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India Chronicles : Bangalore Through My Eyes By Andrea

“Traveling can teach you more in a year than most people will learn in a lifetime”

As far as I can remember, I’ve always thought of India as a colorful country with a rich culture, women with long hair wearing sarees, beautiful temples & delicious food… oh and the amazing dance moves. Thanks to Bollywood movies. The problem with movies is that they often perpetuate clichés, which rarely reflect the whole truth. Bangalore was all of it, but not only. There was darkness too. Poverty, injustice, discrimination and inequalities are a reality there. Kindness, generosity and economic growth are real too. Two sides of the same story reflecting the complexity of the Indian society, that I was lucky enough to experience from a balanced perspective, with a loving heart and an open mind.

My trip to India was one of the most transformative experience I’ve had this year. On a personal level, I’ve learned so much about myself, I’ve discovered fears I had no idea existed before, and found out where my real strengths lie. I’ve also learned from the people around me and realized how similar human beings are, regardless of the country, culture or religion we belong to. Our essence is the same. And if we spent more time seeking that essence instead of being focus on our differences, the world would be a better place. India is one of those countries I’ve always been fascinated with. I was excited and anxious at the same time to make this trip on my own. But somehow, I had this feeling of belonging, of knowingness. As if part of me knew exactly where she was going. Immersing myself into a new culture and embracing this environment made me feel whole in a way I can hardly explain. I was able to connect with this environment effortlessly, and knew my way intuitively. By the end of this journey, when I returned to England with a joyful heart and wonderful memories, I was certain of one thing: borders only exist in the mind.

“Traveling to an unknown place by yourself without knowing a single soul there can be scary for some people. But it’s actually the most educative & growing experience one can have. It’s stepping out of your comfort zone, literally, embracing the unknown and realizing that the world is much bigger and diverse than you thought.”

Bangalore is India’s third largest city and is known as the “Silicon Valley of India” for its leading tech industry. It’s also called the “City of Gardens” for its beautiful parks and gardens. What I first noticed is how multi-religious the city is. I’ve never seen so many temples, mosques and churches in the same place. I was also impressed by the fact that, though very developed, this part of India remains very traditional compared to cosmopolitan cities like Mumbai.

The weather was very dry and hot and the traffic was crazy! Especially in the afternoon, you can easily stay stuck for two hours between cars, bicycles, scooters, autos… and well, cows. I stayed in a hotel at Bannerghatta road, where the staff was very helpful and welcoming. In the morning, I would have the typical Indian breakfast with Masala chai, my newest addiction. Then I would watch TV with the boy who was cleaning my room each day. He didn’t go to school and didn’t speak a word of english. Yet he was the most polite and respectful being I met there. Despite his circumstances, he was always smiling and greeted me with a “Namaste Madam” every morning. It made me think of my own country, Cameroon, where a big part of the population don’t have access to basic needs like water, electricity, healthcare and education, and try to survive on a daily basis. It was a humbling experience. A reminder to be thankful for everything life has blessed me with, and enjoy the simple things.

Bangalore is a beautiful city with a wide range of activities. I enjoyed visiting temples and other religious sites, going to the shopping malls and trying out local food. I was hysterical when I found out there was a vegetarian KFC in town! I wish I could bring it back with me in England…

Some of my favorite activities included wandering in Russel market, one of the best market in town, where you can find almost everything at a bargain price ; spending peaceful afternoons at Lalbagh botanical garden, my favorite garden; and hanging out at Mahamat Ganghi Road (mostly known as MG road), the most popular and touristic avenue, where all the cool restaurants, shops, clubs and bars are located.

Fabric hunting was by far my favorite activity. I spent an insane amount of time (and money) in fabrics factories across the city. Did I mention that I was obsessed with Indian women’s sense of style? Most women in Bangalore wear sarees and traditional dresses. It’s refreshing to see a more authentic and less westernized fashion, especially when it looks so stylish! I noticed that Indian fabrics are quite similar to African fabrics. It’s all about prints and vibrant colors…

These adorable ladies taught me how to tie a saree

What I loved the most about my solo adventures was the human experience. From the women in the markets who told me all kinds of funny stories, to the elders I met in the temples who shared their wisdom with me, and the auto drivers who happened to be the best tourist guides. Every people I met had something to teach me. They were all naturally curious and kind, and approached me sometimes in the most bizarre ways.

This trip made me realize that the most important value to have wherever you travel to is compassion. Especially if you go in a country where the culture is completely different than yours. When you’re a tourist, people will try to get money from you on a daily basis, and sell you overpriced items and services. It’s pretty common. Not to mention those starring at you and sometimes taking photos of you because you look “different”. That is common too. I remember feeling very frustrated at the beginning because I didn’t know how to feel nor to react when people asked me for photos (some of them handed me their babies to take a photo with them), others even asked to touch my hair. At some point, I felt attacked and violated. But when I changed my mindset, the way I experienced things also changed. Instead of feeling frustrated, angry or scared, I approached everyone with love, understanding & compassion. I realized that most of them were simply curious and intrigued by me, and that I shouldn’t take it personally. Trust me, it took me a while to get there. I went through different stages of frustration and confusion that I will elaborate later in a post. Looking back on this journey, I can only smile and be thankful for the process…

Love &Light,

A