Hello readers! It’s been awhile, and I have so much catching up to do. Since my last post, I have gleefully emerged from COVID and travelled to Greece, Rome, Spain, Turks & Caicos, and more. Also, after over a year of ‘commuting’ from the Delaware beaches to New Jersey, I have also thrown in the proverbial towel and retired from banking. So you know there are many more great trips (and more blogging) planned!
For my first post retirement trip, I went for big adventure, thanks to my Oldest child. He took a short term work assignment in Bengaluru (formerly Bangalore) India, therefore I HAD to go visit him. It was my first trip to Asia and my first trip to a country more populous than the United States. With only a few months’ notice to plan the trip, I started where I always start: with a map and Google.
Bengaluru is located in the southern third of India , in an area that was once part of the Mysore dynasty. From here, it’s over 600 miles to Mumbai and over 1300 to New Delhi. Bengaluru is known as the “Silicon Valley of India”, due to the predominance of tech workers: in addition to its own budding tech industry, this area primarily functions as the back office of American and European Big Business. In 2023, Bengaluru is expected to grow by 6%. It’s one of the fastest growing cities in a fast growing nation.
India is geographically about one-third the size of the lower 48 states, but its population is nearly 4x that of the US. In April, 2023, it is believed that India has now achieved the status of becoming the most populous country in the world, surpassing China. In fact, per Pew Research, India’s population has grown by more than 1 billion people since just 1950.
Arriving in Bengaluru, the pace of that growth is evident. BLR airport’s terminal is new and arguably a lot nicer than Newark, and additional terminal work is underway. In fact, there was construction pretty much everywhere. An elevated train will soon whisk travelers from BLR to the central city, currently about a 40 minute ride on the highway. Along that highway, signs selling suburban real estate and newly built high-rises abound, along with looming office parks boasting familiar US and European corporate logos.
All this growth comes with a cost, however. From my hotel window, the air pollution is evident. Bellandur Lake, the largest in this ‘garden city’, famously caught fire in 2015. The pollution is a function of vehicles, road dust, trash, and construction. I won’t go on a climate change rant here, but I have serious concerns about the future livability of this city if things don’t improve.
And traffic? I will henceforth NEVER AGAIN complain about the traffic on Rt 1 in Delaware or the Garden State Parkway. It’s difficult to describe, but I’ll try. Imagine, if you will …..
1)no obedience to lane markings
2)drivers ignoring traffic signals and one-way street indicators;
3)all sizes of vehicles, from bicycle to scooter to agricultural cart to semi-truck sharing the same road and lanes, with no rules governing left, right, fast, slow, or otherwise;
4)construction cones and barriers everywhere; and
5)horns. Never ending horns.
“Beep Beep Beep” was the lullaby to which I fell asleep each night in my hotel room 12 floors up. In India, they use horns to let other drivers know they are overtaking them. Which is … constantly. To the left, to the right, it doesn’t matter, just beep beep and keep going. Other vehicles drive within inches of one another. You can count the chin hairs on your neighboring driver. My American vehicle would never make it here, because it beeps a warning whenever something is a couple of feet away, and includes an auto brake feature. In India, it would simply melt down.
But from within all the chaos stemming from Bengaluru’s fast growth and dense population, shines India’s radiant heart. The people I encountered in India were simply beautiful, inside and out. Warm, and always willing to share a smile and an education. Despite the pervasive and unending traffic, I never saw a single ‘flipped bird’ or heard a curse word.
Indian food is loaded with spices, many unfamiliar to Americans – because to Indians, a lack of spice is cold, bland and tasteless; a true metaphor. Their thirst for knowledge is evident in the familiar sight of schools under construction and uniformed children toting books. Their love of bright colors as reflected in clothing, temples, and food is palpable. From what I experienced, India’s cultural motto might well be ‘the more the better’! Whether from buildings, vehicles, colors, spices, or people, the buzzing chaos somehow combines into a fascinating harmony.
From our tour guides, to Tuk Tuk drivers, to hospitality personnel, to shopkeepers, everyone I met shared a sense of vibrancy and positivity. India may be challenged by pollution, fast growth, and poverty, but if its peoples’ attitudes matter, these challenges will be faced with relish in the decades ahead.