“Sir, it should not take more than an hour…but you know sir it depends on traffic and could easily take more than 2 hours, sir” said Aswini to his Indian looking passenger who seemed to have just arrived in Bangalore from some foreign country and wanted to know how long it would take to reach his hotel in Whitefield.
The airport experience could easily give the wrong impression about Bangalore. The international airport at Devanahalli is one of the most efficient airports in the world, handling more than 3 million passengers every year. However navigating the 28 miles from the airport to the hotel, in the midst of the city traffic is a completely different cup of tea. With a population of more than 5 million people, Bangalore is the fastest growing city in Asia, and the infrastructure is struggling to keep pace.
It was six in the morning and the roads were empty. Aswini had to wake up at four in the morning to go to the garage, prepare the limousine and arrive in time at the airport to pick up his guest. He had held a heavy sign for a good amount of time until the guest showed up. He could never understand why someone would pay three to four times the regular taxi rate just to be picked up by the hotel car. Anyhow he didn’t care as long as the hotel paid him a good salary. Sometimes the passengers gave him good tips, so that was the “extra” on this job. Although he was not sure about this guest, he seemed to be a strange fellow; he wouldn’t even let him haul his luggage to the car. What did he think – he would run away with his luggage or what?
The guest complained about his long and uncomfortable flight, how he could not sleep at all due to a crying infant in the seat in front. Aswani had always dreamt of flying. All the advertisements showed beautiful air hostesses serving 5-star food and drinks. How anyone could complain about such luxury was beyond his comprehension. The passenger also complained about a mosquito swirling around inside the car. Aswini badly wanted to listen to the radio; he was missing his Kannada radio music. He also wanted to catch up on cricket news. But alas he had to continue this never-ending polite conversation with his passenger who was rambling about how the drive from the airport reminded him of Singapore.
The passenger asked Aswini if he was married or not, whether he had kids or not, girl or boy, what grades they were in, etc. Was this some kind of a television news channel interview? Aswini never dared to ask his passenger all this, so what made the passenger think he could ask him so many questions. Should he just say “that is none of your business- sir!”. Well - Aswini knew better, he didn’t want to come across as impolite and risk his job. There were too many contenders for this "cushy" job.
The passenger was staring at the giant hoardings along the highway. He seemed to be very impressed by the Bollywood movie posters, “Is Deepika Padukone really from Bangalore” asked the passenger. Yes sir, Deepika Padukone, Anushka Sharma, Priyamani, Prema – all from Bangalore, sir. All superhit!
They were now approaching the busier parts of the city. There were many hoardings displaying varieties of cuisine and the many shopping destinations available in the city.
“Aha - so we can even get Bengali food now in Bangalore?” exclaimed the passenger. Yes sir, there are many Bengalis in Bangalore now. Thanks to the IT industry! There is a good Bengali restaurant called "Bhojohori Manna" and there is “Sorse” in Whitefield, you may want to try that. This piece of information made the passenger almost ecstatic. Aswini had no idea that “sorse” is a spicy and pungent mustard paste used to cook fish in a traditional Bengali way.
The passenger was now brimming with energy.
Bangalore does that to visitors. More than 3000 feet above sea level, Bangalore has possibly the best climate among all the cities in India. Known as the Silicon Valley of India, Bangalore is home to the headquarters of large companies in the Information Technology arena, employing thousands of skilled people. As per legend - Bangalore got its name from “Bendha Kaalu” meaning boiled beans in the Kannada language. King Ballala of the Vijayanagara kingdom was lost in the forest when he found a cottage where an old woman offered him boiled beans, and the place came to be known as “Bendha Kaalu ooru”. Ooru means city in the Kannada language.
Bangalore is an old city. It has a lot of old wrinkled history, underneath the young modern face. The present day city was designed by Kempe Gowda in the year 1537. Since then it has been one great boom after another.
Aswini brought the limo to a slow stop outside the hotel security gate, he couldn’t help but catch a glimpse of his strangely excited passenger mumbling to himself – “from boiled beans to sorse, you have come a long way baby!”.