India – Bangalore and Hyderabad

Posted on September 12, 2019

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Recently I went to Bangalore and Hyderabad for business. India is so foreign, it’s almost alien. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a good photography trip. I was working in walled compounds that were on the outskirts of cities and staying just a few blocks away. Most of the images were taken either on the short walk, or from the back of a moving car. Which in India is like doing a photo shoot at a whirly ball game. Even then, it being the rainy season, the light was terrible. Also, I’m pretty sure my camera was dying on this trip and, in fact, bought another when I got home.

Plus, there is one thing you notice right away about India, or at least the parts I saw: the dichotomy between the haves and have-nots. And if you look just a little deeper beyond that dichotomy, there seems to be this sense of endemic corruption or decay. Everywhere are multi-story buildings half done. You cannot tell if they are abandoned. The completed buildings are very organic, as if they grew in place and were not built, and there is this whole sense that nothing is quite square, or plumb.

I did not want to go out and shoot to say “look at the poverty,” but it is inescapable. However, what I did notice, was that even people who lived in what I would consider deplorable conditions were largely smiling. Something that could not be said if I were to walk around Seattle with a camera. So in the end, I took a few pictures, not to judge, but because all of my friends were genuinely interested in my experiences and because I truly believe that travel is the best tool to understanding and uniting people in these divisive times.

I saw too little, I took bad pictures. But, I hope it gives you some idea. Images are randomly captioned, which you can see by opening the galleries.

Food

One thing I posted a lot about was the food, which was fabulous. In the first hotel, once they learned that I wanted to eat all Indian food, they just kept bringing it. Even though everything is so different in India, the food is pretty safe. Vegetarianism is so ubiquitous that they have “food” and “non-veggie” food. So, I was in veggie heaven and just tried whatever came my way. The photos below are from my second hotel, the Trident. I had posted the night before that I’d eaten at a 50 foot buffet and every dish was something I never had before. People wanted to see that, so I snapped these at breakfast. All the time I was doing it, being fully aware that 100 yards away an open sewer ran in front of the hotel, and there were people out there whose job it was to pick up leaves – not with a rake, but one at a time. This is India, it’s hard to make peace with it.

Surprisingly, despite the endless buffets, I still lost weight over there. Oh, and any coffee I had in India was better than anything I ever had while I worked at Starbucks. The beer situation is pretty terrible, but there is an up and coming wine culture. None of the wines I tried were terrible, they all had a smokiness to them.

The Trident

Here are picture of and from my room in that same hotel. Apparently, this is where Ivanka stayed.

One thing that was ubiquitous in India was the fantastic grout-free tile work. The walls in my showers in both hotels were made out of single slabs of marble.

In the country, miles of granite slab fences you would die to have in your kitchen.

The Market

I love how the shirts go together

Peter Moon suggested I go to the bazaar and look up a friend. I didn’t find the friend, but I did find the market. It is a very hard sell kind of l place. The permit I bought to take my “lens camera” in was one of the most expensive things I bought on the trip – more expensive than a cab to the airport. And typified Indian bureaucracy. I had to get the permit and then take it to a little man who very carefully pasted it into a book, then had me take a photo of it. Had I an iPhone, I could’ve walked right in. I had the same problem when I took my luggage to work and they realized I had a camera in it. The guy went bonkers. I’m like “but every single person here has a camera….”

Traffic

Traffic in India is very different than the US. When I was leaving Bangalore, I waited 2 hours for a cab, even though we could see on the app that he was within 1 km of us for 90 min. That day, people reported going 40m in an hour before turning around and going back home. While I was waiting the traffic on the road in front of me would organically switch from two lanes either way, to four lanes one way, to lanes interwoven going both ways. On the way in from the airport we met many motorcycles on the highway going the “wrong” way. I saw up to 4 people on one motorcycle. I saw women on scooters, but I never saw a woman driving a car. And yes, there are cows and dogs all over the place. They get far more leeway than people do. Apparently when my boss was in Hyderabad he insisted on crossing the street for the thrill of it. And the horns, they never stop. Even from my hotel when I could see the highway was empty at 3AM yet there was still a cacophony of toots, beeps, and honks. In America the honk seems genetically coupled with waving the middle finger, yet in India, I never once saw any anger while driving. It’s part of their fatalism. It does make you wonder why they bother, though. The beeps are so plentiful as to lose meaning.

Buildings

When you first see a 20 story building with wooden poles for scaffolding, you know you are not in Kansas any more. So much work seems abandoned in place, yet while people are encamped all around them, it doesn’t appear that they squat in them. And the wires ran everywhere. I couldn’t really get good images of them from the car, but there were whole forests just strung with wires from branch to branch. At one point I saw some men scaling a pole out in the country and my assumption was to grab some power. When it rains, they shut the grid down to prevent shorts. In fact, I just had a meeting rescheduled today because of this.

They make these huge armatures for billboards, like 5 or 8 stories, then cover them with cloth advertisements. Most of them, though, are empty or just covered in tatters.