Understanding India: Bangalore

Bangaluru. India
First morning in India

    While exploring the city streets of Bangalore on our first full day in India we managed to strike up a conversation with locals. An easy thing to do really – not only is everyone curious about white people, but most people have an inherent kindness in them. A man sitting on a moped with his grandson asked me what I was studying in college. It took me a moment to understand his question. I was still navigating English with an Indian accent something similar to wading through choppy ocean waters.  I brace myself through every word.

    “Writing and Communications,” I answer.

    He pauses for a moment and asks me what I want to do. I expressed uncertainty. He then advises me sternly. “Whatever you do, ask first if it’s useful. Is it useful?”

    That’s one question that will launch any Liberal Arts student into an existential tailspin. I spent the rest of my day and even the day after with that question ruminating – or more accurately, marinating my brain. I have a vague idea of what I would like to do, but is it useful?

    Now I’m trying to decide what “useful” means.

    The day in Bangalore (Bangaluru) was an interesting segue into conceptualizing India. Something at this point I think is impossible – it has to be experienced. The city with free-range cows and auto-rickshaws with the color palette of pineapples. Women draped and jeweled. Vibrant color at every corner. Broken sidewalks and games of frogger while crossing the street. Temples with elephant headed gods. Shrines on dashboards.  It’s mango season!

    Moving around a lot growing up - I foolishly thought it gave me some greater understanding of the world. But moving around a lot under the Bible belt? There’s nothing much different to see. In fact, it cemented my belief that the south is the south no matter where you live within it. So being somewhere so completely different? It was relieving. Almost all of the social constraints I subscribe to at home are irrelevant here. I never thought traveling would be something similar to being pulled from an underground bunker.

    Look around! The world is a lot bigger than you thought!

Bangaluru. India
Bangaluru. India
Temple visitors 
Bangaluru. India
Bangaluru. India
Bangaluru. India
Roses given to us by a flower vendor
Bangaluru. India

Italicized text indicates words written in my journal. Want more photos? See more here
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Read more: 
The Arrival 
Chennakesava Temple
Mysore Palace
Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary
Around the Coffee Plantation
Elephant Camp Pt. 1
Elephant Camp Pt. 2
King of Cobras
Kuppalli and Kuvempu
Elephant Bath

We were in India to complete the filming of the documentary Elephants in the Coffee. And now it’s done. It explores the elephant-human conflict that has been happening in India. The coffee you drink has most likely been wandered through by elephants. They are a nuisance to farmers, but also a god in the Hindu belief. You cannot destroy a god. But you can scare it off with crackers and shotgun blasts. The elephant habitat is shrinking. In its place villages and farms have moved in. Elephants walk the same paths they have for hundreds of years, even if houses, crops, or people stand in their way. How could anyone stop them? Electric fences, trenches and steel beams have been used and are being used to keep them out and keep people safe. Nobody wants a god wandering through their crops eating their jack fruit, trampling their livelihood. But a god cannot be stopped.  


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