports the power grid. These obstructions are all over the place. Watch for traffic!

20130217-221827.jpgVendors carts are a common blockage that pedestrians need to step around on the street.

20130217-222117.jpgI don’t really know, random construction leftovers?

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20130217-222318.jpgThis is just rough terrain. Not a lot of roller blading happens here.

20130217-222431.jpgJust some municipal things to walk around.

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20130217-223032.jpgIt’s probably not a live wire.

20130217-223149.jpgWatch your step, this hole is much wider than the length of my foot.

20130217-223329.jpgNoone will notice if I park here.

20130217-223424.jpgPeople don’t sue here if they stumble on the sidewalk.

20130217-223622.jpgLadies overt your eyes! This is handy, on busy Church Street downtown. Yes, right on he sidewalk.

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20130217-223839.jpgHere a few motorbikes obstruct the sidewalk. I took a neat video of this scene too.

20130217-224039.jpgHere some rotting garbage overflows the sidewalk onto the road.

20130217-224216.jpgThis sidewalk isn’t obstructed, it’s just a bit uneven.

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20130217-224425.jpgThis laundress is not entirely blocking the sidewalk, it was just an interesting sidewalk photo for the collection.

20130217-224605.jpgJust a bit of a crevass.

20130217-224737.jpgOh, am I blocking the sidewalk? Sorry, but there wasn’t enough space for me to fit parallel. Can you imagine someone doing this in the West!

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20130217-225022.jpgThese yellow traffic barriers are not improving the situation for pedestrians in their present use.

20130217-225214.jpgThis little stretch of sidewalk seems to be prepared for a flood with sandbags.

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20130217-225443.jpgThis is just showing a bit of disrepair on the fancy sidewalk in front of Puma and other brand stores.

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20130217-225950.jpgI accept this obstruction as being unavoidable.

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20130217-230206.jpgI’m not sure what sometime was trying to do here. Did they have the idea that this palette could be used as a cover but it didn’t quite work?

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20130217-230552.jpgA cow bed!

20130217-230701.jpgShe is completely hogging the sidewalk with her produce. But I’m okay with that.

20130217-230808.jpgYes, this is a completely obstructed sidewalk.

20130219-204510.jpgA bit of obstruction to walk around at the corner.

20130219-204654.jpgThis sudden sidewalk crevass is about four feet deep.

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Goa, Arambol – Story – Beach Fun

The Daily Motions

Eight Westerners pull-up benches on-loan from a nearby restaurant and sit in a wide-open U formation with bongo drums in hand. Arambol beach has a momentum; without being specifically organised there are daily activities that come-together in specific areas and places along the sandy strip.

Pre-sunset is the busiest time on this beach, when everyone congregates to enjoy the spectacle. Newly acquired hobbies are practiced and shown-off; these are the activities of those who have been at leisure on the beach for some time. Guys roll glass spheres up and down their arms in an eloquent balancing act, like juggling but without tossing. There is also juggling, baton-spinning, guys who look like they’re practicing cheerleading poses by lifting girls over their heads, tippy-spinning dances, the occasional girl who just experienced her first belly-dancing class and is now excited to try her new garment with all those little metal dangles. A group gathers around someone with a guitar, drunken Russian voices belt out standard hits from the 70’s and 80’s. But by far the largest crowd has gathered around the seated bongo drummers; the sounds from their drums can be heard far up the beach, unhindered by any buildings or structures.

A circle naturally continues from the open U of the seated drummers and a few people have taken possession of the middle, letting their bodies bounce about to the beat. This group consists of ten to thirty people most evenings, in an ever-changing collection as some dancers join while others have had their fill. Some of the dancers seem to be taking themselves seriously, they dance with serious poker faces as if taking part in a formal religious act. A few have their eyes closed and actually look like they are in pain, having some type of deep spiritual moment I can only suppose. One really tall white guy, as thin as could be with dregs and bad teeth, has the look of someone who has experienced too many black-market substances gone wrong. He has no sense of rhythm whatsoever, so instead of dancing or moving to the beat, he just convulses. Like an epileptic fit but standing-up. If I did those jerky motions I would certainly injure myself. He must be having a good experience though, he is at the centre of the action every evening.

People around the fringe of the dancers are swayers. They lean from side-to-side, move a bit, I think many of them would enjoy to participate more fully but for whatever reason they don’t. The crowd tends to be about ten deep around the circle, probably between one and two hundred people. It takes a bit of effort to get to the centre. I make my way through the outliers, deposit my bag near to a drummer and join the fun.

I fall into the category of the amused, along with some Indian folks who seem near to my age. We are the ones who are laughing and smiling, just having fun being silly. We’re not sure what deep spiritual adventures are being had around us, but we’re enjoying our own spiritual uplifting- I nearly always experience joy when dancing.

The drum beat gets faster and faster until the drummers reach their maximum speed and suddenly it all stomps to a halt with cheering and clapping. A few moments later they start again, usually quite slowly and tentatively, like a train starting out.

The drumming becomes experimental during the third round, off-kilter and a bit random. This takes the fun out of spontaneous dancing, trying to match the changing beat is too much of a chore, too cognitive. I take this as my time to bow-out. As I reach for my bag it seems the drummers have realised their folly; only a few dancers remain now and those who do are the ones who couldn’t follow any beat anyway. They cut it short to start again but I don’t turn back, perhaps I’ll join again tomorrow.

If I had a friend here it would have been fun to capture in video. I am finding Arambol to be a bit of a lonely place for me.

January, 2013.

Mumbai – Story – My Wacky Party Life

My wacky party-life

I’m staying at a hotel in Bandra that has three restaurants within. They were all open and operating at loud full-swing yesterday. Today, they are being torn-apart, all three are closed. Apparently they are to be joined together to form a multi-level KFC.

After several hours of local wanderings all I have found to eat so far today was a stale, greasy muffin at a coffee chain. They had other food items, but I recently found myself quite ill from eating a pre-packaged sandwich at a competitor. I cannot assume adequate freshness even when it comes to expensive coffee shops that cater to foreigners. If that nice-looking wrapped sandwich was made a week ago, I would be the one who pays. I had left the hotel in search of sustenance, and finally I have circled back. It’s after 3pm and I am hungry.

The front desk manager tells me that I can, in fact, have lunch upstairs on the terrace. I find my way there and find the terrace is piling-up with debris and is rather in the centre of a construction zone. I am approached by the restaurant manager who explains at length why I cannot eat there, as if it were not obvious. I beg him to help me find food and lucky for me he knows the perfect place. He walks with me down to the street and points across the intersection to a doorway flanked with speakers with the sign, “Rude Nightclub” above. Well, how did I ever miss that?

Two little guys guard the door and don’t speak a word of English when I try to ask them if they serve food. (I still can’t quite conceive it, and the bar music is loud on the sidewalk.). I’ll see for myself. I’m led up a staircase into a dark, hyper-noisy nightclub which, oddly at just after 3pm, is at about one third capacity. I put-in my noise reducing ear plugs and take a seat. I take a photo of the ceiling, which is covered with broken table legs and rolls of barbed wire. A huge banner, “spoils ur bad mood,” fills the far wall.

The volume, even with my dense earplugs, is incredibly loud. The powerful bass thumps my whole body. My chest especially is reverberating. Even if my ears are protected from abuse, it seems like the rest of my body isn’t. I am completely mystified what makes this an appropriate venue to recommend me. I’m wearing shoes, slacks, a button shirt, and a fedora. I look neither like a party animal nor a hippie by any stretch. Is this really the only nearby food source appropriate for a foreign digestive tract?

Upholstery fabric covering the chairs simulate newspaper pages except that all the topics are definitional and relate to pop culture. “iPod is a line of portable media players invented and marketed by Apple. . . . . .An automobile, auto car, motor car, or car is a wheeled motor vehicle used for transporting passengers . . . .” Additionally, there are joke sections, which are terrible, “Why are you stupid today? Anyway, I think that’s very typical of you.”

Chinese food is somewhat common in India, and I am pleased to order lemon chicken since my body doesn’t always welcome spice for my first meal of the day. What arrives is a creamy, lemony curry concoction unlike anything I’ve ever tasted. The waiter serves it from bowl to plate as if serving for the first time ever. It must be nerves, I think, that everywhere I dine my server is so slow, awkward, and clumsy. Or perhaps they always make the new guy serve the foreigner because no one else wants to. That creates a repeating experience of continually being served by novices on their first day.

I watch the crowd around me as I eat. With a corner table, I can view the entire room. The music is so loud, I eat quickly so I can leave soon.

How much fun is this daytime nightclub? I never once saw any group mingle with any other group. Groups of 2,3,4,6,10, all completely separate. No one dancing and too noisy to chat. People are drinking and having snacks. Who likes this?

January, 2013.

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Goa, Arambol – Story – Spiritual Pursuits

Spiritual Pursuits

I am somewhat dedicated to trying new things. Meditation is highly advertised on the beaches in Goa, along with yoga and Aruveda. I’ve never been meditative, I’ve always been far too contemplative and find it difficult to “quiet my mind” in that serene, peaceful way. To join yoga is a given, I will definitely do that. As for Aruveda, I don’t want to dedicate the time to explore it properly and I already have had warm oil poured over my head for 90 minutes while receiving massage so that introductory experience does not need repeating. I don’t really like gentle massage, it seems without benefit to me.

I follow the direction of a large, professionally-made beachside sign that promises all the services I dream of. I walk up to a service hut, just a double table surrounded by palm fronds to make a semi-enclosed kitchen space, and express my interest. “Sit there.” I am pointed towards a wooden office desk well sunk into the sand surrounded by interior padded office chairs with wheels not really made for beach use. There is a circle of middle-aged men and one woman sitting beside in the shade of a canopy. The oldest among them, wearing flowing peachy religious attire, eventually stirs and lazily makes his way over to the desk, addressing me only after he has made himself comfortable.

I will need to prepay 500 Rs ($10) for a yoga session that will take place at 10AM tomorrow. “I am curious about meditation as well,” I suggest. “What kind, there many kind of medication,” he explains, continuing his heir of importance as a master spiritual guru. “Something introductory, whatever you suggest.” “I can show you best one,” he informs, “it take 20 minute and we can do right now.” “How much?” “200 rupee” ($4) “Can you make change?” “Yes, of course.” He takes another 500 Rs note from me and then he causes much confusion. He’s barking orders around the table, people are handing notes back and forth, people are standing-up to reach into their pockets, it’s too much confusion to get 300 Rs change. Already I know I’m being duped. “Let’s go,” he leads and takes me to a barely tolerable hot spot of sand sheltered from the wind yet in the direct sun.

He proceeds to talk at me at a very uncomfortable distance, standing with his face right in my face. (To do this so closely, he has positioned himself on higher ground, we’re on a bit of a dune.) I sneak backwards and he keeps with me, the lack of inches between us apparently essential for the relay of information. His skin is definitely not his temple, I think, it is so sun damaged. His teeth are narrow brown stumps and I can’t help but wonder how they don’t fall out. He babbles on and on, with his illiterate accent I cannot understand enough of his oddly-chosen words to actually follow along. “Medication,” I understand to be “meditation” but too many other words are not repeated enough for me to create my own translations. I am standing in the hot afternoon sun paying a raving lunatic to teach me meditation with his dirty face inches from mine. Which one of us is the crazy one, at least he’s getting paid.

He teaches me the “surrender” pose so we can do our first chant. I was not expecting chants to be a part of learning to quiet my mind. As for the pose, it’s the basic palms-together in-front-of-chest pose common as a greeting pose in many Asian cultures.

In this position, directly facing the sun but with eyes closed, we chant, “oooommmmm. . . . .namo nana ha,” over and over again, the oooommmm part getting longer and longer over time. This chant we do too many times, perhaps twenty, before moving on.

“Ooooommmmm . . . . . . gama ganapata namaha,” is our next meditative secret. An English girl saunters past, “I like your t-shirt!” she quips. I’m wearing a silly t-shirt from NYC, the entire front is a realistic enlarged face of a guinnea pig.

This chant is followed by the equally futile-feeling, “oooommmm . . . .shyra naraya namaha,” which we again do far too many times.

Finally, I am treated to the very special phrases he has especially coined for his foreign clients, perhaps because when I ask him what we are chanting, he can’t or won’t tell me.

“You must be louder!” he informs me as we bellow, “I am the part of the universe!” I autocorrect to, “a part of the universe” but he corrects me back to his perfect word creation.

My voice now tired, I am thinking that this very long twenty minutes must surely be coming to their end. “All the sun’s powerful living energy comes to my body! Welcome, welcome, welcome!” This chant we do with eyes closed, still facing the hot sun, but this time with arms open to the sky, palms facing the sun. “The energy enters your palms,” he tells me. By this point I feel like a complete idiot having entrusted this man to teach me meditation and instead he shares his practice of sun worship. No wonder his skin is such a wrinkled, blotchy mess.

“I go back, you stay, more chanting, come back when you finished.” I’d rather have a cuddle with the big ugly rats that live under my beach shack, I think as I decline that suggestion. Is he hoping that if he gives the foreigner heat stroke using this very strategically-hot space, that they will be deluded into thinking they’ve had some type of deep experience? That they’ll attribute the feeling of weakness and light-headedness as coming from his profound instruction? “No, I’m finished, thanks.”

Back at reception I ask about my change. He looks confused and wags his head, what change? He took $10 for his 20 minutes rather than the $4 he quoted.

At least I learned how to meditate.

January, 2013.

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Mumbai – Story – My Gateway to India 2013

The Megatropolis of Mumbai (Formerly Bombay)

The Beginning

I hired a pre-paid taxi inside the airport, which one should always do if disputes over the fare want to be avoided. After long deliberation between my driver and various other drivers as to how to get to the destination (the general direction anyway), we set out.

Streets are a cacophony of movement in India. Various forms of mobility weave and mingle forming a mass of random-looking motion. Three lanes become five, as cars, auto rickshaws, buses, ox-carts, trucks, scooters, motorcycles, bicycles weave in and out, crowd in together, and entirely disregard the notion or existence of lanes. The vehicles don’t drive one-behind-another, instead the moving mass fits together like a large, ever-changing jigsaw puzzle moving its way slowly forward. The noise created is deafening, engine noises of all sorts and incessant horn blowing in a range of pitches and volumes. Bollywood music blares here and there, both from vehicles as well as from little vending shacks. The louder the better.

This is the beginning of my second trip to India and my first visit to Mumbai. From the airport to my first destination involves more than an hour of intense navigation. After we leave the heaving mass of movement that seems to be a highway, we enter smaller roads that meander through endless neighbourhoods, some ordinary, others maze-like. These smaller roads are still messes of confused congestion, on a smaller scale. There is more stimulation from the roadside now, with mostly shack-businesses lining the side streets. Rubbish is strewn anywhere, laundry hangs from string and if available on roadside fencing. Vendors sit on the ground surrounded by their wares, usually produce. Cows linger with dogs. People are everywhere, waking on the streets, sitting on the streets, selling, buying, waiting, going. Smells emanate continually, it smells like farm, now fish, now burning rubbish, now open sewer, now just traffic pollution. Heaps of rotting discards, hot from the sun, smell earthy. Cows pick through. So do people.

I feel myself becoming entirely engulfed by the chaotic humanity. Going deeper and deeper into the urban jungle; there is no quick escape from this place. This realization makes me feel claustrophobic. I am absolutely surrounded by high-density life for miles in every direction. This city will be my home for the next three weeks, from four different vantage points.

My first situation is a homestay in Charkop Sector 8, a North-West suburb. As we approach the general region the driver stops for directions. Not that we’re lost, this is actually the modus operandi of taxi drivers. I have found that addresses are of little interest to drivers, they just want to know the nearby landmarks. In fact, addresses very often include landmarks, officially as part of the address. (Whenever possible) My address here includes “behind MTNL”, a large telephone exchange. So it will be this, and not the actual address, that the driver asks for each time we stop. After three such stops and one U-turn, we have found the landmark. At this stage we phone my host, who now guides us in like an air traffic controller.

Well, nearly. Now behind the telephone exchange with street-side locals scratching their heads, we connect with the host one last time using the mobile. Another u-turn and a bit more searching and I am finally introduced to my new friend and host who is flagging us down from the sidewalk.

“I will never find my way home,” I think as he helps me into the building. During my first trip to India I stayed in hotels that were the landmarks of directions. Also, I was not travelling alone and our driver was always with us.

I am in for quite a local adventure.

January, 2013.

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Mumbai – Photos with Narration – Megatropolis of Bombay

With more than 15 million residents, this sprawling city is also a haven of interest for the foreign traveller. I stayed in four locations over three weeks and experienced sensory overload every day. A brilliant adventure for my brand of interests.

20130212-130116.jpgMy first Indian commuter train ride. People start to disembark before the train comes to a stop!

20130212-130323.jpgInside a train going from Kandivili to Juhu. The Indian railway is the largest employer in the world with 1,600,000 employees! 55,000 trains at the edge of their lifespans move millions of passengers every day.

20130212-130712.jpgThere are quite a few people who live in India.

20130212-134724.jpgThe Gateway of India is Mumbai’s most iconic landmark.

20130212-134958.jpgElephanta Island is a ferry-ride away from the India Gate. Famous for the Elephanta caves, so named because the Portuguese found an ancient elephant statue here.

20130212-135214.jpgAlways cute but mischevous!

20130212-135402.jpgThe Elephanta caves are elaborately carved into the rocks.

20130212-135545.jpgI wrote a story about my visit to Elephanta. I spent the day with German friend, Martin, and Indian friend Gautam.

20130212-135758.jpgThe docks of Elephanta.

20130212-135900.jpgSeagulls flying with us during our return to Mumbai. Check out the videos I made of them!

20130212-140055.jpgMen gather before going to temple on Sunday Morning at Vile Parle, Mumbai.

20130212-140227.jpgOops! I did not notice the instruction at the bottom of this sign until after I had broken it during my visit.

20130212-140440.jpgIt’s difficult to see through the bug screens into the nursery of this orphanage, but my videos are easier to see.

20130212-140751.jpgThe beaches in Mumbai are not for swimming, they are for taking strolls in the cool breeze. Juhu beach is one of several havens to escape the enormous city and is very convenient. It is also a venue for illicit trades in the evening, which were very out in the open.

20130212-141310.jpgLocal colourful.

20130212-141434.jpgCreative wiring at my flat rental in Mulund. (In the building entrance.)

20130212-141635.jpgThe kitchen of my flat rental in Mulund, Mumbai.

20130212-141813.jpgThe squat toilet of my flat in Mulund, Mumbai.

20130212-142101.jpgColourful laundry hangs wherever it finds a place. Visual stimulation is everywhere and I will miss this kind of interest when I return to Canada.

20130212-142359.jpgMy neighbors in Mulund, Mumbai. Wherever there is an empty space, people will set-up home. Come to think of it, there is no empty space.

20130212-142613.jpgThere was a really nice feeling of community in the building where I had my flat rental. People kept their doors open to the hallway whenever they were home to come and go from each others flats. These flats were all one-room plus kitchen and bath, so the families were completely visible from the hallway. They only closed their doors when sleeping or when not at home.

20130212-142950.jpgThe open sewers don’t smell pretty.

20130212-143106.jpgFriendly stray dogs lounge in the street.

20130212-143223.jpgI rarely saw rubbish inside bins anywhere in India.

20130212-143412.jpgSuch a fun name for a dairy!

20130212-143715.jpgSmell the dairy freshness! Yummy!

20130212-143851.jpgBlending in with locals and with the sign at these caves in Sanjay Ghandi National Park.

20130212-144138.jpgMore ancient caves carved into rocks in this large park that separates the Western and Eastern suburbs of North Mumbai.

20130212-144519.jpgThe “lung” of Mumbai, Sanjay Ghandi National Park.

20130212-144655.jpgCrowds on the streets near Mulund station, Mumbai.

20130212-144926.jpgCheerful street art in the small back-streets of Bandra, a fashionable district of Mumbai.

20130212-145634.jpgBandra, Mumbai.

20130212-145739.jpgBandra backstreets, Mumbai.

20130212-145859.jpgHidden backstreets in Bandra, Mumbai.

20130212-150022.jpgI retreat to a five star to take a few days break away from the excitement and chaos of India.