The Auto-Rickshaw Driver Who Honked His Horn

This is the Aesop fable of The Boy Who Cried Wolf, retold by me, about the lovely city of Bangalore

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There once was an auto-rickshaw driver who was bored as he drove around in his auto, causing traffic jams as he weaved in and out of lanes to pick up passengers. To amuse himself he beeped his horn for no good reason at all, startling the pedestrians crossing the street and the motorcycles whizzing past.

Cars swerved and pedestrians jumped, fearing they were about to be hit. But when the drivers and passers-by looked around, they found no vehicles in their path. The auto driver laughed at the sight of their angry faces.

“Don’t beep your horn for no reason, auto driver,” said the others, “when there’s no one in your way!” They drove away, shaking their heads.

Later, the auto driver beeped his horn again, BEEP! BEEP! To his naughty delight, he watched the other drivers bob and swerve to get out of his path.

When the other drivers saw no speeding cars barreling towards them they sternly said, “Save your horn for when there is really something wrong! Don’t beep your horn when there is no one in your way!”

But the driver just grinned and watched them drive away, shaking their heads once more and disappearing back into the traffic.

Later, the auto driver was approaching a giant intersection with a red light. It was late at night without much traffic, which as we all know means stopping is optional. All of the sudden, a big truck came speeding up from the other direction. Already in the middle of the intersection, the auto driver  beeped his horn as loudly as he could BEEP! BEEP! BEEEEP!

But the truck driver didn’t slow, he had gotten so used to hearing horns everywhere he went, that it had lost all meaning.

At sunset, the auto driver’s family wondered why he hadn’t returned home after work. They went to his normal driving spot and found him standing next to a smashed auto.

“There was a really big truck driver here! He didn’t see my auto and he ran it over! I beeped my horn but he didn’t even notice! I escaped just in time! Why didn’t he stop?”

An old man tried to comfort the driver as they all walked home.

“We’ll help you fix your auto in the morning,” he said, putting his arm around the auto driver, “Nobody believes a liar…even when he is telling the truth!”

 

 

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Say What?

I love India…a lot…but sometimes I am left shaking my head. It has definitely taken some time to acclimate myself so that my immediate reaction is not are you kidding me?!? and is instead ha…only in India. I have written before about my sometimes frustration for the lack of logic, but I’ve grown slightly fond of it. Slightly. Depending on the day.

Last weekend I went to the grocery store to buy a few things. My total came to 458 rupees, so I handed over a 500 rupee note. The cashier, of course, had no change, so he scurried around to the other tellers to see what he could gather. When he came back he handed me 2-ten rupee notes. When I stood and waited, he apologized and and handed over another ten rupee note and two pieces of hard candy. When I inquired about the other two rupees…he pointed to the hard candies. I asked again, and he replied “No change madam, candy”.  Now, two rupees is about three US cents, so it’s pretty insignificant, even here. But the manner of the cashier, his attitude of why on earth are you still worried about two rupees? Didn’t you see the candy in your hand? left me laughing to myself as I walked away. Oh India.

Later that day I met up with a colleague for dinner. She is from Australia (along with most of my office), so everyone has been quite excited to check out the brand new Australian restaurant that had just opened up nearby. Mostly…we were quite intrigued as to what it would be. The menu looked great online, so off we went. Though it was 7pm on a Saturday night, we were only people on the outdoor, rooftop section. Well…only customers. There were 18 waiters and waitresses (yes, I counted) who hung out, stared at the white girls and hurried to get the EDM speakers and disco lights set up for our entertainment.

We were excited for the large beer list, something that can usually be a little hard to find here. There was a whole “foreign beer” section, which we both quickly reviewed and then placed our order. “Sorry,” the waiter replied, “we don’t have those”. We each picked a second choice, both of which were out of stock. When we asked what beer they did have, he pointed to Kingfisher, India’s home brew. So…out of the 20+ options, they had one. We settled on gin and tonics instead.

Next came the food. We both immediately saw calamari and said ohhh. But…it wasn’t meant to be. No calamari, either. We munched on our replacement wedges while perusing the remainder of the menu. We both decided on wraps – seemed simple enough. I ordered the mutton. After about fifteen minutes, the waiter brought out two plates, each with four sausages stacked, pyramid-style, next to a little salad and some dipping sauce. Hmm…wasn’t quite what we were expecting. The waiter first tried to tell us that the actual wrap wasn’t included and we would need to pay extra (though it was listed on the menu). Again…logic doesn’t get very far here. We started to argue, but then just said whatever, bring two.

After lots of discussions among the 18 waiters, we got free roomalis (aka tortillas) and complementary pink, sugary pina colada. Oh well…it was an adventure.

As my time in India is winding down I’ve started appreciating these little quirks a little more. Then, a colleague in Alaska sent me a picture of the town where I’ll be living. Oh man…I CANNOT WAIT.

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Compare the top picture to the one below, which was a street festival this weekend on Bangalore. Also beautiful, but the contrast couldn’t be greater 🙂

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A Day in the Life

I just finished reading the book Born to Run by Christopher McDougall. It’s the story of a tribe of ultra marathoners tucked away in a Mexican canyon and it talks a lot about the science behind running and the advantages of barefoot running. I’m a total sucker for statistics and logical arguments, which this book is full of, and I am now convinced that I need to try out this minimalist running for myself. It talks a lot about how injuries develop because of the unnatural stride of running in a cushioned shoe, and by switching to shoes with less padding it actually helps people with bad knees (me) and flat feet (me). It’s an excellent read if you have any type of interest in either running or anthropology. Stay tuned for my findings, though I might wait to test until post-India to avoid Bangalore sidewalk tetanus.

In other news, Serial Season 1 is back! Adnan was granted a hearing to assess whether he should get a new trial because 1) Cristina Gutierrez was totally incompetent and/or 2) there is “new evidence” which isn’t really new, but wasn’t actually examined in his first trials. Asia finally gave her testimony (and nailed it!) and cell phone records are being reanalyzed due to the inaccurate analysis in the previous trials and the cover sheet on the phone records was previously excluded. This is a big deal, because it states that incoming calls are inaccurate for determining location…and this was pretty much the main argument of the State. The trial has been extended until today to hear all of the testimony and then the judge will take his time to decide – experts are speculating approximately two months.

If you’re following this, I highly recommend listening to Sarah Koenig on Serial in tandem with The Undisclosed Podcast by Rabia Chaudry, Susan Simpson and Colin Miller. Rabia, Susan and Colin are all attorneys who created Undisclosed to dig deeper than Serial could and their commentary on the Adnan’s hearing is quite different from Sarah’s.

My final recommendation, if you’re in Bangalore, is to visit the Palace (see Veena’s deets here). The audio tour is pretty good and the architecture is beautiful. Check out some of my pictures below.

The Bangalore Palace

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First, yes, the beginning rooms are really that yellow. No filters there. The bright red on yellow are all battle shields. All of the chandeliers and stained-glass windows were beautiful.

There was a lot of beautiful artwork throughout the Palace, but this painting of a woman was my favorite.

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One of the really cool parts of the Palace was that it was obviously a lived-in house. The walls were covered in old family photos which were a really interesting view into the past. The audio tour talked a lot about the clothing the women had to wear…particularly how long their saris were.

 

 

Running My First Race

Last weekend I ran in my first race: The Bengaluru Pinkathon. I ran the 10K race (they milind-soman__683983also offered a 5K and a 3K) and despite some timing issues and the overuse of the phrase “Pink Sister” it was quite fun and well-run. Pinkathon puts on races across India throughout the year to promote running in women and also teach about proper technique. And, India’s beloved heartthrob Milind Soman (who is somehow related to Veena) even made an appearance, causing the ten thousand women preparing for the run to go crazy. It was like Justin Bieber walked on stage in a high school auditorium.  Luckily, 10K runners were already lined up to run and I hastily made my escape.

We waited at the starting line for a few minutes…apparently there was also a half marathon which was unadvertised, and the course consisted of running the 10K course two times. We waited for them to pass, and off we went! The course was well-planned and well-marked along the way with big banners every few kilometers to remind you of your distance. Traffic was stopped (at least for the first group) and included a nice sprinkling of minor hills. The hills were small enough that the uphill portion wasn’t too bad and the downhill portions were just inclined enough to give weary legs a rest. Just around 8.5Km, when I began to get pretty tired, there were two cows in the middle of the course AND two drummers on the side of the road, drumming away. These provided me with enough amusement until I reached the banner that said  1000 METERS. Woo! I was quite proud of my first race: 10K in 1:04. Not a winning time, but not too bad for my first attempt and faster than my practice runs. I’ll take it!

After I finished my run I picked up my snack bag and found a nice, empty spot on the ground to relax, stretch and enjoy my snacks while waiting for my friends. Despite stating that there was a 5:30am reporting time for all…5K participants didn’t actually begin their run until around 7am. Veena was running the 5K so I had some time to kill. While I relaxed and enjoyed the fantastic people watching which never disappoints in India, a man walked up to me and asked if I wanted a free foot massage. There weren’t many things in that moment which could have made me stand up, gather my acquired prizes and move from my comfy little corner…but the phrase free foot massage was certainly one of them. Nice touch, Pinkathon.

Veena, Gayatri and I hanging out in the Winner’s Area before the race.

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Pinkathon had photographers along the route to snap shots. Mine came out pretty horrible…they’re so bad they’re actually quite comical. Here is the only one which is was acceptable. The guy in the bottom left corner with the pink head wrap is my drumming buddy.

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Zumba-class warm-up, starting line, and my favorite: the Avon table which was set up to “refresh make-up” for all of the sweaty runners. Only in India.