On Thursday, January 7th I moved into the house I will be staying in for the duration of my time here in India. Two roommates and I occupy the downstairs of the house and our landlord and his family live above us. The house has salmon colored walls and pastel yellow doorways, an amazingly beautiful front door, and our own private tiny temple. For a country with some of the most complex and delicious food in the world, India has super simplistic kitchens. Our little kitchen consists of one electric burner, emphasis on the burn, and an electric kettle. I can’t even get into the bed situation here because I will start crying and it will interfere with my ability to subconsciously ignore my back pain.
My house is located in the 8th Block of the Koramangala neighborhood in Bangalore. (However you just pronounced ‘Koramangala’ in your head was 100% wrong). In every neighborhood here there are a bunch of blocks, each block has incredibly similar street names, most streets are known by multiple names, and there are no street signs. Directions in Bangalore are based on super random landmarks, which sometimes confuses cab and rickshaw drivers and always confuses me. Koramangala is a beautiful and bustling neighborhood, as is most of Bangalore. From my house I can walk to basically everything I need, grocery stores, a mall, a movie theater, restaurants, cafes, and the Sri Prasanna Ganapathi Temple. There are horns honking, dogs barking, and cows meandering within a few feet of me 24 hours a day 7 days a week.
Transportation here is an art form and a nightmare all at the same time. Bangalore is a rapidly growing, extremely large city and traffic is a PROBLEM. There is a bus system but no other form of public transportation and it seems like every single citizen of Bangalore is on the roads at all times. If I go anywhere that is not within walking distance, the cheapest way to get around is via rickshaw. There is a 50% chance my rickshaw driver will speak English, a 10% chance he will know where I am going, and a 100% chance he will try to rip me off because I am foreign. Once I navigate through all of that, it can easily take an hour to go just a few miles. The good news about rickshaws is they are quite cheap, costing about $1 for a 3 mile ride. If I’m not up to the challenge of dealing with a rickshaw, I can splurge and get an Uber or call a Cab for about $.25 more. Driving tactics here are everything you’ve seen in movies, just 10x worse. I generally stare out the window and completely shut out what is happening on the road in front of me.
Food here is also wonderfully affordable. A decent meal at a restaurant is $3-$4, cheaper if you eat at an Indian fast food stall. I literally stood mouth agape at the produce section at the local grocery store. Bell Peppers are one of the great loves of my life and I can get 4 here for 20 Rupees ($.30). The spice section at the grocery is truly something to behold. I could identify 2 of the 30 or 40 spices, the rest were just colorful mysteries. Before I came here I did not consider myself a great lover of Indian food, but 1 week here and I am reformed with a capital R. I have loved everything I’ve tried and I could happily eat Indian food for the rest of my life. Or maybe a combination of Indian food+Mexican Food+Burgers & Fries.
As I’m trying to get settled here, I’m beginning to realize I probably will never get settled here. India is a crazy place and a challenging place. I often find myself chanting ‘You can do this, you can do this’ in my head as I try and direct a rickshaw driver to a place I’ve never been. I also often find myself saying ‘Well, I’ll just have to figure it out’. I’ll just have to figure out how to cook with just one electric burner. I’ll just have to figure out how to get to a meeting when the only directions I’m given are ‘between petrol station and hotel in Idiranagar’. I’ll just have to figure out life here, even though nothing here comes naturally to me. Luckily, it is easy to give grace to this big, beautiful, delicious, loud, colorful city even when it presents me with challenges. The dust here may never settle for me, but India is still beautiful in its dusty haze.