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tell me about living in bangalore (er.. I mean delhi ...)

a friend recently said via email... tell me more about living in bangalore..

well, I'm actually living in delhi at the moment, but it's close.

here's the reply - I fear it sounds really negative. I don't mean it to - I think I was tired and needed a rant. anyway.. there's differences in culture here that I'll probably never fully grasp..

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bangalore was ok, I was there for about 3 months all up - 1 month
there then a couple of weeks back in uk. living in luxury hotels so
it's not all bad. the people are nice. I'm in delhi now - have been
here since april apart from a few days back in sydney. india has what
we refer to as 'indian stretchy time' which is what people work to
(similar to some pacific countries). the people cannot say no to you
(or westerners in general) & they do the head nod which is distracting
sometimes. you need to know how to phrase questions a few ways to get
the correct answer otherwise they'll say they can do things but have
no idea what you were just talking about. apart from work, we've been
to some of the tourist spots and walked and driven around some of the
suburbs and city. we went to the old delhi markets which are pretty
cool but a tad overpowering! the spice is so strong in some parts of
the spice markets - you walk down little alleyways with your eyes
watering. the men work pretty hard - the scene reminds me of that Neal
Stephenson book - I think it's cryptonmicon (I _still_ haven't
finished it, but finished snow crash on the plane back to uk - I
remember u recommended them a while back - great books, I agree!)
where he's talking about the coolies carrying poles with the money
bags (it's at the start - I could be confused though). they don't have
big poles in the labyrinth of alleys but have these long wooden
trolley-wheelebarrows which the bales of spice are stacked upon. they
maneuver them so deftly! u need to get out of the way though as they
don't stop and I almost had my toes sliced off a couple of times. the
thought of having to goto an indian hospital or bleeding in the dirt
kept me alert though. I have some pics and video, but it just doesn't
quite capture the whole scene - the smells for one thing! I need to
try that new smell capturing thing boing boing was talking about the
other day - be great for remembering things!

wheelbarrow/trolley pics:

http://flickr.com/photos/aliak_com/tags/olddelhi has some pics
http://flickr.com/photos/aliak_com/tags/delhi has a few hundred more
;) (too many to look at - I need to sort them better one day)

it's an adventure to even walk to the shops here. the smells in the
streets are so bad in some places. there must be unwritten rules about
which side of the footpath you need to walk on - not the one with the
ditch is the best guide. people stare at you all the time also. I
hardly look twice at tourists at home but here people stare for a
while so it's a bit strange. after a while you don't notice it as
much, they always ask 'which country' 'is this your first time in
delhi' and 'how do you like india'. they love to hear I'm from
australia - usually there's a cricket question. (lots of stereotypes
are true in the small talk!) there's so many poor people around - you
cant go anywhere without seeing them. it's amazing how the people
live. the paper calls the little collection of huts/slums 'hutments'
(like apartments but huts). some have sheets of plastic as a roof with
twigs and bricks stacked on top to hold it down. it almost looks like
a large birds nest on the roof. they reuse anything they can though -
very resourceful! also from what I can tell they have these amazing
communities. even when we're driving past you can see people talking
with each other. I think they need to - it's weird, I hardly know any
of my neighbours in flats I've lived in but these people seem to know
everyone. I guess you need to to survive and everyone helps out. you
see them bathing in the street, living on footpaths, sometimes
sleeping outside with no covering over them (probably cooler this
way). power is stolen left right & centre. overhead power lines are
another birds nest. apparently in each hutment community there's a
person who's task it is to provide power for the group. so they throw
up a cable and hook onto the overhead wires and connect it to a
transformer then feed the other huts. every now and then the council
comes past and cuts the line they've thrown up, then after they leave
they do it again. there's probably a whole network of lookouts to let
them know it's powerline cutting day and they probably have all these
spare cables stacked somewhere ready for after the next visit.

there's also crazy stuff with the goverment and power regulations in
general. each day and night the power goes out across the whole city
in a series of brownouts which rip across the city like a mexican wave
in a football stadium. it's off for a few minutes each time. the
papers about a month ago reported how there was a new rule that all
businesses and homes needed to turn off their power at 8pm each night
to save draining the city. this was delayed about a week, then they
reported again that the decision had been 'reverted' (everything is
'reverted' here instead of cancelled - 'please revert the needful' or
'please do the needful' cute terminology). this will actually help our
project a lot as each night every stb will be rebooted a few times so
that'll probably sort out half the problems you see at customer's
houses! tonight the power's gone off 4 times already and I've only
been in the hotel for about 3 hours since leaving work.

then there's the buildings and DDA (delhi development authority - a
contradiction in terms if ever there was one) land and rulings.
there's lots of spare land with bush scrub - would be great if they
built some public housing here for the people in the hutments and on
the streets. buildings take a long time to be built - there's a
shopping mall which was near the other hotel we were staying at. it
was just a shell of a building but had taken 2 years to get that way.
the zoning had since changed and it was deemed that 5 storeys was too
high so building has stopped while the developers try to clear the
papers so they can continue. there's squatters living in it now. also,
there were other shopping centres (these are a new concept to delhi)
which were half knocked down for similar reasons - they were deemed
'illegal buildings' as the area was zoned as residential. in delhi
zoning is either residential or commercial - I mean it's not like
people like to have shops near where they live or anything!! there's a
few km of roads where the buildings/shops are now illegal businesses
and are pending being knocked down. there's other areas where they've
knocked them down, so the shop vendors just moved back in after the
workmen left. so now they sometimes have no roof, or side wall, or
front wall or big holes in the walls. dirt floors. piles of rubbish in
the footpath in front. it's crazy! people here don't seem to notice.
the papers talk about things with rose coloured glasses and talk about
the busy roads or businesses. or use half the paper copy for the
matramonial ads (sunday special edition) - it's like they're selling
cattle instead of looking for husbands/wives for their kids. sections
for caste, location, even disability. 'caste no barrier' in some even
though officially there is no caste system here, though someone's
forgotten to tell half the people.

arrhhgghhh! I should stop now, have ranted long enough. I've become
jaded I think - it's just sad to see some things here and sometimes
it's easier to pretend you have blinkers after a while which is really
bad (but seems to be how most richer/middle class people here live) -
there are some nice places (like the lotus temple which has the most
amazing acoustics and looks like the sydney opera house with petals
folding inwards rather than outwards). the people are mostly nice -
nice to westerners at least. I feel like I've been very negative about
the place. it's just different and amazing to me that 1 billion people
live like this and think it's normal. it makes me remember just how
fortunate I was to be born in aus and to have the opportunites I've
had.

anyway, I might post this to the blog instead of bombarding your email
with war & peace. then wait for the negative comments from visitors
for being too negative and not focusing on the 'beautiful india' /
'incredible india they see in the photoshopped ads on tv ;)

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