We had quite a weekend in Bangalore! We went up to go a Alex, co-worker’s wedding. We thought a full on India wedding was not to be missed! Alex and I wanted to relay the experience in a bit more depth than we normally do so we split the writing up. Alex wrote about the taxi ride (and took the pictures) and I wrote about the wedding so enjoy!
Taxi Ride to Bangalore*
The taxi driver arrived a bit early, and helpfully loaded our luggage and Walter’s pack-n-play into the trunk of his compact car. We left for Bangalore feeling good, and soon Walter napped on me in the backseat as we went through Mandya and smaller towns. We stopped in Channapatna for a wooden toy, which the town produces in huge numbers, and found a train with spinning letters. For whatever reason, the words are in Spanish and Walter proceeded to destroy it in about two days flat. So much for good quality!
As we got into Bangalore, we followed a similar route as we had from the airport when we first arrived. I assumed the driver had picked a route, having gotten the address in advance from Ganesh (the taxi company guy/storage guy/owner of Anu’s cafe/other stuff). He probably studied it a bit, since Bangalore is a mish-mash of small streets, complex intersections, and big signs with traffic laws.
We opted to go local, and not take the air conditioning (which costs an extra ₹500). We were pretty warm by noon, and Walter was now awake and cranky and wanted to get out of the car. Eva felt a bit like she wanted to pass out. We passed into denser parts of Bangalore, inching past buses that were inches away, and into downtown, near the Mahatma Gandhi road and train station, and packed markets.
Later, we learned those were not places on the way to our destination, which was lunch with friends of friends from Sunnyvale. Instead, the driver apparently started by going into the center of the city, then phoning for help, which he did a lot. Then he asked rikshaw drivers as we waited at traffic signals. They gave us quick answers, but I think that might have been to get rid of us. The driver started calling our host, speaking quickly in Kannada, and I could only hope this stranger on the other end of the phone was talented enough to help our driver get closer to the address rather than further. Sometimes he stopped and got out to seek help. I felt helpless as the data connection on our phones wasn’t working, and I couldn’t help.
We snaked through Bangalore’s crazy Indian streets for about an hour, and finally through the window comes a smile from our hosts as we arrived. Walter flew out of the car and we settled in to seat in the beautiful living room, with backs sweaty from the seat without air flow.
Lunch was fantastic. It was a brief rest on our journey to my co-worker’s wedding, in another part of town about 20 minutes away. They have a nice courtyard with a fish pond that Walter enjoyed, and fed us very tasty food from the Goa area.
Before leaving, I rebooted my phone and the data started working, so I opened Google Maps and also the map of the wedding location. That map was clearly meant for the old style of navigation: it wasn’t to scale and mostly hinted at the major roads and where the landmarks are to find turns. I imagine that’s how the locals think about navigation, but I couldn’t find the same place on Google Maps. With some help from our hosts I stuck a star on the map, and that was my lifeline as we called Nagaraj back from his lunch and got back in the car.
Now I sat in front, and fired up the navigation app in Google Maps. Nagaraj was amazed and asked “this dot is my car?” I held the phone for him; when I said “it’s getting low on battery” he quickly grabbed his charging cable. The phone was now his lifeline to avoid getting lost and he moved extraordinarily quickly to make sure he didn’t lose it! We followed the directions, winding through dusty streets and narrow alleys, and amazingly we arrived at the wedding hall in only 20 minutes.
I felt a little bad as we drove back to Mysore the next day. Nagaraj asked how much this phone costs, and we told him about ₹26,000. That’s about 9 times the amount he was paid to drive us for two days (including petrol). I imagine that’s several months earnings for him, so on his next taxi job, he’ll probably have to resort to rikshaw driver navigation.
We arrived at the wedding hall which was in a local convention center of sorts. The security guy stopped us at the gate with a very concerned look on his which basically said, “what exactly are YOU doing here?” We told him that we were here for the Karthik and Harshihta wedding and went inside. Luckily, Harshihta’s father came out and told the security guard that we were indeed their for his daughter’s wedding. He offered us some delicious coffee and showed us to our room. The room was positively luxurious! The beds were soft and there was AIR CONDITIONING!! We all plopped down on the bed and just lay there watching Super Why with Walter on his iPad.
The wedding was to be in two different parts (well there were a couple more, but we were going to do the two main parts): the reception in the evening and then the puja the next day at 11:15 a.m. which was an auspicious time for the couple. So after we finished resting, I took a shower and started to get ready. I had used the wedding as a fantastic excuse to buy myself a sari. One of my favorite things about India is seeing all the beautiful saris that the women wear. The colors are fantastic and the dressy ones tend to have lots and lots of sparkles on them. Harshihta’s sari was just beautiful, but must have weighed a lot with all the sparkles! I bought a beautiful turquoise one with gold and sliver sparkles on it. I even got bangles to match (5 for each arm as instructed by our rickshaw driver, Appu)!
However, I had no idea how to put it on. So I asked around and one of the women across the hall from our room volunteered to help. As we quickly discovered, I am actually too tall for a normal sari, but with some expert pinning she managed to make it work and it didn’t fall off (which was the important part!). She also had to have it sit rather low on my hips so I was quite glad that my mid-section had several weeks of hard core yoga and a reduced diet due to the Indian heat!
Alex put Walter in his cute outfit and we made our way downstairs. Karthik and Harshihta were on stage with many, many flowers and it looked like a line was forming to take pictures with them. The line was already getting long so we decided that we should get in it sooner than later. This gave me a chance to check out the rest of the women’s saris; checking out the clothes is always a favorite part of any event. They did not disappoint! The color were just so rich and the saris seems to be made most of a heavy silk. The patterns on the silk were lovely also. The colors just popped. Each of the women also had matching bangles and several heavy gold necklaces on that complemented the sari. I so enjoyed watching all those women (well in between chasing Walter around, toddlers do not stand in lines well!). My sari seemed to be in a different style than the rest – it was not silk, made of a much lighter chiffon type material with more sparkles. As on of the women who helped me get dressed told me, “next time you buy silk sari, you are lean, you wear silk, your sari is for when you get fat.” So now I know what to do next time! However, I love my sari and intend to try to find times to wear it at home too.
Once we gave our congratulations to the bride and groom, we made our way out to the food. Ohmygoodness! There were many buffet tables set up with all sorts of delicious looking things on them. So I stood in line while Alex followed Walter around and sampled as much as I could. It was quite tasty. For the last couple of weeks, Alex and I have been eating less because it is so darn hot that you just don’t feel like eating and our practices are much better the next day if you don’t stuff yourself the day before. So at a buffet, our initial inclination was to taste everything and eat lots, but we just couldn’t quite manage it. I wasn’t quite sure what to think. We wondered around a bit and let Walter explore some more. We found the kids corner where the little ones ran around being chased by their dads. Alex ran into another co-worker of his and chatted with him. By then, we were pretty tired from the day and it was long past our normal bedtime of 7:30 p.m. So we headed upstairs to collapse into our very soft beds (for those of your not experienced with India, the beds here seem to all have very thin mattresses that aren’t particularly soft for those used to pillow top American mattresses).
We woke up the next morning, got dressed and made our way downstairs with the intent of going out to look for some breakfast. However, we had no idea where to go. Walter wanted to go exploring more so we followed him right into the dining hall and saw that breakfast was being served. We weren’t really sure though if the breakfast was just for the wedding party or what exactly. I often find myself attempting to navigate social customs on this trip that I just don’t have any idea what the ground rules are so I do a combination of feeling out the situation and just plain asking. So in the breakfast situation, I started looking for one of the ladies that had helped me with my sari. I saw one and then as I was working up the courage to go ask, a man came by and said, “You go sit there.” So we sat, grateful that we were going to get some breakfast without trying to go find it! Oh and what a breakfast it was. :) Dosas, tasty dipping sauces, something like a savory donut and sorts of other things that I can’t name. Then afterwards there was the tasty coffee and chai too. It is possible that I was slightly more caffeinated than normal that morning….After breakfast we went back upstairs, got re-dressed and re-saried and then went back downstairs to see the pujas start. I have been to one Indian wedding in Houston before so I knew that during this part you were welcome to watch, but most people would mill around and talk. So we did, we watched for a bit, chased Walter for a bit and then even convinced him to sit in a chair and watch (well Alex let him play with the camera, but only if he was in the chair on his bum).
Then we learned (from one of my sari ladies), that once this puja ended the married couples were to make their way onstage to put rice on the couple to bless them. So we watched for people to line up and then got in line with Walter. Just as we got to the stage, Walter scratched a blood blister on his face and started bleeding profusely. I freaked out and then three of us ran upstairs to our room to get cotton balls to try and stop the bleeding. There is something about lots of blood coming out my child that just sets me into freakout and must protect my baby mode. After about a half an hour of fighting with Walter to keep the cotton ball on his face to be able to apply pressure, it stopped bleeding. We successfully applied a band-aid (Walter currently loves stickers so Alex told him it was a “special sticker” to go on his face and he actually left it alone – amazing dad skills!). By this time, we were hungry for lunch and I was just wiped out emotionally. We made out way downstairs and lunch was in full swing. We sat back to watch and realized that people seemed to be eating in shifts. So Alex went off to try and locate our taxi driver (we decided that after lunch it was time to go home, we were wiped) and I staked out a spot near what looked like the beginning of the tables to do the shift change. Walter was exhausted from his bleeding ordeal and went to sleep while I held him.
Once one of the chairs opened up near me, I sat down with Walter and just waited and watched. Once the table, where I was seated, was done, the server came along and rolled up the butcher paper, banana leaves and food remains into a neat ball. Then the next person came by and laid down clean butcher paper, followed by clean banana leaves and a cup of water. You are supposed to take the water and use your hands to sprinkle it on the banana leaves, clean it with your hands and then shake the banana leaf to remove the water. Then the food procession began. Each server had a steel bucket and put a dollop of something on our banana leaf. At some point, I got hungry and started eating, but the food keep coming. We weren’t quite sure when it would stop, but it was fascinating to see what would come next. Alex chatted with the ladies next to us about the food and we ate until we were quite full. Then we paid our respects to the bride and groom and found our taxi driver to take us home! I have to say, I was quite glad to see Mysore again. Mysore is still overwhelming at times, but Bangalore was even more overwhelming!
*by my wonderful husband, Alex.
** back to me doing the writing!