Enjoying Bangalore [en]

This year, I spent just two and a half days in Bangalore, at Anita’s. And this year, unlike two years ago, I was ready for the way in which Bangalore is different from the India I’m used to (understand: Pune in 99-00 ;-)).

Prestige Shantiniketan, Bangalore 1

Prestige Shantiniketan, Bangalore 7

I enjoyed staying in a modern housing complex which is pretty much a self-sustaining village (coffee shop, pharmacy, swimming pool, tennis courts and probably many other things), eating in nice restaurants (pizza and delicious lettuce, at Chez Mariannick, vietnamese food, at Phobidden Fruit), going to the cinema (Life if Pi with totally scratched 3D glasses you had to hand back before the credits finished rolling), the huge mall, even though we didn’t do any shopping (complete with bomb-check of the car as we entered the parking), having a driver to take us to the girls’ karaoke night out at Opus — and more importantly, back.

The mall

Cinema security in Bangalore

I had a little “hero moment” at Opus. The menu cards there are a piece of paper surrounding a candle, like what we would call a “photophore” in French. One of the women of the table below us (we were sitting at the floor tables) was leaning against the empty take next to ours. She didn’t notice that she was also leaning against the menu card and candle.

I smelled something burning, burning hair actually, looked around, and saw the menu card had caught fire just behind her. I move it away, and saw there was a patch of burning hair on the side of her neck — flames and all, maybe the surface of half a hand. I swatted it repeatedly with my hand — hitting her, in fact — and the put out the flames.

I think it took her a little while to figure out what had happened (from her point of view, somebody was suddenly hitting her quite hard on the neck) — but she thanked me profusely afterwards, of course.

Being in Bangalore also gave me a chance to see Ranjita’s beautiful pottery, after meeting her for the first time in Goa a few weeks ago. Check out the My Artitude India Facebook page if you like her stuff. She’s very talented and there is a lot of demand for her pottery.

Ranjeeta's beautiful pottery 1

Ranjeeta's beautiful pottery 2

I definitely plan on visiting her in Pondicherry next time I come to India.

At Anita’s also were of course Kitkit and Tikki — first cat in my lap for weeks. I miss my cats!

Kitkit 2

Tikki 2

It was nice seeing you, Bangalore. I’ll be back for longer next time I have a chance.

The Ugly Indians Are Cleaning the Streets of Bangalore [en]

[fr] A Bangalore, un groupe de volontaires nettoie et reprend possession des rues remplies de détritus. Tout ça en s'organisant en ligne, bien entendu. Ça rappelle un peu les Riot Wombles des émeutes de Londres.

If you’ve been to India, you know that the streets there are not a model of cleanliness. As for myself, coming from very-clean Switzerland, I always had a hard time with the idea that the accepted thing to do with your plastic cups when you’re travelling by train is to throw them out the window in the countryside.


Not in Bangalore, but a very typical sight in India, sadly.

Well, it seems that there are non-Swiss people who also think like me: The Ugly Indians (don’t just click on the link; go through the first pages of the site and take the tour of their work — it’s very well done).

It’s a grassroots citizen mouvement, which reminds me a lot of the Riot Wombles in London and elsewhere in the UK, concerned citizens who showed up in the aftermath of the infamous riots with brooms and buckets to clean up the mess.

The Ugly Indians are anonymous and self-organizing. They decide on a spot to reclaim, clean and prettify it, identify the main sources of “dirtification”, and once reclaimed, keep it that way. Less broken windows.

Read the piece the BBC did on The Ugly Indians. Like them on Facebook. Share with your friends, in India and elsewhere. Most importantly, read through their success stories — it’s incredible what they’ve accomplished!

Living in India, and feeling inspired? You just have to e-mail them.

Choc culturel à Bangalore [fr]

Cet article a été initialement publié sur le blog de voyage ebookers.ch (voir l’original).

Après plus ou moins 14 mois en Inde si l’on met mes séjours là-bas bout-à-bout, j’ai vécu la semaine dernière un de mes plus grands chocs culturels indiens: Bangalore.

Bangalore 126 Fancy Buildings.jpg
Tout en vitres et en hauteur.

Après Pune, Bangalore est immense, moderne, et ressemblerait presque à l’Occident. Grands boulevards (même s’ils sont surchargés de voitures), bus neufs climatisés roulant à toute vitesse (autant que les embouteillages le permettent), tours vitrées chatouillant les nuages, population jeune et habillée à l’occidentale, arbres majestueux, restaurants luxueux et chers, immense chantier du futur métro en plein air au-dessus de l’artère principale de la ville, aéroport à faire pâlir certains d’Europe… Certes, on trouve à Bangalore des coins qui me font penser à Pune. Mais ma petite semaine sur place m’a laissée presque un peu déboussolée.

Bangalore 076 Street Views.jpg
Rickshaws rutilants et bien alignés près de Commercial Street.

J’ai commencé à mieux comprendre cette ville lors de mon dernier jour sur place, à l’occasion du Victorian Bangalore Walk auquel nous avons participé (fortement recommandé, je vous en reparlerai). Bangalore, comme les Etats-Unis par ailleurs, est une terre d’immigrés. Au tournant du 19e siècle, les Anglais y installent leur centre militaire (cantonment) pour l’Inde du sud. Forte population Anglo-Indienne, donc, afflux par la suite d’immigrés du reste de l’état du Karnataka, installation précoce de l’électricité (1906), arrivée d’entreprises comme Tata et Texas Instruments, sans compter les prisonniers italiens durant la deuxième guerre mondiale qui ont grandement contribué au développement du football dans cette ville… Quelques éléments d’histoire disparates et un peu en vrac, n’empêche: Bangalore est une ville qui s’est développée à travers ses immigrants — et ça continue aujourd’hui. Moins de 30% de la population de Bangalore parle le kannada, la langue locale.

On comprend donc mieux l’occidentalisation rampante, l’esprit entrepreneurial et le développement fulgurant de Bangalore, centre de gravité technologique attirant entreprises et cerveaux du sous-continent et d’ailleurs.

Mais qu’on ne s’y méprenne pas: la ville reste indienne, surtout dans ses infrastructures. Coupures d’électricité, maisons construites les unes sur les autres, ascenseurs et connexions internet en panne, vaches déambulant sur des routes souvent en mauvais état, rickshaws et leurs mythiques conducteurs (surtout ici!), offices postaux inintelligibles aux non-initiés, et surtout, mondes parallèles qui se côtoient sans jamais sembler se toucher, ou tout juste du bout des doigts. La nourriture y est excellente, et Bangalore recèle bien entendu des quartiers de petites ruelles (surtout dans la vieille ville) et des marchés détendus où il fait bon se balader, comme le Gandhi Bazaar dans le Basavanagudi.

Bangalore 040 Gandhi Bazaar.jpg
Gandhi Bazaar.

Je vous l’avoue, j’ai de la peine à l’aimer, cette ville trop occidentale à mon goût, même si pour beaucoup d’indiens elle représente le futur, le progrès, et la direction que doit prendre leur pays. Mais je ne doute pas qu’il doit faire bon vivre dans cette métropole multiculturelle, pour qui a un revenu lui permettant le train de vie qui s’y étale.

Bangalore 068 Street Views.jpg
Panneaux d'affichage.

A visiter? Oui, certainement, surtout si le côté “rustique” de l’Inde vous intimide un peu et que vous désirez conserver quelques repères en matière de confort occidental lors de votre séjour.

Depuis ici:

What's Up? [en]

[fr] Occupations, réflexions et choses intéressantes des derniers jours.

Keeping myself busy in Bangalore, either by eating in posh restaurants, buying too many books, conversing with fellow travelers, learning to use Lightroom correctly and uploading my photographs, and hanging out on Quora.

A few random things for today.

Bangalore is a real culture-shock for me. Big, new, shiny, orderly and expensive compared to the India I’m familiar with (Pune).

I’m still dumping my photos on Flickr without much sortage (or they’ll never get online!) but I’ve started organizing them into sets. Check them out.

Instagram.app is just wonderful for taking snapshots when you’re traveling. I’m getting my friends hooked on it.

Blossom Book House in Bangalore is a book-buyer’s paradise. They even prepared my book parcel for me (I just need to go to the post office and send it, praying it won’t cost an arm and a leg).

Magazines Store has cats. Meow! And they’re on Facebook!


I have a backlog of Indian recipes to write up.

2011? More travel, more reading, more writing, more photography.

Want excellent (really excellent) Western food in Bangalore? Go to Chamomile. It’s pretty pricey (by my Indian standards) but absolutely delicious. I think this was our biggest culture shock so far: we were really worried when we saw the place and the menu, but ecstatic when we started eating the food. My dad had an extraordinary T-bone steak, perfectly cooked.

EXCELLENT rare t-bone steak

I’m hooked on Quora. Tell me if you want an invite. (Can you get in without a Twitter/Facebook account, by the way?) I spent all morning two days ago answering cat questions, and have started getting replies to some of my India questions (asbestos, anyone?).

India is a great place to get stuff repaired. My chappal (Indian sandals) which cost around 12 CHF to buy cost me 45 CHF to re-heel in Switzerland. Here: 20 Rs (1 CHF = 46 Rs). Need to replace a broken screen on an otherwise functional laptop? Quite affordable, labour included. Next time I come I’m bringing all my old sandals with me. And any laptop that needs repairing. Oh, and scanning slides? See:

ScanCafe looks like an excellent slide/negative/photo scanning service. They built their scanning centre here in Bangalore. Pity you can only use their services from the US/Canada for now. I am going to see if there are good slide scanning services in Pune/Delhi though, for next time I come (I have 1000+ slides to scan from my year in India). Spend some time reading their website — a model of what a company website should be.

Two other great websites I encourage you to spend time visiting, and great projects:

First, the Ashraya Initiative for Children, a small non-profit in Pune that helps street kids. They’re doing extraordinary work, both by housing selected children (Residential program), supporting Yerwada children’s education (Outreach programs) and improving life in their community. My friend Mithun is their Social Media Manager, which is how I came across them. I’ll be paying them a visit when I go back to Pune next week and am eager to see how I can support their work. Oh, read their blog too and find them on Facebook.

Second, Reality Tours and Travels Mumbai, a travel agency which specializes in small guided tours off the tourist track: Dharavi slum tours (80% of the profits from those tours go to NGOs working in the area, mainly Reality Gives, the non-profit sister organization they set up for that purpose), village tours (2 days and a night in a local village outside Mumbai), as well as the more traditional market and sightseeing tours. All that with guides from the local communities who speak very good English, in small groups (less than 6 people). Anita’s friends from Australia, whom we spent the day with yesterday, did the Dharavi slum tour and were very enthusiastic. I’m definitely planning that and the village tour for my next visit to Mumbai/Pune.

In the same vein of “non-touristy tourism”, my dad and I will be taking a Victorian walk through Bangalore tomorrow morning.

Taking photos from a train, like I did on the Udyan Express? Some tips gleaned from Twitter and experience: wide angle, manual focus to infinity, speed locked on 1/1000th, shoot facing direction of travel or opposite (rather than at a right angle) to minimize motion blur. If traveling in an AC carriage like we were, do not hesitate to go and open the door between the compartments. Forget about shooting through the dirty tinted windows.

Udyan Express From Pune to Bangalore 16.jpg


  • Come back in October to spend two weeks in Delhi to brush up my Hindi. Got good Hindi teachers there to recommend for private lessons? Let me know.
  • Travel through India by train. Or maybe, travel to India by train. Or by car. Anybody done this?
  • Do stuff other than helping people communicate better (just a vague desire, I’m not looking at a change of career right now, but I’d like to… do stuff, rather than just talk all the time)

Indian food is mainly carbs. Not much veggies in fact. A few veggies, tossed in spices, and lots of bread to eat them with. And rice and daal. And if you’re eating non-veg, it means “no-veg” — meat and bread. (Bread = Indian breads.) Nice, but not very balanced.

Fashion seems different in Bangalore. More Western clothing. Much more. Women in business suits. Way less salwaar kameez.

Going to Mysore rather than Pondicherry after all. Happy with the change of plans.

Internet-enabled India is very different from non-Internet India (ie, my experience 10 or even 7 years back).

Very happy with Cleartrip for booking train and flights in India.

It’s lovely to have lots of “empty” time to do things without having to worry about being productive. I guess that’s what holidays are, I’d forgotten!

OK, back to sorting my photos and learning how to use Lightroom 🙂

Travel Plans [en]

[fr] Prochains voyages: Lisbonne puis Vienne à la fin du mois de septembre, et peut-être l'Inde cet hiver si j'ai les sous.

  • (25)26-30th September: Shift in Lisbon, Portugal
  • 1st-3rd October: BlogTalk in Vienna, Austria

I’ve more or less got the trip to Lisbon and the return from Vienna sorted out. I’m in trouble for getting from Lisbon to Vienna during the week-end without emptying my bank account. Anybody else doing this? Got ideas where I should look? (Trains, planes, coaches?)

I’m also tempted to go to India for two months over December-January (get back here in time for Lift early February). The problem there is finances: I don’t know yet if I’ll be able to afford it. One idea would be to try and get some consulting work over there (Delhi, Pune, Bangalore…) — if the rates in the industry are worth it. Anybody know what opportunities a videshi bloggy consultant might find there?

Do speak up if we’re going to be in the same place at the same time!