I’m currently on a six month Idex Fellowship in Bangalore, India . I will be writing this blog as I go along and then periodically post my progress. This is my first trip to India, and my only other experience abroad was when I visited Mozambique back in 2013 for a day.
Idex is partnered with several Indian social enterprises to provide placements for fellows.
For the next six months, I’m working with Oorvani Foundation,a not for profit community media organization based in Bengaluru. It has different initiatives such as Citizen Matters (an online community news platform), Open City and Community Media Lab. I will be participating in several important work related activities.
Indian Visa Process
To back up a bit, travelling to India is a bit simpler than other places due to a smooth Visa application process. To do this I needed letters from Idex (my India host) and from the Space (my local company) giving my reasons for travel and that I’m still being paid by a Zimbabwean company. Then you need to fill out an extremely long on-line visa application that includes detailed questions on yourself, your spouse and your parents. Gathering all the data for this form took several days, and then you save this form, it is quite easy retrieving the form, but you need to check it closely. You also need one passport photo and a valid passport with 1 year left (since I wanted a 1 year multi-entry visa).
With all this you make an appointment with the embassy that processes the visas. The earliest I could book was just a day later. Then you show up for your appointment and the embassy staff double check all your papers and pay a visa application fee of ($125). They take all this as well as your passport and promise to process it in 3 business days. Basically at this point the Indian consulate will be processing paperwork. Fortunately this all went fine and 3 days later they called and said my passport was ready for pickup. Generally, this is by far the easiest visa process.
Malaria pills may or may not be required depending on where you are going.
It’s a Long Way
I travelled to Bangalore via Lusaka, Nairobi and Mumbai. It’s a 10 hour flight to Mumbai and then a 1 hour 45 minutes flight on to Bangalore. Generally the best way to endure a long flight is to sleep through it. The Harare flight left at 4:30pm, so I wasn’t sleepy until near end. By the time I was on the Bangalore flight I was so tired I slept through most of the flight. When you arrive you don’t really care what time it is, you just want to get to the hotel and sleep.
Managing in Bangalore
Some Indian cities can be quite hard to navigate (according to my desk research). But Bangalore is fairly easy. You do need to know how to cross the streets (i.e. make eye contact and walk slowly across the traffic, which will flow around you). If you are worried about having to eat lots of extremely hot Indian food, then don’t worry there are many good restaurants from other cultures like Italian or Mexican. Plus generally I don’t find the Indian food that hot here.
I find the level of English quite good and haven’t had any problems communicating. Getting directions and finding my way around isn’t that hard and the area around my flat (in the eastern part of the city) seems quite safe. There are quite a few parks around and you can see quite a bit just walking around.
The office is 10km away and parts of the journey can be quite congested. I use the bus mostly. They are expanding and building a new elevated metro system which is causing quite a bit of road disruption along the way, but they seem to keep traffic flowing.
The main office building is located in Jayanagar and the other along Palace Road. The office environment I’m at is quite nice. The building is small and modern and the work environment is quite pleasant. It uses an open office concept and provides a nice productive team environment.
Since this is India the parking is quite different than what you would expect in Zimbabwe(my home country). To maneuver quickly through traffic, two wheels is the way to go. If everyone using motorbikes was to switch to cars it would be total gridlock here.
This ends part one of my stay in India. I’m now here and settled in. Getting here is half the battle, now it’s time to get some productive work done.