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.

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