Friday, March 19, 2010

Bangalore City Sounds

Bangalore, IndiaI woke up in the Koramangula district of Bangalore at five o'clock Thursday morning because my body thought it was afternoon. I got out of bed to open the window then slipped back under the thin cotton sheet which was nearly too much for the heat in the room. As the morning grew lighter the birds began calling back and forth to each other from their perches in the date palms below and the smell of warm dusty air from outside mixed with the manufactured atmosphere of the air conditioned room but it was the sounds of the city that caught my attention.

Bangalore, India
We’d arrived during the night when the streets were barren and dark, stalls lining the roads with their roll-top covers drawn down like eyelids and no street lights or neon signs for light but now I heard the groan of large motors with heavy loads, brakes squealing to a halt and cars passing as the voices of their engines rose and fell with their accelerations.

Bangalore, India
As the traffic grew warmer with the sunlight I heard a woman scream for a full second which may not sound long until you count out “One Mississippi” to yourself and realize how long a second can be. It was one long, complete scream, beginning and ending on the same note before disappearing into the start-stop whir of motors.

Bangalore, India
Punctuating horns spoke to each other in a conversation like a melodic morse code, full of dashes and dots and pauses as the cars said, “I’m coming through,” “Watch out!” or “Yes, I see you.” In other cities horns are angry things but here they sound like an orchestra warming up before the performance and all looking for that true A.

Bangalore, India
After a cool shower and a breakfast that included a mango that was golden and buttery we headed out to see the city. Sampath drove us because no western driver could have navigated the tangle of streets and mob of vehicles where women in peacock blue chudidaars or yellow sparkling saris would ride side-saddle on the backs of motorcycles, babies in arm, or girls in pleated plaid school uniform skirts would stand at the curbs, ready to step off into the careening cars on their way to school.

Bangalore, India
In spite of the heat I kept my window rolled down to watch cows and laundry lines and auto rickshaws going by as we sped through the streets, honking regularly and missing other vehicles by one or two inches and feeling sure that no human being could drive so recklessly yet with such precision. It was like an amusement park ride where you just had to trust that you weren't going to die and that most likely you'd walk away just fine so it would be best to sit back and enjoy the ride.

Bangalore, India
When we came to a stop in traffic I was so close to the motorcyclists on either side that I could have comfortably shaken their hands through the open window or said hello but I was too shy from being stared at most of the day. The entire day on the streets of Bangalore my mother and Andrew were the only pale faces I saw which may be why, as a young boy sped by on the back of his father's bike, he turned to stare at me. I smiled at him and he smiled back just as I snapped his picture.

Bangalore, India
Friday we're going driving to Pondicherry on the east coast. I think I love driving in India.

Sponsored by Annette Lyon, whose new novel Band of Sisters is now in print.

26 comments:

branda50 said...

I read your first paragraph twice...Beautiful description....
Thank you for taking the time to post your trip and the pictures are great...

Peach Rainbow said...

Interesting, I love to read about other countries, thanks for posting!
i think it is Chudidaar/Churidaar.

MRMacrum said...

From one frontier to another kind of frontier. Great pictures, but my favorite is of you and your mom. I love it when the ladies are smiling.

And as Branda50 says, your first paragraph was a zinger. Have a great time.

Carver said...

Wow! That's quite an adventure. Maybe other Asian countries in the future? :-)

Summer said...

Wonderful imagery. You have me there with you. Oh, and you and your ma are twins!

Heather said...

I feel like I was right there with you. Such a great description.

thanks for sharing!

Janelle said...

It sounds wonderful! I love the way you described the honking of the horns.

Karen Olson said...

You should definitely be a travel writer. Your descriptions are beautiful, not to mention your photos.

Shannon said...

I am glad you said no western driver would dare to dive in that madness. I had a driver in Jakarta and friends and family back home gave me such grief about being spoiled but really it was self preservation to hire someone to keep me alive in that insanity.

Your descriptions are wonderful. Can't wait to read more.

Suzie B. said...

Thank you for allowing us all to share your experiences! The photos are great but the pictures you "paint" with your words are wonderful. (And, not only do you have your mother's voice - earthquake interview - you do look a lot alike!) Enjoy yourselves, but don't forget us.

Nalini said...

I am from india and WOW! you have described so wonderfully about the roads there and it was very precise. It was great reading your post and I am so looking forward to rest of your travelogue

AlaneM said...

I have always wanted to visit India & I thank you for blogging your trip for us! You & your Mom are lovely!!

Chrissy Johnson said...

Oh, Michelle what a beautiful experience you're having, and thank you so much for sharing it with us. Ditto on branda50's statement about the first paragraph - really eloquent! I too felt like I was right there with you.

Carinne said...

SIGH....I miss it....Glad you're enjoying it.

J and Company said...

I am completely living vicariously through you on these trip posts! I have wanted to visit India ever since reading some fictional book about India that I can't even remember the name of--but it just sparked my interest in the country and its rich history!

cndymkr / jean said...

I love the photo of you and your Mom. Your descriptions are wonderful and I can't wait to see and hear more about India.

Motherhood for Dummies said...

Im soooo stickin' jelouse! I hope that you are having fun and it looks like you guys are already having a blast. Give mom and dad a hug from us!

Flea said...

Here's the real question: how's your hair holding up? ;)

This is beautiful! I adore the smiling boy at the end.

illahee said...

it looks like you're having a fantastic time!

miriama said...

You have such a way with words. It is almost like I am there. Amazing. Can't wait to read more.

niveditha said...

waw!its so nice to hear from you about the place where i live. The roads and horns are very well explained. And you and your mom look so lovely :)

Heart2Heart said...

Michelle,

It makes you wonder in a sense of awe mixed with excitement being in a place so few of us will actually ever be able to visit. Thanks for taking us along the ride quite literally. Love the picture you captured with the boy on the bike!

Love and Hugs ~ Kat

Jolanthe said...

It's neat to see a picture of you and your mom too. :) You look a lot like her!

Have fun in India ~ I'm sure we'll be hearing much more from you.

Jolanthe

Chris said...

The picture of you and your Mom is just precious....one you will treasure even more one day!!
Thanks for sharing this wonderful adventure!

Ckcsons said...

Nice to hear someone praise and tell about my home town. Bangalore is my favourite cities among every cities in India. Shopping is also very good and available at nominal rates.
Thanks for sharing our experiences here.

Apsolutely Me! said...

I landed at your blog from One pretty thing.. I live at Bangalore and I love how you have captured the essence of this city and the rest of India :)