Walking is the most natural way to travel. Accessible to anyone with the ability to use their leg; one could argue that you only need one fully working leg to walk.

Summer walking in Bangalore

I am certainly used to discovering a city by walking, using public transport or cycling. Driving would always be my very last transport of choice, so I never thought I would ever have my own private driver. Surely my time here would have been quite different without one!

I’ve enjoyed walking whilst visiting smaller places like Mysore or Cochin and if there is a ‘walking class’, I don’t think I’m part of it. The upper and middle classes practice brisk-walking as a way to exercise. I sometimes see a couple of neighbours brisk-walking around my building in full running gear. Such activity is possible on the clean, private and even pavement surrounding the building where I live. My partner has given up on running as it would involve being driven to the nearest park. I even found an advertisement for a walking machine that you use whilst lying down, a testament to the ability of business to capitalise on an everyday activity, repackage it and sell it back to the rich.

The walking machine

The poorest walk or defiantly drive their bullock-drawn carriage on the motorway; in cities I see coconut merchants carrying kilos of coconuts on bicycles, entire families on motorbikes or in rickshaws – very middle class, I’ve read. Cars are always packed to more than their full capacity… except for those for the expats and the very rich who view all of this from the comfort of their A/C Innova.

Street seller in Mysore

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All the steel you need for your home

Stainless steel and other alloys for your home

A pressure cooker is the one essential item to have in all kitchens in India (besides a tawa and a coconut grater).

The neighbourhood’s kitchen and tableware store is old fashioned; you tell the assistant what you need and items are picked from shelves and brought to the customer . As a pressure cooker is not a rare item that people buy, when asking for one, you expect to be given a wide range of  options in shape, size, quality, functions and corresponding gadgets. As a westerner you come to expect to be shown the most fancy and expensive items.

In this case, we stared and pointed at different pots on the shelves – steel, anodised or aluminium. We even asked for “another brand” but this question got lost in translation.  Thinking that we had to choose from what we were presented with, we went for the steel one. As our guarantee was being stamped to seal our purchase,  we noticed two different pressure cookers from other brands on another, higher shelf. When asked, the sales assistant indeed confirm that those, too, were pressure cookers.

So it seems that we experienced an easy sale rather than an expensive sale. Were we too difficult to deal with because of language differences?

Our simple need for a pressure cooker is met, though, so there’s no point in expecting more. And it works just great…

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It looks mouth watering and sounds absolutely delicious but it’s not available today.

 

Whether it’s a cafe, large or small restaurant, there is always something missing.

As part of a well-known branding exercise, menus are printed on thick and coated card, carefully designed and marketed. Much effort has gone into the printed material but seasons, changes and supply issues were not considered, which rather defeats the point of all marketing and design efforts.

In Kolkatta, at Bhojohari Manna (this chain is named after a famous Bengali song rendered by the legendary Manna Dey, for a film made in the 70’s), the entire menu is displayed on the wall and what’s available on that day is highlighted. Disappointment is, therefore, avoided and you know to expect a different taste experience on each visit. Just don’t try to plan what you’ll have!

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Where to go for small eats and a seat…

Café chains are a strong sign of westernisation and the indicator of a modern world. I must say I don’t have anything against fast food chains, coffee chains or chain stores. My favourites include Eat, Wagamama and right now I am dreaming of lunch at Bristol’s Pieminister.

Within walking distance from my Indian home there’s a small joint selling traditional South Indian fare called Cambridge Continental. It’s the local version of a greasy spoon minus the plastic seats and with an Indian menu. Patrons eat from metal plates lined with a banana leaf whilst standing up. And they serve idlys, by far my favourite all-day-Indian-breakfast item. The local juice corner serves delicious fruit juices. So what am I doing at Coffee Day which is further, and has served me a micro-waved massala roll with a green apple lemonade?? …It’s because they have seats, tables and a roomy terrace and this is what I am after. But, as I sit relaxing in relative luxury, I feel my resentment for Coffee Day developing, swiftly matching my negative feelings towards Starbucks.

As far as local chains go, I prefer the Java City’s branch on Lavelle Road. They have a better choice of food and their interior and outdoors area are more comfortable; better for laptop use. Barista serve a good mint tikka sandwich and a decent tea and they open early. In Delhi I had a delicious lunch at Café Turtle. I don’t know if all the branches are as nice as the one above the Full Circle, a brilliant little bookstore. It’s a haven in the midst of Delhi’s chaos.

But back in Bangalore, Coffee Day branches dominate, fine for coffee, loud music, so not places to hang around.  Maybe I’m asking too much, but I’m still looking for a place that serves tasty small eats, fresh juice or chai and offers enough comfort for me to spend a bit of time in the company of my laptop.

I hope to be able to update you on how to find the good small eats and a seat in a city where you can’t really walk for miles!

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