Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Trips in August

I just finalized my travel plans for August - and I must say that I am really looking forward to seeing a few new regions in Asia in the coming weeks. More pictures to come in the near future! Cheers - Andreas

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Sunday, July 27, 2008

Tough times

Two days ago Bangalore...

... and yesterday Ahmedabad. Locals told me that this was the first time Bangalore was under attack - usually religiously motivated attacks plague Mumbai or cities in the north of the country.

I was visiting a Bangalorian drug discovery company during the time of the bombs. My trip back home reminded me of a situation a few years back. I have just had an interview with an agrochemical company near London, at that time for a postdoctoral position. While having interviews and presentations all day the London bombings took place. When going to the train station by cab, which took several hours since the streets were jammed, a strange atmosphere lay upon the city. The drive back through Bangalore on Friday reminded me of that situation. Time stands still during those hours.

In particular after meeting so many welcoming locals during my time here I wish that this will not be a bad sign for the future. I absolutely love this country and want it to be as peaceful and prosperous as possible. (I am not expert enough regarding the internal political and religious structure of India so I will not voice any opinion other than this personal impression here.)

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Gobi Manchuri

After three weeks I am still actively exploring the Indian cuisine - and after going through nearly 10 Paneer variations (all beaten by the good old Paneer Hyderabadi by the way) I decided to branch out into new areas - meaning, the potato and cauliflower variations. And what a terrific idea it was! Below my new lunch favorite - Gobi Manchuri; cauliflower, fried, covered with a red chili/garlic paste. Now if that doesn't sound delicious! Very likely that this is not the traditional way to eat it, but I prefer it with a Roti and a good amount of pickle by the side instead of the red (Ketchup-like) and green sauce it is served with. On Sundays the restaurant is closed, but I already know what I will have for lunch tomorrow on Monday. Let's see what the chef is able to amaze me with next...

Friday, July 18, 2008


I wanted to keep this story separate from my trip to 'real' (downtown) Bangalore although it happened right in the middle of it. After crossing through Cubbon Park I was walking to MG Road, which I visited the past two times I was in Bangalore as well. I had a brief conversation with a then-unknown person and I think only fully realized what he was telling me when I got home again.

About 1,50m tall, very dark skin, grey hair, skinny, and clad in what must be farmer's clothes from the average village in the countryside; no shoes but a walking stick; he walked towards me while I was looking for the way to MG Road (I just figured out that it was about 20 minutes walk, just around the corner, after asking some locals for the way.)

Planning a trip works differently in different countries, so not everyone is so afraid of getting lost as I am (I am printing the bus schedule, a local map or two, but still get lost regularly). This person obviously wouldn't be afraid to get lost on a trip to any location on this planet. He was standing there on the street, told me that he was coming from Tamil Nadu (the neighbouring state of Bangalore's Karnataka towards the Southeast) and showed me a sheet of paper with an address in Pune (about 700km north of Bangalore). He told me that he was a farmer, 'a typical farmer' as he emphasized, but I guess he wasn't so typical as he spoke surprisingly good English (which, he said, he learned from his daughter when she went to school - I think in India more parents learn English from their children than the other way round, as in most other parts of the world).

He waived the sheet of paper with the address on it and, as he explained, he was on the way to Pune to look for work; a relative wrote down the address of a person he should see. He moved his right hand down to a level about 10 inches above the ground to illustrate the lack of ground water for irrigating his crops, he said those problems became serious over the last years while trying to keep his farming business going. And so he went and gave it a try.

Some people in Europe complain if they have to walk 20 minutes from the bus station to get somewhere. It obviously sometimes works different here: The 20 hours before our random encounter my farmer spent on the street, walking from Mysore to Bangalore (which is around 100km). He obviously didn't really know the medium of transport he would use to get to Pune, but that didn't prevent him from leaving home in the first place. I pointed him to the bus station (right Kempe Gowda, one of the handful of places I whose location I knew in Bangalore by then), gave him some money since he said he was hungry and thirsty after his walk (which seemed quite obvious to me) and wished him a good trip.

I didn't think too much about this situation until I came home later in the evening, exhausted from the noise and the dust of the city. I was quite amazed what some people complain about in life - for others walking for 20 hours, traveling without a penny on the pocket, but still being confident that 'things will work out' is a normal thing to do if looking for a job in a different place. Of course, it's not by choice and most people - including me - would prefer a bus to walking. But it's a preference - not the feeling of being entitled to it. I guess this makes a difference.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Bangalore and Traveling in India

Last Sunday - yesterday - I decided that after two weeks in Bangalore it would be time to leave my much loved technology park, at least for a couple of hours, to venture into downtown Bangalore. Yes, of course, I have been there before, but all I knew was basically the area around MG Road - and that was it. I decided to give it a start with some of the best-known sights in Bangalore, namely the Vidhana Soudha and its neighbouring building, the Vikasa Soudha which house the state parliament. I took the bus to Kempe Gowda bus station (for those of you ignorant of the history of Bangalore: Kempe Gowda is widely claimed to be the guy who 'officially' founded the city) and had a good walk to finally reach my destination. (In India it always looks so easy on the map, 'ok, the big road to the left and after half a mile at the next corner to the right and I am there', but in practice it is quite a task to navigate between new buildings and temporary road layouts, to cross six lanes without a traffic light in sight. All this combined with my marginal sense of orientation, I am now planning my travel at the speed of 1 kilometer per hour if I am trying to get somewhere. Seriously. But since I enjoy the process of traveling itself this is actually something I am quite happy with.)

But now let's see where I actually went:

The Vikasa Soudha - as I understand a kind of auxiliary building in support of the legislative body, the Vidhana Soudha. Located close to MG road and generally the center of Bengaluru.

The Vidhana Soudha (i.e., the actual parliament building) - from far away ...

... and from a bit closer. My definite favorite is the 'Government work is God's work' inscription at the top - you gotta trust your government, so please read this again and again until you believe it.

Selling sweetcorn in front of Cubbon Park, right next to the government building. Quite a nice park indeed - and popular with the people of Bangalore, too.

Having a smoke while selling ice-cream. (Or to be precise: Currently not selling ice-cream, therefore having a smoke.)

Having no smoke while selling no ice-cream.

Crossing the street.

Religion and business.

An art gallery, next to Cubbon Park. It is difficult to see from the picture, but in real life the colors in this situation were just incredibly powerful.

Not running out of fruit anytime soon...

If your head hangs low sometime - you can get cured.

After walking through Cubbon Park I attempted to get back to the place I knew in Bangalore: MG Road (yes, again at my conventional speed of about 1 kilometer per hour, after taking the wrong turn a couple of times, crossing some military planes as statues on the street etc.) And finally I was there and back at MG Road again (here at the western end of it)! It was, surprisingly, emotionally touching to be back again. I think not in particular because I connect any memories with this place, but I have the feeling that I understand India now better than I did before - say, it used to be 1%, and now it is 2%. But still. It gets boring if there is nothing left to discover.

On my way back to Kempe Gowda bus station I passed the Bangalore Horse Racing Club - I should come back next time to watch a race and do some betting. It was amazing to see people who didn't get admitted to the race sitting everywhere on the street, following the outcome of every race on the radio or on TV screens.

Evening is coming, time to pack your things and go home.

Which one is my bus? Thank God it's Sunday, that's why it was so empty at the bus stand.

Back at the ITPB. It really felt like coming home this day and it was good to venture into downtown Bangalore.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

What's recommended after having a nice meal?

Indeed, while writing in detail about the food I am having here I nearly forgot what I usually do after having lunch or dinner. Is it a cigarette? Is it a walk to stimulate blood flow into the brain? Well, not quite ... it's a good, freshly-squeezed juice of which dozens of varieties exist here. (Basically, imagine any combination of fruits and you will get a nice juice out of that within a minute).

Below is only one of the 'juice bars' at the technology park - I like the picture, seeing all those fruits you can really imagine a nice juice in front of you...

Monday, July 07, 2008

One day in Bangalore in pictures ...

... from the most important point of view, that is: food-wise! So after experimenting with the different varieties a bit here comes my now-typical breakfast and dinner dish:

a) Breakfast Winner: Onion Dosa

It might sound unusual to someone from Europe, but a healthy portion of onion never hurts - and this is also true for breakfast. Made from rice and skinned lentils, served with coconut and some kind of spicy chutney. Of course, for breakfast only the spicy one will do!

The genesis of precisely the dosa shown above:

The batter above, the onions below. Batter on the hot plate, and a handful of onions on top. Fry for about a minute. Turn, fry for 2 minutes from the onion side.

Checking the state of the dosa (still frying the bottom part).

The guys from the kitchen having fun with the chef. As you can see in the background, now two round entities are getting ready to feed someone hungry for breakfast. The expert knows: The right one will be an onion dosa, the left one a plain dosa that will stand upright, looking like a cone, a bit more crispy than the (my!) onion dosa on the right.

b) Dinner Winner: Paneer Hyderabadi

Certainly my winner when it comes to dinner! Served with (who could have guessed!) onions - but they, so to speak, have a different 'purpose' than at breakfast. While prepared as Onion Dosa they are quite mild (since fried), the dinner onions are a bit more spicy. Though with the juice of the lemon-like fruit they are served with (which one is that actually) they become quite 'juciy' and sweet - so overall the onions are quite useful to 'refresh your mouth' during after dinner. Quite a lucky coincidence that I really like onions.

Here we are - refreshing my mouth with a good slice of onion while having the good Panner Hyderabadi. Let's see what the kitchen will surprise me with next time - I will keep you posted! Take care - Andreas

Saturday, July 05, 2008

First Impressions of Returning to Bangalore

OK, so it’s been India for a while now – a week in Bangalore, and overall it has been much more easy-going and productive than I expected. My local friends at IBAB organized things very well, from the hotel where I stayed first to the local accommodation within the International Technology Park Bangalore (ITPB) everything was working smoothly. I have to admit: I was working quite hard the last week, both preparing lectures for the local courses as well as finishing publications that have been on my desk for ages, but whether you actively seek it or not: a trip to India is always a very colorful experience which has in fact just started for me.

When I arrived in Bangalore I was staying in a local hotel first – and it was a hotel not really frequented by tourists (I didn’t see a single western person during the two nights I stayed there). But since I also called this hotel my home for a few days on my last trip in 2007 it was a kind of ‘coming back’ experience which was interesting: I am going to a place far away from home, a place I would never ever have visited by myself (since I would never have heard of that hotel without arrangements made by locals), but I was partly feeling again at home there. I explored whether the places I have known from last year where still around during my first day. And the place changed a bit – construction work in the street was finished, so the street was certainly more quiet than last time. (But still twice as chaotic as the most chaotic street in the whole of the Netherlands.) A few impressions from the area:

A soon-to-be bride picking a good yarn for her dress. (That's at least my interpretation as a naive tourist. But given it was a bridal/wedding store this lends at least some credibility to my interpretation.)

The local cinema, opposite my hotel. I wanted to watch a good Bollywood movie my first night in Bangalore – but we ‘unfortunately’ went for dinner that night (It was delicious dinner, but somehow I really got into the idea of watching a movie that day.) The whole street was packed shortly before the movie started – something big just came out (though I don’t remember the name of the movie). I will certainly come back later for a movie th

My local liquor store, still alive and kicking! As usual, perfectly able to provide me with a bottle of ice cold Kingfisher.

School kids on the street. Somehow I really like pictures which show trivialities of everyday life – no clue why. To me it means something, maybe just because I was there at the same the picture was taken.

Time for new ads. Vodafone was yesterday, today it's time for Orange.

Corner shop with chicken.

School kid.

Welcome dinner with Prof Yathindra at the Grand Ashok in Bangalore. Delicious buffet!

At work.

Local cocktail bar within the Tech Park. (There are about 10 restaurants, a few shops etc., and this cocktail bar in the technology park so if I don't want to leave the park I don't have to.) Went there once on my first day but not again – somehow I prefer the local food to this 'westernized' place.

My apartment from the outside. I am living on the left hand side (‘behind the tree’), 4th floor. About 50 meters walk from work (which is probably the closest commute of all people in Bangalore.)

Entrance hall of my apartment. Yes, a photo taken against the sun – my apologies, but I have other things to do than to take a second photo of the entrance hall of my apartment (such as writing this blog). A very bright place, with a well-equipped kitchen. I like it.

View from the balcony. Forest straight ahead, biotech park to the left.

View from my balcony, on the biotech park. I know, it’s easy to impress me with ‘bigger-better-faster’ - but pictures like this looks like pure power to me. I like being where things happen – in the middle of it all.

The place to have a good night's rest.

A local self-help column from the newspaper. Makes quite a lot of sense to me - I recommend a read.

Entrance to the Institute of Bioinformatics and Applied Biotechnology, IBAB; my workplace. Very motivated students, I like that. I am entering this door about 25 times per day, leaving for things like a freshly squeezed mango juice or a delicious lunch or dinner.

The local gym I still need to join…

A local food store…

Supermarket in the Tech Park Mall

Coffee with love...

Someone grinning in front of the Tech Park.

A little more local food - though not the restaurant where I usually eat.

Last Friday a colleague from IBAB, Gayatri, invited me to join her for her talk at the Indian Institute of Management (IIM) in Bangalore, one of the best management schools in the country. Well, not only that – they also have a terrific campus that looks more like a botanical garden to me! The atmosphere was really difficult to capture, so here are some attempts only…

The IIMB Garden.

Everyone needs a good sleep once in a while.

A goodbye-picture after the talk, with our host at IIMB and Gayatri who was just giving her talk.

So much for now ... more exciting stories to come later when the traveling season starts for me! Pune, Chandigarh, Mysore, ... are still on the program - check back for updates! Take care - Andreas