My parents had some social obligations today, so I hired booked a driver for four hours and we set out to see “something.” My first attempt was the Botanical Gardens that actually aren’t far away from the house. But everything was closed due to the holiday today. We did get stuck behind a herd of cows though trying to find the place, and that was pretty funny.
Yesterday/today is the celebration of the changing of the season from winter to spring in the Hindu Calendar. The holiday is called Makara Sankranthi (also known as Pngal, Lohri, and Sukarat). People shop for ‘ellu-bella’ which includes deep friend peanuts, sugar candies, and sugarcane. Yesterday you could see people bringing home large stalks of sugar cane on their motor cycles and scooters as a part of the celebration. Another part of the celebration is the exchange of “sesame seeds, ground nuts, and jiggery,” says the local paper.
Tonight my parents are going to a Bengali pooja for Makara Sankranthi (Bengali people are from the Calcutta region). I’m staying home with the kids since it is set to begin at 8, and if it is anything like a U.S. Bengali celebration, then it really won’t begin until later. It’s a shame though since there will be live music, special holiday sweets, and overall an interesting cultural experience. But since we need to leave the house at 7:30 for school each day, a Sunday evening party in town is not in the cards!
With the botanical gardens closed, I suggested we head to a park in town—parks are always open I figured but I wasn’t sure what else was. We were trying to go to a new park but ended up again at Cubbon Park where we had our Science Center adventure last week. This time I had enough small bills to enter the amusement park area. It cost me 10 rupees to enter (about 20 cents) and the kids were free. In the first area there were small kiddy rides that the kids were NOT going to ride. But we did find one ride that met with the approval, which they rode for 5 rupees a piece (about 10 cents). Although when they got off they claimed that it was “lame.” The ride was decorated with what looked like Mickey mouse knock offs.
The rest of the park within the amusement park grounds was a series of playgrounds. They were packed with people. The playground fun included lots of metal rides that I remember from my childhood like see saws and spinning things and metal slides. No plastic or wood chips here!
It struck me that we would be doing the same thing in the United States on a beautiful day like today. The main difference was that we didn’t look much like the other folks at the park. And to top it off, I was wearing a shirt with buttons down the front, and the buttons get gaping and sometimes coming loose. It was always one of the women in the burkas glaring at me that made me realize a button had opened up!
The park sold all kind of treats including ice cream, cotton candy, corn on the cob from various carts, but I’ve been warned by my parents to be cautious of street vendor food. There was even an open air cafeteria in the park as well but we still needed to be cautious. We got thirsty after a while because it was HOT outside and I had left the water bottle at home. We could have bought bottled drinks that were unopened but at this point we were just ready to go. So we headed back to the house. But I told the driver we would stop for ice cream if we saw a place to do so.
Luckily on our way out of town I spotted a Baskin Robbins. What a fun treat! I had Mississippi Mud ice cream (funny to have that way over here), Kaden had Cotton Candy and Carson had Cookies and Cream. Most of the flavors were common in the U.S. but there were some more mango flavors, an orange flavor with chocolate ribbon called “Tiger Tail” and more butter scotch flavors than you usually see in the U.S.
Our final stop on the way back was a toy store called the Beanstalk. They didn’t have much selection but Carson managed to find a 4600 rupee lego kit that he pouted about. Maybe he can earn it in the upcoming weeks. Kaden also had fun playing a Playstation game called Gods of War. She liked the Greek god aspect of it, she said.
A note about sidewalks in Bangalore. Or rather, a note about the absence of sidewalks. It’s strange to me. Here we are in front of the toy store, which was next to a Reebok store and a designer jewelry store. So a high end set of shops, but this is what the sidewalk looked like out front. Similarly, in the amusement area in the park—a place where you expect people to be strolling about, there were sidewalks, but they were littered with extra bricks, broken things, random litter. Sidewalks are just not a priority here when there are so many other infrastructural needs. For instance, the local paper today says that the state of Karnataka alone needs to build another 1200 secondary schools to meet the demand if educating all children in the state. That is mind boggling, really.
After our adventures, we headed home. The kids went out to the courtyard from some soccer with Aryaman and company.
Here are some city scenes as we traveled to the park:
Karnataka state parliament buildings