Published: May 14th 2012May 14th 2012
***Note: I wrote this days ago (Saturday morning) but haven't had internet access since, so I couldn't upload it. Now it's Monday night and I haven't written anything else! I also don't have a fast enough connection to upload any pictures. Sorry! Hopefully tomorrow night I can summarize the past few days events. In the meantime, here is a tome to finish off last week.***
The internet seems to have cut out (good bye 100 rupees) so I’ll write this entry in Word and hopefully I can upload it later.
I think last night when I stopped writing I had finished the part about the engagement party. The next morning we all woke up, ate the delicious hotel breakfast, and then got dressed up for the wedding. Sagar’s family had bought us all amazing Indian clothing to wear for the occasion, which was amazing of them to do. Quite frankly, we looked awesome! The boys looked especially great in their outfits. By the way, I’m travelling with some in-law whisperers here. You know those kind of guys that can work a family reunion and have all the relatives gushing over them? Yep, that’s these boys. They are really great with everyone.
I should mention that this was a south Indian wedding, which is a bit different than the north Indian weddings which I think are a little bit more well known. I’m told north Indian weddings have the groom ride in on a horse and there is lots of dancing, etc. This one had a lot of blessings and rituals, but a bit less spectacle, I would say. So when we arrived at the wedding Sagar and Deepa were both up a the front of a giant room under a lavishly decorated tent awning. We had already missed a few things, like them playing a game where they fish in a vat of milk for their wedding rings. The tent was decorated with reams and reams of strands of fresh flowers. I’m not completely sure what was going on, but they were kneeling down and being dressed up a bit. Sagar had on a decadent turban and an additional headdress of jewels was being tied on. Eventually the couple left and then just Sagar returned. He went through a long time of blessings with a priest (?) where he had to touch various things, have various garlands put on, have candles waved around him, etc. We couldn’t see everything because often the camera people were in the way, but we had a decent view. The atmosphere was pretty casual. We were free to talk and wander around as we pleased.
Then Deepa came in and did the same thing. Next there was a big white sheet put up between the two and I think they were blessing each other (?). The sheet was dropped and much more blessing and rituals took place. Eventually the key part occurred: they exchanged golden necklaces and voila! They were married Then we all got to throw coloured rice at them. I liked that part. (I may not have the order of all of this quite correct). Next a big receiving line was formed and we all went up on stage without shoes to sprinkle rice on their heads and wish the couple good luck.
[***Note from Monday: I went through all the pictures from the wedding with Sagar on the way up north, and he explained a lot of the parts of the wedding in more detail. There was lots of cool symbolism that I understand now, just not in time for this entry!***]
From there, it was time for lunch! (food has not been an issue on this trip!) Another big Indian buffet. After lunch we went back in to the wedding room for a bit because we were told the couple was going to do a fire ceremony of some kind, which sounded neat. However time waned on and we weren’t sure when it was going to happen, so we decided to make our exit. We were going to head to a mall to watch a Bollywood movie – the true Indian experience! First, of course, we did a photo shoot of us in our awesome clothing. I look like a giant in all the “girls only” pictures, however, because Anjali and Vanessa are both super small. In fact Vanessa is the shortest person in our entire class. When the boys are in, things balance out.
OK, so, we went back to our rooms to change out of our fancy Indian clothes and into western clothes to hit the mall. This time we weren’t going to mess around with cabs – we just walked up to the road and grabbed some rickshaws. Much easier! I’ll try to take a video of rickshawing later. It’s a bit of an adventure and not for the faint of heart, but it’s actually my favourite way to travel here. You get a nice cool breeze and if anything seems like it’s not quite right, you can just get out. Plus, no one is able to go very fast in the bad traffic so I feel like if we got hit we wouldn’t get TOO hurt (my mom just had a heart attack when reading that).
Once in the mall we went up to the top level (there were like five or six – it’s a huge mall!) and bought tickets for a showing. Anjali picked a good one out for us which had both action/adventure for the boys, and choreographed dance numbers for me. Perfect! We had a bit of time before the movie started so we split up to explore the mall. Jeff, Brodie and I happened upon “Play Salon” which had an unsecured wireless connection, so we loitered outside of there for a while with our smartphones. I think this mall is fairly new, and I got the impression that Bangalore doesn’t have a lot of buildings with escalators in them. At every escalator (and there are many with so many floors) there were at least two security guards stationed, armed with whistles. You got whistled at for EVERYTHING. Not facing forward, being too close to the person in front of you, being under a certain age without a parent, standing too close to the entrance or exit, or even walking up/down the escalator. At first I thought it was a bit ridiculous, but actually I can see why they need it. Having grown up with escalators I take them for granted, but I can see how they would be tricky to navigate if you weren’t used to it. I saw many people have trouble stepping on the correct moving step when boarding, and lots of time people would step off at the top and just stop right there. I even saw two kids fall, seemingly from a steady standing position. Still, though, it was annoying for us Canadian “rebels” to constantly get whistled at because we were riding backwards to talk to each other or walking down the escalator to speed up the ride. Come on, people, we have advanced escalator skills!
When it was time for the movie we met up outside the theatre entrance. There were separate entrances for guys and girls. There we were given the third degree and our bags were checked. There were bag checks and metal detectors going in to the mall, too (although they were useless because they constantly beeped and no one cared) but these checks were not for security. They were looking for cameras. I think movie pirating is a big problem here. My camera snuck through undetected, but Vanessa got caught. They made her take out her battery and check it, plus fill out all kinds of paperwork. Finally, once we were all in, the others grabbed some snacks and we headed in to the theatre. They have assigned seating at these movies, which would have been good since our group was so large, but actually this movie wasn’t very full. Anj told us that usually when the theatre is really full there is a lot of cat calling and heckling at the screen, but there wasn’t much of that during our movie. It was a much more relaxed atmosphere though with much giggling and whispering than would be acceptable at home. This was a good thing because the movie was in Hindi, so Anjali, poor thing, spent the whole film whispering translation to us. Granted, the plot wasn’t that elaborate so we could follow along fairly well on our own, but it was nice to have a guide. It was surprisingly violent! Also there were some make out scenes and a sex scene. Apparently ten years ago there wasn’t even kissing allowed in Bollywood movies, but times have clearly changed. I actually liked it a lot. The cinematography was surprisingly good – much better than the old ones you see on YouTube. It really is a huge industry here. The films are long, too. There was even an intermission in the middle!
Once the movie was finished it was time to grab rickshaws and get back to the hotel to get ready for the reception. It turns out the reception was at a different hotel, which meant that we had to negotiate transportation again. We didn’t want to take rickshaws because we would be wearing nice clothes, so we asked the hotel to call us a cab. Long story short, we ended up having to get two expensive cars at 300 ruppees each for a trip which was seriously just down the road. We were cutting it close, though, and we just needed to get there. When the cars showed up we got in and confirmed the price. Then the drivers starting saying “ohhh LE Meridian? I thought you were talking about a different hotel” then he demanded 500 rupees! At this point, Anjali lost it. We had been getting screwed by various drivers all day and she had had enough. She started yelling at the driver things like, “no! That is unacceptable! It’s just around the corner! 300 rupees was the deal! I’ve had enough of these games!” etc etc. It was actually kind of funny, especially since Anjali couldn’t speak Hindi well enough to get the words out when she was mad, so the whole tirade was in English. And if you know Anjali, you know she is really mild mannered in general so to hear her raise her voice at all was quite a change, but probably didn’t seem that intense to a bystander. Anyhow, we all calmed down, we arrived, we paid our 300 rupees and disembarked.
The hotel where the reception was held was absolutely gorgeous. I’m sure it was one of the nicest in Bangalore. Sagar was waiting in the lobby when we arrived and it was great to get a chance to chat with him. It was the first time I had been able to talk to him since he picked me up from the airport. After some more photos we thought we should leave him to his hosting duties, so we headed down to the reception. This event had even more people than the wedding, and a huge ballroom was full of chairs. We managed to score a round table at the side though, which made a nice home base. Sagar’s dad is an influential cardiologist here so there were many powerful people in attendance, including various ministers and industry leaders. This event was a lot about photos (again!) but we also did another receiving line to wish the couple our blessing. The line seemed to never end! I don’t know how many people were there, but it was a lot. There was also a ton of food. The buffet items stretched the entire wall length. We had been hoping for dancing, but the crowd was waning and still nothing had happened. There was a good band playing a mix of Indian music and western covers, but everyone seemed content to listen. We were just contemplating leaving when all of a sudden, one of Sagar’s young cousins starting busting a move (she was a great dancer!). Next thing we knew, Sagar’s DAD was breaking it down! I don’t think anyone expected that. Then even Sagar was heading over and beckoning us to follow. Now, this was exciting. I have known Sagar for four years and I have never seen him dance ONCE. Before long, everyone who was left had congregated in front of the band and a huge spontaneous dance party broke out. Sagar and Deepa looked great dancing together, and they both seemed really happy, which was nice to see. It was super fun, and our group learned some excellent new Indian dance moves. I think Jeff was the best – he fit right in!
Finally, after yet more pictures, the night came to a close. Sagar arranged for some cars to take us back to our hotel. Oh, and Sagar’s brother-in-law presented us with some Indian sweets to “take on our journey.” So nice!
We had Friday free of wedding-related activities, so we were hoping to head out of the city for a day trip. We had made friends with one of Sagar’s wedding guests the day before, and she had offered to help us book a car to take us to a National Park just outside of town since we had such difficulty arranging transportation. Everything was all set up, and for a great price. We work up, had breakfast, and got suited up for our safari adventure. The car was supposed to arrive at 9:30 for a 10am departure. Nothing at 9:30. Nothing at 10am. Nothing at 10:30… We weren’t entirely sure what to do. We didn’t have a number for the company, and we foolishly hadn’t even gotten the number of our friend. So we asked the hotel to call Sagar to ask him to call his friend to find out what the deal was. We weren’t sure who exactly the hotel spoke to, but the end result was that the person was going to try to sort things out and call us back. Thirty minutes later, still no call back! I won’t go through everything, but basically the plan changed around 15 times and it was a constant game of telephone tag and miscommunication, with Sagar’s family and his friend doing their absolute best to help us. In the end, a few hours later, we found out the car company had all of their cars booked. This was fine, as we were ready to give up anyway. By this point we were exhausted and decided to have a drink in the bar to chill out. The bar was actually pretty awesome – a hidden gem we hadn’t noticed before. It was called “Aqua bar” and it had this sweet underwater theme, complete with a wall made of saltwater fish tanks.
Finally, we were ready to leave the hotel lobby. We grabbed rickshaws to the Bangalore Palace which had been recommended to us. It turned out it was going to cost 400 rupees to go inside, including an audio guide, and not everyone was in to that. But we had come all the way there so we decided to bite the bullet and go for it. I’m really glad we did! The palace was giant and really neat. The audio guide was excellent, as well. Basically, it was a castle inspired by English architecture, used to house the local rulers during British Colonial times. There were all kinds of cool artifacts, including stools made of elephant feet and an ingenious bench which was actually a scale to weigh jockeys on. There were many old photos of palace life and exotic hunts. Quite a different time. Unfortunately it cost more than admission to be allowed to take photos, so I don’t have any pictures to share.
After the palace we wanted to head generally back to the mall from the day before, because Vanessa needed to buy a cell phone and SIM card for use during her time here. We opted to walk in order to see more of the area. It was a bit of a journey but with the help of an iPhone map that Jeff had downloaded earlier and some persistent navigation skills by Vanessa, we made it!
I have to say, the people in Bangalore are generally really great. We never get hassled here like I often do in other developing countries. No one is pulling at our arms and trying to sell us stuff, or yelling at us asking where we’re from. They’ll maybe stare a bit and we’ll exchange smiles and hellos, but that’s it. And they always are helpful when we need to ask directions. It ‘s really quite nice.
Finally, we made it to the mall and all split up to acquire food and drink. We were exhausted! Vanessa attempted to buy her cell phone but was told to come back at 5pm because the man who sells SIM cards would be back then . When we came back, we were told he would be back the next day. What?? How do you sell cell phones without SIM cards? Despite the whole area being full of cell phone shops, none had SIM cards for her. Oh well.
Next we took rickshaws to a McDonalds near our hotel. I always love to try the local cultural McDonalds specialty when I’m in a new country, and it turns out the rest of the group is the same. This McDonalds had all kinds of exotic things to try! I went for the McTikki Ackaloo (I think that’s what it was called). It was kind of like a falafel patty with peas in it, normal burger toppings, and a spicy Chiptole-type sauce. It was great! Although on first bite I forgot I wasn’t eating and normal burger and was surprised when a pea popped in to my mouth.
After MickeyDee’s we walked back to our hotel and chilled out for a few hours before heading out on the town. We wanted to check out a bar up on the 13th
floor of a hotel. It was pricey, but it was a fun atmosphere and the view was great. Interestingly, the curfew for bars here is 11:30, and by 11:00 pretty much everyone had left and the lights were coming on. Time to leave! We were a bit nervous about whether we would be able to get a rickshaw back but luckily some were waiting outside. We had to pay a bit more than we probably should have, but I didn’t mind at all. We had just dropped a ton of money at that bar and it was raining and cold, so I thought that rickshaw driver totally deserved the fare.
The boys and Vanessa stayed up a bit more to finish of the “wine” from the other day, but I went back to my room to update the travelblog.
That pretty much brings us to today! Today should be really fun. We’re checking out of our hotel to head north to town where Deepa is from. I think Sagar needs to spend a night in their home as part of the ceremony, and there will be another reception there. It will be great to see a smaller town. Right now we’re just waiting for a car to come get us… we’ll see if it shows up! =)
OK, I’ve been a hermit all morning so I should probably go hang out with the others. I wonder if they’re in the Aqua bar….