Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Big Indian Wedding

I have a list of must-do-before-I-die and and attending an Indian wedding (or getting invited to one) was one of it. Alok and Shruti’s 3-day wedding was perfect.

Day 1: Mehndi & Cocktails


Singing and dancing during Mehendi session.

Getting Mehendi-ed

Pani Puri - They punctured a hole into this deep- fried ball, stuff some cooked spiced potatoes in it and then pour some green liquid inside. Quite tasty.

Cocktails and Clubbing at The Mine

Alok and Shruti are such great hosts. What do you do when your guests are drunk and danced-out? You feed them.

24 hours later.

More pictures of Day 1

Day 2: Tilak Ceremony, Sangeet & Dinner

Bride and Groom on stage

Performance by the bride (no, there were no groom performance)

But Alok did dance a storm. Lady in pink saree is Alok's mom.

Alok's friends performing to the song "ohm shanti ohm"

Alok's friends chilling by the bar after performance

Doesn't this look like an Indianized GAP ad? Check out the shoes.

More pictures of Day 2

Day 3: Wedding Ceremony

Apparently, the groom is supposed to arrive at the location on a horse (or an elephant, I can't remember) with a music band but the Leela Palace did not allow noise or animals, so Alok's friends had to sing loudly to simulate.

Leela Palace

Groom and Bride

Wedding Accessories

Wedding ritual: pouring rice into fire. Not sure what is the significance but I'm sure Alok isn't sure either.

Literally tying the knot.

Negotiating for the groom's slippers

The rituals went on for a while.

Me, Pooja, Chitra, Helen and Sneha

The friends. Like a sore thumb.

Weddings can be quite emotional.

Leaving the ballroom

The Newlyweds

More pictures of Day 3

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Horn Me

Drivers in Bangalore honk their vehicle horns not because they want to warn but because this is how they communication with other vehicles, pedestrians and animals. So imagine being in traffic during rush hour in a city with approximately 1.95 million cars and each car is communicating.

Some trucks and auto-rickshaws have "Sound OK Horn" written on the bumper.

Now that I got that out of the way, I want to say that I am very disturbed by what I witnessed this morning on the road and I shouldn't be since this happens a million times everyday in Malaysia. My cabbie was stopped by 2 fat traffic officials (maybe a random inspection?). Cabbie showed Fat Officer 1 his driver's license and then was asked to stepped out. I, of course have no idea what they are talking about but watching them from my tinted window, this is what I *think* is happening.

Fat Officer 1: I'm going to write you a big fat ticket.
Cabbie: Please sir, I didn't do anything wrong.
Fat Officer 1: You know what you did! We can fix this. How much do you have?

Cabbie took out his wallet. Looks like Rs100 bill and no change (Rs100 = US$2.30). Fat Officer 1 took the bill. Now if I never found out how much cab drivers make monthly, I won't feel as bad but I do.

Fat Officer 2 and Fat Officer 1 exchange whispers. Fat Officer 1 took the Rs100 note, symphatize and
gave Cabbie a couple of crumbled Rs10 notes under his hat. I found myself grabbing my camera.

No, I didn't do it. I didn't want to be dragged out of my AC cab and stoned to death. Would've been a good picture though.

Cabbie dropped me off at my Guru's. I spent the next 2 hours practicing yoga, and no matter how many ohms and deep breathes I took, all I could think about is how these 2 fat men just bullied my scrawny driver and now Cabbie (who probably has 3 kids and a wife living about 100 km away, who are all probably as scrawny) will have to skip meals today. When Cabbie sent me home later, I gave him Rs100. Is it wrong?

So Saturday night, a new friend N got pulled over for DUI and had a BAC level of .07 (N said .03 is maximum legal level in Bangalore). N had limited Rupees on him, and Officer Ram wasn’t going to let him off easy. Since N had a chick on the passenger seat, he negotiated for a down-payment and Officer Ram gave him his cell phone number.

Sunday, I got a ride from N (who wasn’t driving) and H (who was also drunk driving the night before). H drove us to where Officer Ram was placed for the evening and passed him the previously agreed balance. Apparently, N’s deal with Officer Ram was not to get out of a ticket but for Officer Ram (with a *little* incentive) to go to court and pay for N’s ticket. Before we left, N & H shook hands with Officer Ram and he said “see you next weekend”…

Friday, July 25, 2008

Damn Bombs

After spending 3 hours being indecisive about watching the Dark Knight movie, I finally gave in and my nice colleague K instantly bought the movie tickets. Five minutes later he said change of plans because there are bombings in Bangalore and one of the bombs blasted right behind The Forum; a popular mall and also where our theatre is located. I found out later there were a series of 9 bombings and one of them on Langford Road, which is the street right off my corporate apartment building.

My brother Justin told my mother, "bomb goes wherever she goes" (re: 9/11). I'm just annoyed that my Friday night plans got cancelled.

Full Bangalore Bomb Story

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Shravanabelagola, Belur & Halebid

Talk about a random event. I went on a road trip with a Product Manager who works for the "Company's" biggest competitor but it wasn't as confrontational as I thought it'd be and we didn't throw each other out of the car. In fact, I had a great time with P because he, though an American, speaks Tamil fairly well and that was close to essential while traveling in the countryside of South India.

The first time I met P is at 5:30am when he came to pick me up with his hired driver. We drove for about 3.5 hours before reaching Shravanabelagola, a town well known for its Jain art and Gomatheswara statue.

The 13 meter Gomatheswara statue

We had to leave our shoes in the car and walk on rock-cut stairs. It took us about 15 minutes to hike up Indragiri Hill to see the Gomatheswara statue.

800 steps of rock-cut steps.

Alternatively, you could pay for this service. These men practically ran up the 800 steps stairs in a few minutes.

Next to the Indragiri Hill is Chandragiri Hill that holds a group of smaller shrinesand to me a more difficult hike . It's so surprisingly quiet up here that the only sound you hear is some women doing laundry by the pond.

View from Chandragiri Hill

This is the Jain God's feet carved on the highest point of Chandragiri Hill.

Barata Statue on Chandragiri Hill

Indragiri Hill from Chandragiri Hill. You could see the top half of the Gomatheswara from here.

A very rewarding yummy paper dosai for breakfast after a long hike at Hotel Raghu.


Our next stop was Belur, which is about 2 hours away on sometimes unpaved roads but passing scenic farm lands and small villages made the drive bearable.

Sunflower farm

Belur seems to me like a very sleepy town but is renowned for its Chennakeshava temple which has one of the most intricate and fine carvings on stone I have seen yet.

Elephants for strength, lions for courage, horses for speed

Chennakeshava temple

Chennakeshava temple

Pillar at the Chennakeshava temple

Not only were there figures of nude female dancers but also figures of people having sexual intercourse. My friend K.O. would have a blast here.

Can you spot it?

My South Indian Lunch.

Curd Rice to calm the stomach after a spicy meal. Curd rice taste exactly how you think rice mixed with unsweetened-yogurt would taste.

About 30 minutes drive away is Halebid town, which is known for its Hoysala art and Hoyseleshvara temple. I thought this temple wasn't as impressive especially after seeing the Gomastheswara statue and Chennakeshava temple but it's surroundings make it a pleasant place to be.

Inside Hoyseleshvara temple

Tour guide at Hoyseleshvara temple

Hoyseleshvara temple

Took us about 4.5 hours to get back to Bangalore. The last 2 hours was terrifying because there were no streetlights and big buses and trucks were over-taking each other. I had a great time with P. I especially like picking on his brain about India. I think I found myself a travel partner, or as P would call it "frienemies".

More pictures.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Visit Bangalore Day

Last Saturday I decided to seek ideas from the Lonely Planet (because all my new friends are busy), which landed me at the Karnataka State Tourist Development Corporation (KSTDC) where I signed up for a Bangalore sight-seeing tour.

is called "Garden City" and this is one is Lalbagh Park. It's actually quite surreal to see a park so well manicured and maintained smacked right in the middle of a pretty polluted city.

Tipu's summer palace.

Bangalore museum

From my photo selection, I’m sure you can tell that the tour was pretty lame but I guess if you have a tight schedule and want to see Bangalore, this would be perfect. Fare: Rs190 on a “Volvo” A/C bus.

More Bangalore tour pictures.

I won’t be me if I didn't over-book my weekend. The tour took about 6 hours and ran over about 45 minutes and addition to that the Bangalore traffic resulted in my very late arrival to the Americans in Bangalore Meet-Up dinner event.

I swear it is way more fun than it looks.

Indian desserts.

More Meetup pictures.