Two New Yorkers spend six months 18 months!?! in Bangalore and other places in India.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Film City, so far away

We've both been back in the United States for about a week at our respective families. One has no internet, and the other has dial-up only, so expect slim posts for a while at least.

In the meantime, watch the above video for Basement Jaxx's song "Romeo." It might be old hat to some of you, but I was amazed when I saw it for the first time yesterday. I found it when looking up stuff on Ramoji Film City, the film studio/amusement park outside of Hyderabad where the video was shot. Part of the fun is seeing how all the Indian musical number conventions mash up with a very western song. For more on Film City, here's the New York Times's take.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007


A hearty welcome (as they say) to everyone visiting here from Boing-Boing. As the tagline says above, we're a couple of Americans staying for six months a year a while in Bangalore. I'm a travel writer, and Don works in publishing. While we're not working, we're usually traveling, trying to cross the always-busy streets here, inviting stares, breaking things, buying tablecloths, eating dosas, that sort of thing.

Here are a few older posts you might like:

(Mango pic from 2006 -- haven't gotten any yet this year.)

Monday, April 16, 2007

Drum Machine

Drum Machine.JPG, originally uploaded by jrambow.

I thought this was really cool. It's a drum and bell machine I saw at Bangalore's Bull Temple. You can see the motor to the left and how it's connected to the drumsticks. It wasn't going, unfortunately -- would be fun to see it at work, and to see how you adjust the speed of the drums and bells.

As you can see, the machine was in a cage to prevent curious people (and monkeys!) from getting a rhythm going at the wrong times.

If some hipster band in Brooklyn or Berlin or Rio knows what's good for them, they'll try to get their hands on one of these ASAP and use it on their next album. Maybe someone already has . . .

Flying Ants on M.G. Road

Here was a sight that made me a little scared. This is a huge billboard in front of the Vijaya Bank building on M.G. Road. All those specks are flying ants! I managed not to run for my life and instead just kept on walking. Maybe I shouldn't have been so scared -- now that the bees are abandoning their hives because of cell phones, we can look to the ants to take up some of the slack and start pollinating.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

What We'll Miss

Don and I are both due to fly out of Bangalore and back to the United States next Friday. If this time is anything last the last time, I predict that next week will be light on posts and high on silence. Although I intend to keep posting even when we're out of India, at least for a while, I thought it would be good to start thinking of some things I'll miss when I'm gone.

  • fresh lime sodas
  • people who are friendly and patient even when you don't speak any of India's mother tongues
  • clothes that are all at least 25% more vivid than anything in New York City. It's going to be hard to go back to black, grey, and black.
  • A dialect of English that didn't always make sense to me but was always interesting. Here, you always "avail offers" rather than take advantage of them, and have "power cuts" rather than "power outages" (we had about five yesterday, so it's on my mind). And why say just "OK"? Say "OK OK OK" instead. And if something (like power cuts!) is hardly worth mentioning , you can say "power cuts are there."
  • paan
  • high purchasing power. Obviously, having dollars and the large amount of rupees that they buy has made for a better time.
  • cable TV and the amazing channels inside. One favorite right now is the Udaya channel, which broadcasts in Kannada. They have a great cooking show, in which housewives come on and make a dish and are then given a sari for their trouble. We would love it more if we knew better what they were saying/making, but it's already fun the way it is. There was a guy on it once, too.

Next time, some of the things we won't miss so very much.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Don't Trip

Over the weekend we went to the wonderful Jain basti (temple) in the town of Sravanbelagola. More about that later, but first here's a shot of the enclosures that covered some ancient inscriptions on the hill. We thought it all looked like some sort of Dutch or German art installation -- the red and blue parts sticking up hold summaries of the inscriptions. And those are German tourists in the background, so it all fits.

The Mysterious Pre-Monsoon

In my year in India, the monsoon remains just about as confusing as it was to start with. We've had a couple rains since we got back to Bangalore at the start of the month, and one of our acquaintances said the unusual rains were something called the pre-monsoon. They would have to be very "pre", since the monsoon won't arrive in Bangalore until June.

The storm today was impressive. All the afternoon was hot, and the skies kept getting darker and darker. Finally by about 8 o'clock lightning began to spike down. We were up in a restaurant on the 10th floor, so it was fun to watch the lightning appear to the west. And finally the rain came. Standing water appeared in the roads almost immediately, and the temperature dropped way down.

The rickshaw driver who took us home from the restaurant said that all this rain was because of the tsunami. Wha? There is a tsunami in the South Pacific at the moment, but that doesn't make any sense. He must have meant the deadly and terrible tsunami of 2004. What could that have to do with it? I have no idea.

And that's why I keep asking people about monsoons and the weather. Just about every answer is interesting.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007


We just got back from a big road trip that included several days at the Jungle Lodge's K Gudi camp, south of Mysore. We didn't see any tigers, but we did see a leopard, lots of deer, and many gaur, the world's largest bovine. The bulls are hilariously big -- the cows are the size of blown-up brahmin dairy cows. My favorite sighting were five wild elephants swimming in a small lake. Here there are exiting the lake after deciding they had had enough of all our photography.


And here is a gaur, looking shy but muscley.


Monday, April 02, 2007

Hyderabad Hot Spot

Now's the part where the blogger apologizes for light posting, except I'll just skip that and say that I'm in Hyderabad at the moment, working on a travel guide. I'm dusty and sleepy and a little bitter that my hotel isn't as nice as either of the two Taj's I toured this afternoon. Of course, I'm not exactly paying Taj prices, either. (Note for rich people out there: the presidential suite in the Taj Krishna is really amazing [your own pool!], but only you can decide if it's worth $1200 a night.)

I love exploring cities, but sometimes I really wish I could skip that part of the learning curve where I flounder around trying to figure out how to get from point A to . . . just about anywhere. Hyderabad has what might be a unique water feature -- an enormous tank (water reservoir/lake) separating Hyderabad itself from its suburbanized twin, Secunderbad. from the newer suburban town of Secunderabad. I spent lots of time today walking along the eastern edge of the lake, Hussain Sagar, thinking I'd reached the southernmost point, but actually nowhere near. Luckily there's a big 50-foot Buddha near the south, so in the future I'll be desperately keeping Buddha's head in sight if ever try to walk anywhere in this very hot city again. Walking is NOT very popular in the parts of town I've been in so far -- it was basically just me, the beggars, and a few random students. Undoubtedly the old city part will be a little different.

Tomorrow will be devoted to sight-seeing. I'll be the one taking pictures of the admission windows and their ticket prices, asking people questions about opening hours, and rushing through the things on view.