“Daily life is soundtracked by a cacophony of car horns. After a few minutes in a taxi, you see why”, Tommy Perman’s guest blog describes what Found discovered on a whirlwind tour of India.
We arrived at Bangalore at 5 am on Friday and flew out of Mumbai airport at 1.45 pm on Monday. It’s without doubt the furthest I’ve ever been for a long weekend. We were there with King Creosote and various members of the Fence Collective (The Pictish Trail, Gummi Bako, H.M.S. Ginafore and Captain Geeko) to play two gigs, one in a small jazz club in Bangalore and the other at India’s biggest music festival, the NH7 Weekender in Pune.
To be honest the gigs left a lot to be desired; the highlight of the trip was getting the chance to have a short glimpse of Indian life (albeit mostly from the passenger seat of an air conditioned taxi). It was such a short, hectic time but my enduring memories are of a bright, vibrant country undergoing a lot of change: there’s building going on everywhere you look.
Bangalore recently opened the first stage of its Metro and on Saturday afternoon we took a ride – clean, cool and fast – all the way to Mahatma Gandi Road at the end of the line. The Metro, built high above streets on concrete stilts, gives an incredible view of the sprawling city. From the train you can see many different kinds of buildings, old, new, rich and poor. Everywhere we went we were reminded of the great disparity between rich and poor. In a densely populated country, there are people living everywhere, We saw people living in huts built from corrugated metal and plastic, people living right on busy highways, and people living pretty much in rubbish dumps. And just a few hundred meters away, a brand new office block, shopping mall or international hotel. It was a very weird experience.
The view from Tommy’s balcony in the Splendid World Hotel
Being obvious Westerners we were clear targets for hawkers and beggars (many of them cute children). It’s very difficult to know how to deal with them. I felt pretty cold just ignoring them but realistically couldn’t give money to them all.
I also saw my fair share of animals roaming the streets. There were packs of wild dogs, I’ve no idea what they fed on but a lot of them actually looked pretty healthy. I also saw goats and cows foraging among roadside rubbish.
Daily life in India is soundtracked by a cacophony of car horns. After a few minutes in a taxi you see why: sounding your horn is a crucial part of road safety; letting other road users know you’re coming up behind them, about to over take / undertake / drive wildly into oncoming traffic. Despite reading that India has the worst traffic fatality record in the world, I didn’t see a single accident although I witnessed many near misses. The roads are chaos. Andy (Captain Geeko) described it as organised chaos although I struggled to make sense of the organisation. It appears to be lawless with vehicles coming at you from every direction swerving to avoid dogs nonchalantly resting on the edge of the highway. I was very impressed by how drivers seemed so calm in the midst of total mayhem.
Although we were there for such a brief time and it was so intense and at times surreal, I thoroughly enjoyed the trip and have a yearning to return to see more of this fascinating country.