Archive for October, 2007

From Bangalore to Ooty

Dude smoking Friday was a holiday here in Bangalore and we took advantage of the 3-day weekend to get out of town. We left the house a bit after 7 and began driving from one end of Bangalore (Whitefield) to the other (Bangalore-Mysore road). At 7am on a holiday it took ~90 minutes to get from one end to the other. Driving inside of Bangalore is always an adventure. Mixing cars, trucks, buses, motorcycles, rickshaws, pedestrians, bicycles cows and dogs on one road is… just like you’d imagine.

Here’s another one of those slideshow-like things for you all. I managed to find 36 pictures that I liked! Dig in.
Pictures from Bangalore to Ooty

2 comments October 21st, 2007

Let’s Get Retarded

Everybody sing “Let’s get retarded (ha), let’s get retarded in here….”

Last night we ventured out to the palace grounds here in Bangalore with a bunch of fellow expats to see The Black Eyed Peas perform. I must say it was a really great show. We had a great time dancing to the crazy music, and for the price of admission, we were incredibly close to the stage.

I was really impressed by the show. There was no opening act to warm up the crowd, and it was definitely impressive to see BEP get all of the attendees shouting, “let’s get retarded” :-) And who can forget Fergies school-girl outfit!

We did learn that concert traffic jams are universal the world around. It’s weird to go to a concert and not see a few people falling over drunk (no booze sold on grounds). And it was definitely interesting to go to such a concert and not see scantily clad women. We had a great time at Liz and Shane’s pre-party, followed by the after-party at their house too. Who doesn’t love pizza hut at 11pm after a concert?!? Not to mention hot pizza from delivery – we had almost forgotten that pizza comes hot usually :) Good times.

Add comment October 17th, 2007

Live Blogging: My Drive to Work

This morning I’ve decided to do a little bit of “live-blogging.”
Reporting to you live from my car as I get driven in to work. Hopefully
it gives you a bit of a taste for what I see each day. The traffic today
will be far lighter than usual as I’m coming in early to make an 8:30
meeting. Here we go!

7:35 AM

Cruising through the gate of my complex we pass by the security guard
booth where no less than 4 security guards are standing around,
seemingly doing nothing.

We pull out onto the main road, its a slightly foggy day, the fog has
only recently come to Bangalore, relative to how long I’ve been here at
least. The sun is beginning to break through and most things are well
lit by the sunlight.

Going around the first corner we brake hard to avoid rearending a large
bus. Busses, being the second largest vehicle on the road out here drive
as though they’re the second largest vehicle. They pull out from their
stop whenever they please and you need to not hit them. Stuck behind
this bus two cars fly by us on the left (the slow lane). This is a
dangerous move for a few reasons: The bus might decide to make a stop
and, there are probably a few bicycles in that lane. If you hold your
horn down while making the pass it is theorized that the pass is more
safe. At the least it would surely be the bus drivers fault since,
didn’t he hear the horn?!

Continuing down the road, airport rd, we reach our first speed bump.
These things are everywhere and are used in lieu of a stop sign in most
cases. My driver breaks 10 yards later than the car next to us and we
make our first pass of the day. This bump marks the best stretch of road
between home and work, we’re doing 80km/h and are flying past bicycles
and pedestrians. The road moves very fast here because there are no
shops, side roads or bus stops and so no one needs to merge.

We reach the second speed bump of the trip just a few seconds later,
this marks the end of the nice stretch of road. Traffic becomes more
congested beginning right now.

7:42AM

We just drove past some sort of a working class family. Mom, daughter
and very young child (maybe 3-4 years old) all heading off to work. I’m
not actually sure what they’ll be doing at work. They’re carrying a few
buckets but these could be used for almost anything. (Reading this
paragraph back to myself after having arrived at work this family may
have just been venturing off to the water pump to fill their buckets
with water for the day)

Now our first regulated intersection of the day. I call it regulated not
because there’s some sort of defined flow to it but because there’s a
traffic cop standing there pretending to have control over the ~40
vehicles arriving from the 4 corners of the intersection. As you
approach one of these intersections traffic changes from ~2 lanes to a
seemingly infinite number. This is because everyone is trying to cut in
front of everyone else. Motorcycles drive past on the shoulder and creep
into the middle of the intersection so that they’re in front. There is
no more than 6″ on any side between any of the cars right now. We are
packed in like sardines in a can. If the cars aren’t wedged in tight
enough motorcycles will fill the gaps, splitting “lanes” just like they
do in the US. Though here they’ll hit your car and keep going. This
didn’t happen today.

We just drove under an official road sign that says “Airpoart Ahead”. The
Airport is also up ahead.

Driving over the maratahalli bridge is always an adventure. There’s room
for 3 lanes of traffic total for both directions. Often times there are
4 lanes in use. Imagine that for a moment.

Today its early and there are only 3 lanes of traffic. The middle lane
is shared by both directions. Ha. Imagine -that- for a moment.

We now reach our second controlled intersection of the day, outer ring
rd. This intersection has a stop light where we’ll patiently wait.
Similar to the other regulated intersection motorcycles pass on the
left, cut to the front of the line and extend where the cars had stopped
into the middle of the intersection. Looking around from the car while
we’re stopped there are a bunch of people, some well dressed, others
the equivalent of homeless. Everyone mixes together. A motorcycle goes
by, the driver has a helment, the passenger does not. This is not
uncommon, if there are 4 people on a motorcycle only one will have a
helmet.

The light is going to turn green soon, everyone is honking their horn.
Honk honk honk honk, yellow, honk, honk honk, green, wait for it, wait
for it, GO! Swerve to the left that guy wants to use our lane! Ok we
made it.

Pushing on. Ooh. A chicken truck! It’s a small truck filled with
chickens inside of cages. Dinner.

7:44AM

Passing a gas station, the gas pumps have purged themselves of customers
but the air station has not. People seem religous about putting air in
their tires here. When you go you tell the attendant what pressure you
want (in PSI, not pascals or bars or any other crazy units) and he dials
that into the machine. Then he puts the hose on your tire and the
machine fills until it reaches that value. Rinse and repeat for the rest
of your tires.

We’re now driving past the airport. Traffic is very light today because
we left relatively early. To my left is the runway, separating me from
that is a ~12′ tall brick wall with barbed wire running the top. There
aren’t any guys hanging in the trees this morning. By afternoon there
will be a bunch of autorickshaws and bicycles parked along the side of
the road, their drivers will be perched in the trees that line the road
hoping to catch a view of the airplanes taking off.

Ooh, speed bumps again. Not wanting to lose momentum we’re working in
the suspension on this fine minivan. These bumps are a good 6-12″ tall
and aren’t engineered with the thought that cars drive over them at all.
They’re rough.

We just passed a hole being dug on the side of the road. 3 men had small
digging tools (not to be confused with a shovel) and had dug a hole 3-4′
deep. In the US this would require a union supervisor and a tractor. I’m
not sure which method is better.

We’ve gone through a controlled intersection that was “green”, the
traffic cop was waving us through. These seem to always be a little
scary. The number of things going on in that intersection is nuts.
Someone might be making a uturn from the other direction right in front
of you. They may decide that turning in front of you is the best option
given other alternatives and they’ll jut just far enough into the road
that you’ll hit them if you don’t stop and then they stop! This is great
for traffic. Go. Slow. Go. Slow. Don’t hit the bus. Go. Slow. Go.
Pedestriiiiaannnsss.

Ooh. the garbage truck is there. This is a nice part of town, they put
most of their garbage into what looks like dumpster made out of cinder
blocks. Most people don’t use garbage bags so the garbage men are out
there, barefoot and barehanded walking through the garbage, picking it
up and throwing it into the truck. Wow.

We’re passing some tech workers on motorcycles now. You know they’re in
tech because they have laptop bags over their backs and often times you
can see their security badge hanging from their hip.

Manipal hospital. If I’m dying here in India I wish to do it from my
home, not that … “place”. It must be a 12-story building but it looks
absolutely terrible.

A once-empty field to the left has been taken over for some event.
There’s a ganesh (the elephant with a bunch of arms) shrine-type setup
in the middle and a handful standard-India-issue blue plastic chairs
marking just the corners of the rows that will be setup. The blue chairs
are standard issue because you see them at events as well as
restaurants.

7:57AM

We just passed the intersection of Airport Rd and 100 feet road. Coming
in at less than 30 minutes we are really hauling this morning.

Pollution in the city is bad, especially near the roads where
dust and car exhaust combine into a perfect breathing air mixture. Some
people put dust masks on, others, like that guy, wrap an old bandana
around their head, covering their mouth. I wonder if this even helps?

We’re on the only other high speed section of road for the trip. We were
doing around 60km/h when we cruised through that pair of medium sweeping
turns. I’ve never heard Dhanda Pani getting the tires warm but I bet we
could get this van cookin.

We’ve put on our left turn signal, we’re the only ones that do this, to
change into the left lane. The police, as part of some wacky traffic
scheme, have closed the right lane of the road for a period of 6″ to…
yeah I don’t know. The car behind and to our left sped up to keep us
from coming over and honked its horn. Dhanda Pani knows what’s up. We
changed lanes anyway. No issues.

We’ve now made a left turn at an unusual place. Someone decided to fix a
bunch of bridges on the roads in this area. Rather than do one at a time
to help with traffic they’ve done several of them at once. Though
I think they only managed to close the road in the past week
and haven’t actually started work. It will be done “soon”, India Standard
Time.

We just crossed over the river on a bridge that’s part of this unmarked
detour. It’s difficult to tell if these rivers are for draining water
from the streets, redirecting rivers, or if they’re a highly efficient
method of moving garbage from one end of the city to another. Given the
job the garbage man I talked about earlier had I’d be devising some sort
of river too. Given the amount of garbage in that river…

Ooh, a stray dog peeing on the sidewalk.

Now on the most heavily trafficed section of this detour there are
large, temporary gates up dividing the right lane from the left lane (or
is it the left from the right?). Without these traffic would be a
complete mess as motorcycles and small cars all cheated death and drove
on the wrong side of the road to shave a few seconds off of their
commute.

8:00AM

This early in the morning everything is closed. Most businesses have the
garage-door type things that slide over their windows. Ooh, there’s a
guy with no legs hanging out on the sidewalk.

We just passed a building that’s being put together. Reed bar and cinder
blocks, the construction method of the future. There’s a big pile of
reed bar on the side. A bunch of guys will get together later and will
bend it by hand to meet the needs of the building being built. Things
are truly hand built around here.

There’s a big coffee shop on a main road in bangalore, closed at 8:00AM.
It will open at 8:30 AM, India Standard Time.

Pulling up to the building now. 27 minutes elapsed time because we left
at 7:30. Had I left at 8:00 it would have taken nearly an hour.

1 comment October 16th, 2007

The Geezer Inspectors

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything about India; this is happening because we’ve been here long enough that few things are wacky. We’ve been here 2 days longer than exactly 4 months and most days are fairly typical. Late last night I realized that something that had happened earlier in the day wouldn’t have been normal 4 months ago.

In the morning Heather had headed over to Joanie’s house to hang out with her and the baby at the pool. I stayed at the house to play video games, break our home network and play more video games. Sometime during the middle of the day the door bell rang. I paused my game and went to the door to find two guys, one holding a clipboard. One guy said: “something, something, something, something, something geyser something something something.” This is slightly more humorous if you know that almost all Indians pronounce “geyser” as “geezer” and that a geyser is actually a water heater and that every water tap in the house has its own water heater (I have 4 water heaters). If you’re worried about electricity being wasted, worry not: every electric device in an Indian home has its own switch so 3 of the 4 water heaters are always switched off.

Luckily I’m up to date on the community mailing list (a place where my neighbors complain about things ranging from “big kids” playing soccer too rough in the common area to their maids making too much money) where folks have been complaining about their “geezers” leaking for some time now.

So then this guy kicks off his shoes (as though his feet are any cleaner than his shoes) and walks to our ground floor bathroom. He lifts up the false-ceiling, inspects the geyser, writes down something on his clipboard and then proceeds to walk upstairs toward the other two bathrooms. He repeats this procedure in both bathrooms: lift the ceiling, make some notes, walk away.

At the end he cruises downstairs to the door that’s still open, puts on his shoes and starts yapping to my driver (he apparently woke up from his midday nap for this) in some other language. Then he says “Thank you sir” and walks away.

Just smile and nod.

My driver tells me he was inspecting my geysers to see if any of them were installed incorrectly. Apparently one of the upstairs bathrooms (the one we don’t use) has the geyser installed wrong and so they’re going to come back whenever its convenient for them and fix it. I have no idea when they’re going to come. It might be this week or it might be next week. It might be during the week, it might be on the weekend.

Add comment October 14th, 2007


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