Before boarding a plane in Seattle that would eventually bring me to Bengaluru I was told about everything I would see while here. I was told over and over how different India is from my home country and how culture shocked I would be. Some of the most said statements included “if you hit a cow you’ll go to jail,” “dogs everywhere,” “don’t eat street food no matter how appetizing it looks,” “everything is so colorful,” “you will not be able to handle how spicy the food is,” “people will stare at you,” and “it’ll be hot.” While there is some truth in all of these statements it is only a small fraction of the impression Bengaluru has left on me in just two weeks.
Pic: Kennedy Wirth
While the shock of it all is just now starting to ware off along with the lingering jet-lag, there are a few moments everyday that I am strongly reminded that I am living in India and most of the time it’s not what I eat or the cow I see crossing the street. It’s when I am lying in bed and hear a continuous stream of blaring horns. It’s when I’ve been drinking chai for days and eventually realize it’s not coffee. It’s when I am way too excited to ride in the open-aired autos because they are more exciting than any transportation at home. It’s when people genuinely want to know how I like India. And for a rain accustomed Seattleite, it’s the perfectly balmy weather. But nine times out of ten I am struck with the fact that I am foreigner when attempting to cross the street.
The first time I was forced to cross the street I stood on the curb bug-eyed, heart pounding out of my chest. I spent almost an half hour walking the other direction looking for a crosswalk or way to avoid crossing the street altogether. I must have watched at least seven people successfully cross to the other side before I mustered up the courage to closely follow the path of an unsuspecting teenager who weaved effortlessly through the sea of traffic. I am happy to say that after two weeks it only takes me a few minutes of standing on the curb to force myself to cross, holding my breath and jumping at each honk the whole way. I started to feel pretty proud of myself until yesterday I watched a stray dog navigate the road and get to the other side with more confidence and grace than I ever could.
The little victories make this trip continuously exciting. Just when I think I know what to expect from Bengaluru it throws a new surprise at me, like learning to eat rice with my hands or finding out that masala is not at all what I thought it was, that gives me new obstacles to tackle everyday. What I like most about Bengaluru is not what everyone told me I would like the most, but the feeling that I am out of my element in many ways yet I am somehow manage to adapt and learn something new everyday. Except for crossing the street, I may never fully adapt to that.