Posts Tagged ‘people’

What can I say about India, that I haven’t said before?

Not much!

pani-puriIt bustles. (It REALLY bustles). Although where we are based this time, out on the outskirts of the city proper, it doesn’t bustle quite as much. It still takes a brave man or woman to cross the road at most times of the day – something that seems to be achieved with ease by the locals but which fills me with dread.

It smells. There is such a variety of smells too, from the rich and sweetly scented to the downright sewery pongs of open drain networks. Now we’ve spent a little time here, I think we realise that the running water (smelly running water) is pump-out from the many building sites up and down the road. It looks like the have reached the water table in the site next to us and are pumping the water out to build foundations.

You walk in the road. Most of the pavements we have to use on our 10-15 minute walk to work either don’t exist, or might have done at one time but have fallen into disrepair. Dust is everywhere and is kicked up by the relentless turbulence of passing traffic. Along our route, there are various commercial outlets – it’s difficult to use the term ‘shops’ because whereas some ARE shops in the traditional Western sense, others are tiny (tiny!) sheds with the vendor’s goods laid out on (for example) a carpet, or hand carts piled high with all sorts of things: grapes seem to be popular just now, we’ve seen a number of carts piled high with tiny green grapes. (There’s even an unrefrigerated pork shop!).

There’s rubbish everywhere. In-between those commercial outlets, in what appears to be no-man’s-land, is rubbish. Not necessarily smelly rubbish but all kinds of other detritus. Certainly, much of the broken pavement can be found in the rubbish piles, but there’s also bits of iron, old boxes, trailing wires, bags of unspecified garbage waiting (forlornly) for pick up and, in one place, huge piles of paper. In fact, I’ve now seen, several times, a man sat tying up sheaves of papers – so I guess that the piles of paper are his and that one day a truck will come along and take it away after paying him a small pittance for collecting it. No one says that the locals are not entrepreneurial.


I suppose all that suggests that I don’t like it here – but nothing can be further from the truth. 

This is my third visit and I’m still fascinated by India and by the Indian people. See previous posts:

I cannot comment on the countryside as I’ve not really seen any. On each visit to Bangalore we have travelled from the airport, which is miles outside the city proper, to our hotel and not really seen anything other than urbanisation and cityscape. The city is HUGE. The third largest population in India (some fact sites tell us) and it is still growing very, very quickly.

scaffoldOur hotel is surrounded by building projects.  On all sides there are cranes, banging machinery and some of the ricketiest scaffolding you’ve ever seen. From the roof terrace, there is not a direction I can look in that does not have building work going on (hence the dust).

We see workmen scrambling along the scaffolding and wonder how they don’t fall off. I suppose it’s some improvement in health and safety that they always have a clip-on harness while they do this but – who knows.


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As there’s a good chance I won’t get the opportunity to visit India again, I thought I’d better make note of a few of the new things I saw whilst there this time.

I saw many more of the little things on this, my second visit to Bangalore than I did on the first. This is probably because urban India is such a challenge to all the senses. It’s noisy, it has smells all of its own, it is in a constant state of movement – there’s no let up – even the beer tastes different.

This year I noticed the people.

When we went shopping on Commercial Street, we saw and met lots of traders, many of whom were probably sole/family traders and many of whom simply worked off of a push-cart or small table. One man and his wife were sat alongside a small cart full of crockery and I wondered just how busy they would be; it didn’t seem to be the most desirable of trades or likely to be the most profitable. Yet, as I sat outside one shop waiting for Alison I saw several sales made at this tiny crockery cart, with selections being discussed, then made, then wrapped in newspaper for purchase. So perhaps all was well in that family’s world.

Builders Merchants
Many businesses like that do seem to be family affairs. One morning as I looked out of my hotel window I saw a bullock cart loaded with sand. I didn’t think much more about it (it delivered to a house across the road and then set off back on its way – after the driver had along chat with someone passing on the road). Then later (and probably unrelated but worthy of note) I saw a small child playing in a big mound of sand. I just thought nothing of it until the photo was developed (well uploaded to the computer). Behind the child I now saw mum was pushing the sand through a massive sieve, obviously preparing for some work or delivery. Another example of Indian family life?

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Despite the prevalence of modern motorcars, the transport vehicles and trucks were not so up to date and often looked like they were held together by sticky tape and luck. Perhaps it’s a personal credit thing, which in turn makes everyone work so hard, even those who are lower down the pay scale. We saw a building being demolished, by hand. Over a period of about four days, certainly no more than a week, this building was demolished by a team of men using nothing more than sledge-hammers, shovels and an acetylene torch. The torch was to cut the steel from within the concrete blocks, so that it could be recycled (in the back of the Indian equivalent of a Luton van). And all this was done within feet of a major road and overlapped the narrow pavement only slightly.


Road Repairs
The roads are not the best. Most are pitted and full of holes – some of which are quite large, and we wondered how often if ever, they were ever repaired. That question was answered one day when I took myself off for a walk. Try not to imagine the sort of walk we might enjoy here in our blighted isle – this walk was on some good pavements, some bad pavements and often, in the road. There’s no real respect here for one-way systems and for many small vehicles they simply don’t exist – so the walker (me) has to be constantly on the alert for that beep of the horn that is warning me to move out of the way. Some way in front I noticed a lady standing in my way with something balanced on her head and as I was wondering what it was, a young man scuttled past me and placed a similar receptacle as her feet. As he retreated back past me I turned to see where he was going and found another man walking towards me with a steaming pan of asphalt on his shoulder (see pics). At the lady’s feet were pans of small grade hardcore; the previously deposited pan of asphalt (another on her head) and hubby (I guess) was now coming along to begin the actual repair. Without much care for the cars whizzing past in both directions he now began to spread his load along the already prepared hardcore/gravel. The other pans of asphalt were recovered and spread likewise. I didn’t stop to see how it was tamped down, but I guess the traffic did that for them. Health and Safety? Really?

Foundry Work
Our hotel was situated in a fairly quiet part of town. From my bedroom window I could see a few detached (one looked as if it had been bombed) suburban homes, some coconut trees and some high-rise buildings – I could hear the nearby main road – but not too loudly. If I looked out of the end corridor window I could see the narrow car park and access that runs down the side of the hotel – and the Republic Hospital, which is just behind the wall. One day I looked out of this window and saw two men sat in the car park with a pile of pans around them. Looking closer, I noticed that they had a fire going and that one of the guys was holding a pan over that fire. Looking even closer, I saw that they were in fact tinning (lining) copper pans. Their mobile foundry was a box with coals for the fire, a turny-thing that blew air into the fire, some tongs and some thick gloves! If you see the video, you will note that the action of tinning is fairly simple but fraught with danger. Still – this is how they make a living.

Coconut seller

Street Traders
Here in Bangalore there are almost as many street traders as there are shops and they sell all sorts of things. We saw folks selling freshly cut fruit; melon, paw paw, mango etc, Coconuts: these were still surrounded by their protective green coir, a little of which was then sliced off, a hole made and the buyer was presented with a straw to drink the liquid inside. Following this the top third of coconut is sliced away and the customer is given the whole thing to eat with a scoop fashioned from the coir. Some folks had roadside newsagents selling sweets, drinks and newspapers. Others sold flower petals from the handlebars of their bicycle, or cups of hot sweet char from carts or flasks they carried with them. One pair did the ironing.

Close to where we worked all day each weekend and between 4pm and 8pm each evening there were two guys who stood out in the street ironing. They had a flat cart well covered with material and each had huge soft pads upon which they ironed all manner of clothing, bedding and furniture covering. A tarpaulin was stung between the boughs of overhanging trees to cover the whole enterprise. Their irons were massive – and probably very heavy. They were half filled with hot charcoal and topped off with cold charcoal (presumably to give the heat a longer life – I never checked how long it lasted). No matter what time we were there – they were ironing. The coconut guy held court across the road from them and both traders did a roaring trade.

As I said earlier, this is just my reflection of the people I saw. There will have been many many more that passed my notice. And, when I said ‘urban India’ above I meant just that – I have no knowledge of rural India, it was too far away for me in the short periods we had not working.

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