Bumming around in Bangalore

UL 171, from Colombo to Bangalore is due to leave at 6.30 pm. As we get to the airport that evening, an electrical storm breaks overhead. The airport is plunged into darkness several times and the computers keep crashing. We didn’t care just as long as the air plane didn’t!

The flight leaves a tad late after the storm has abated. After an unexciting flight, we land at the Bangalore International Airport and are pleasantly surprised at the spanking new airport that is amazingly huge and clean and, thankfully, deserted. As we walk through the arrivals hall, we spot an odd looking bloke holding an A4 paper with ‘NIRESH’ written across it. He informs us that Rajah, our friend, who is supposed to meet us has had to turn back due to traffic and sent him instead.  I whispered to Niresh, “Who this is?” Niresh replies “I think it’s the driver”. I thought, wow in converse shoes! We notice a sly smile on our ‘drivers’ face just as someone bumps into Tharu. Yeah, that was Rajah and our ‘driver’ was his nephew, the inimitable Mahim, who becomes quite a part of our little group on what we call a ‘budget’ holiday to India.

From this point onwards, we are about to find out how much Rajah loves his little nephew and the depth to which Mahim adores his ‘maama’. And of course the constant chitter-chatter that is unstoppable for the rest of our holiday. We get into a coach and the journey begins.

Our first stop is the Gangothri Hotel in Koramangala. Though it looks rather shady from the outside, with its juice stand and dirty façade, the rooms were surprisingly clean and large. But we keep reminding ourselves that budget does not include suites with the inch-deep carpeting and flower vases. With bags unpacked, we are ready to indulge in our first authentic Indian feast replete with thosai, pooris, naans, and idlies topped off with payasam and gelabis and every other delectable Indian goody. We eat like we have been starved. But this is India, every foodies dream destination.

I love India for three reasons: its fascination for colour, the incredible culture and the amazing cuisine, all of which I intend to enjoy to the fullest.

Bangalore is capital of the Indian state of Karnataka and is known as the Garden City and one of the more cosmopolitan capitals in India. Bangalore is also popularly known as the Silicon Valley of India and a major economic and cultural hub.  Bangalore is also Asia’s third-largest economy and home to one-quarter of the world’s 20 most densely populated cities.

The next three days are filled with exploring, shopping, feasting and perspiring in the scorching Indian heat. One of the places that Mahim insisted we see is the Iskcon Temple. The original simple temple design which was started in 1990 and estimated to cost Rs.10 crore gave way to this stunning, unique architectural model that cost Rs.32 crores and today represents a fusion between majestic traditional styles and bold new aesthetics. But as expected, the temple premise is now a commercial property that is manned like clockwork and touted like a brand. However, that does not take away the beauty of the temple.

The Deities in the main sanctum sanctorum stands on a complete piece of stone which rises approximately 90 feet high. The impressive gopurams are 36 feet high with intricately designed 18 foot bases. A gold plated kalasham is placed on top which is considered an engineering feat considering the risk of lifting 1.5 tons of gold over a glass canopy to a height of 150 feet. Amazing!

Of course, the days are interspersed with feasting on every conceivable Indian dish possible: from the mouth watering mutton buriyani to the tongue tickling chutneys, dosas and chapattis. In fact, we eat mangoes off the street carts, wadai’s from vendors, and stayed true to bottled water. Incredibly, none of us had to suffer the ignominy of food poisoning.

And undoubtedly, we find ample time to indulge in shopping, to ‘our heart’s content’ as the saying goes. Commercial Street was a magnet that draws us like moths to a flame! The colors and the contrasts of the ethnic wear and the bargains galore are simply irresistible. But enough of that, we have places to see.

On our itinerary is a train ride to Mysore and then Kabini for some wildlife. Needless to say, we couldn’t wait to try the Mysore vadai which I have to admit is overrated. But the hot and spicy mutton that we manage to buy off some street vendors along the way is well worth the ensuing snorting and sniffling! My mouth still waters at the thought of that!

We have first class tickets for the morning’s Kaveri Express which will take us to Mysore in approximately three hours. Thankfully, the carriage was clean and we have it all to ourselves. I must say, that some of the landscape that we passed along the way is breathtakingly beautiful and we have plenty of photo opportunities along the way. Twelve stops later, we disembark at Mysore.

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