Monday, August 21 - Day Three
Still getting used to being pampered with breakfast every morning, usually eaten with Eshanya, her mother, and more likely than not, Savi, who apparently stays over here quite frequently, so frequently as to have accumulated quite a collection of her clothing in Eshanya's closet. After lunch went and got US currency exchanged for Indian rupees at TravelEx - don't think they offered me the best rate that was possible, but I am still constantly being (pleasantly) surprised at the so-called "bang for your buck" here in India when compared to prices in the States. Picked up more girlfriends of Eshanya's, Vinitha and Abi (and here I really may have butchered the spellings) at their college where they'd just finished class - Mount Carmel College, a local college which doesn't really enjoy that great a reputation; apparently it turns girls weird and ditzy. Walked around commercial area of town - quite possibly called Commercial Street, but I could be wrong - but didn't wind up getting anything except for a skirt for Mum that cost about $2 USD. Had tea at this place called Infinitea, and these dumplings called "momos". Everyone was surprised that I didn't know what momos were, as they all thought the dish was Asian or Chinese.
Headed out to Akhilesh's house afterwards to - get this - fly kites. Anyone who knows me is aware of the fact that I am not by any means an outdoorsy type. When it comes to sports, I spectate more than participate, and this applies for basically any exerting activity. Probably a good time to point out again that the vibe here in Bangalore is very nature and outdoors-based. In any case, was expecting a really large field or something of that ilk at Akhilesh's house, given that the image I (previously) held in my head about kite flying is sort of an archaic one - lots of wind blowing everywhere, running, squealing, Mary Poppins and Mr. Banks singing cheerfully. Was not by any means expecting that we would be flying kites off the roof, literally, of Akhilesh's apartment building, but not before clambering up to the roof on all sorts of wiggly rusty ladders that brought to mind painful images of tetanus injections. Kite flying experience ended up being really fun anyways, despite the fact we couldn't get any kites to fly because of rather irrtatingly unpredictable wind direction.
Three kites later, we went back downstairs to play foozball (foosball?), joined by Akhilesh's best friend Umong (I am certain this can't be the right spelling, will ask Esh for a correction tomorrow, but it is pronounced this way). Having been trounced quite soundly several times by a formidable Akhilesh and Eshanya tour de force, went out for ice cream and coffee at the Indian version of Starbucks, "Coffee Day", before going home for another Indian dinner. Finished the day off with a viewing of The Italian Job (yes AGAIN for those who know me) in Eshanya's movie theater (another very recent discovery).
Tuesday, August 22 - Day Four
Started the day with some early shopping at a quaint shop called Anokhi, where they sell mostly small bags and home decoration, and then at a large local mall called Garuda. Bought a pair of jeans for $25 USD that would have retailed for $79.90 back home (this I know for sure as they had the American tag on), as well as a cute makeup/pencil bag thing just because it was $2. Headed out for lunch at a really nice Italian place called Spiga with Savi and Vinitha in tow, which supposedly advertised dining "al fresco" so was slightly put off when the entire place was...indoors. In any case, had great fusilli with Italian sausage, and an outstanding Oreo cheesecake.
What proceeds is insanity - went to Mojo's, supposedly quite a famous beer bar in Bangalore, at 2PM. The place is exactly what places called "beer bars" should look like - very dimly lit, a few booths with seats, others with cushions on the floor. Got stuck in one of the cushion floor booth things, and upon joining up with Akhilesh, Umong, and another mate of theirs who showed up later on, proceeded to binge drink on very cheap beer for the next four hours. Got through about seven "pints" and a hell of a lot of peer pressure to try Indian cigarettes (though I imagine the amount of secondhand smoke I inhaled in that sitting rather made up for it, in terms of life minutes lost), as they are supposedly much smoother than American ciggies, but whatever. Really started having fun when the Manchester United vs Fulham match came on, and realized that all the guys were massive United fans - too bad the match was just a rebroadcast and that we already knew United had given Fulham a 5-1 beating.
Finally stumbled out into the waning sunshine and headed off to a shopping department store type thing called Lifestyle where Sharina, Eshanya's cousin, was picking up a hair straightener and blowdryer. Managed in semi-buzzed state to pick up a couple jewellery things including a really nice bangle for outrageously cheap prices. Got home and jumped into the shower immediately and a new set of clothing that didn't smell like a chimney, as had a dinner party to go to with Eshanya's parents at a work colleague's home.
Totally interesting dinner experience, watching the dynamic of how the families interacted wiht each other. Rather predictably though still intriguingly, it's much the same as Chinese (or perhaps just Cantonese) interaction - conversation is loud, funny, enthusiastic, controversial, with no dirty details spared. Didn't feel awkward even for one second being the only non-Indian person there, as discussion, particularly after dinner, veered inevitably towards terrorism and religion, and was happy to take part. Collapsed in a very tired heap afterwards.
Wednesday, August 23 - Day Five
Bit boring and short this one - think binge drinking and accumulated travel fatigue finally caught up with me, and spent most the day feverish and shaky in bed. Did emerge for meals though and long enough to enjoy several games of pool with Eshanya and Savitha, though had to leave when the boys showed up for fear of collapsing. Have gotten better at pool since the last time I played (in some seedy place in LA), but am still crap and the black sheep of my family. Wasn't feeling any better after dinner time, so Eshanya was forced to cancel clubbing plans, which felt quite bad about. Ended up watching the Indian film Water, which I believe was shown at Cannes and the like in 2005, directed by Deepa Metha, and depicts the plight of Indian widows in pre-revolution India, just as Gandhi was gaining momentum. Definitely a film worth seeing just for the social commentary aspect, though perhaps not so much for the acting.
Thursday, August 24 - Day Six
Felt much better in the morning, and even told Eshanya when she woke up that I had a deadly craving for English chips (read: fries), so her mother had the housekeeper fry up a batch which I enjoyed very much. Went out to an Indian buffet lunch at called Angeeti or something of that ilk, whose decor is supposed to look like a make believe "daba" - a roadside sort of food hut where drivers would take a rest after long hours of driving for food. A definitely posh sort of daba as it's on the roof of some hotel. Had fantastic mutton biryani, which is a bit like Chinese fried rice, with bits of meat and sauce mixed in. In any case, was joined by Akhilesh, Vinitha, Tapas and friend, and Sharina.
After coffee and dessert at a place called Fresco's, where I had a decent cappucino but thoroughly disappointing panna cotta, headed off to the main office of Eshanya's family's business, Karle Industries. Among many of the businesses, the main one involves garment manufacturing for American brands like Ann Taylor Loft, DKNY, and so on. Managed to pick out a couple of free things out of the sample collection, which is was good fun - a bit like a really condensed shopping trip, as picking these clothes out involved rooting around in small rather claustrophobic room for the right sizes and so on. After the factory visit, Eshanya and Savi took me on quite a quick drive-by of two very famous temples/shrines in the area, the latter of which is called Ishkon and is apparently the largest in South India. Very striking even in the dim sun, all white and very grand. Stopped by Eshanya's old house, the one she lived in before moving into the current place, but was a bit depressing as the house is basically deserted aside from the top floor being used for some Karle business.
On the way back home, Esh and Savi wanted to stop by and visit an old teacher, Ms. Lali, from high school. Turned out that Ms. Lali lives in quite a posh apartment complex, and were duly impressed by architecture, etc. Ms. Lali turned out to be a very very friendly and welcoming academic sort, and was very interested to know, of all things, that I was a history major. Headed home for dinner, at which Mrs. Karle served me a (very) strong hard liquor from Goa, made from the flower of the cashew plant. Excellent with a tiny bit of Sprite of 7-Up - it doesn't taste like anything that I've had before, completely unique taste that has no comparison to anything else. It's a bit like trying to explain what an apple tastes like.
Two more days here and it's back to Hong Kong, and then back to Los Angeles. Apparently am going out to a new club in town called "Fuga" tomorrow night.
Have this weird insane need to document my week spent here in Bangalore, for fear of forgetting even the smallest little details, because somehow every observation seems so important in a place so foreign. Bear with me, as I have Days Three to Six to record here, so scroll past if you'd like.