Of Bajajs and Auto Rickshaws

At the end of June I visited Bangalore, India for a friend’s wedding. It was my first time in India and I’ve heard so much about the country, thus it was an opportunity for me to “taste India”, although I was only going to be in Bangalore and travel around the outskirts of the city. During my week-long stay here, I have come to the conclusion that I should come back here again another day because somehow, India reminded me so much about Indonesia.

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At the end of June I visited Bangalore, India for a friend’s wedding. It was my first time in India and I’ve heard so much about the country, thus it was an opportunity for me to “taste” India because I was only going to be in Bangalore and travel around the outskirts of the city. During my week-long stay here, I have come to the conclusion that I should come back to India again another day because somehow, it reminded me so much about Indonesia.

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Picture Credit: http://bacaanmu.blogspot.com/2011/04/fakta-tentang-kendaraan-bajai.html

My journey to Bangalore was through Chennai, so I applied my visa on arrival there. There are only two other airports who provided this service, which is Mumbai and Delhi. Indonesian citizens are eligible for visa on arrival to India that was implemented earlier this year.

I paid Rs. 3000 (not the US$ 60 that they advertised), filled out a form and submitted a passport photo. After waiting for a while, my stamped visa which took two pages of my passport was done, and there I was, a legal tourist in India.

I wasn’t impressed with Chennai airport, because I thought Soekarno-Hatta airport was better (and us Indonesians know what Soekarno-Hatta is like). However, I was very impressed with the modern architecture of the Bengaluru International airport.

I somehow felt that Bangalore got the title the ‘Silicon Valley of India’ for some reason and their airport was the gate of entry to show that off. Coming into Bangalore city, however, this title wasn’t reflected that much, at least on a first glance.

I thought that the city would be filled with skyscrapers, glass buildings and everything modernized, but actually the feel of Bangalore is quite similar to Bandung, Indonesia. The buildings were low to mid-rise, there were a lot of green spaces, the weather was cool and pleasant, and there were plenty of pedestrian paths. I guess it was the urban planning heritage of the once British cantonment.

When I looked closely at the buildings, they were mostly software parks, IT companies, consulting and management firms and the likes. The Bangalore residents whom I interact with, consequently, are either engineers, consultants, also managers of the supporting systems of world renowned financial firms, along with the regular sirs and madams of Bangalore.

The traffic is horrible, just like or perhaps a little less worse than Jakarta. Their auto rickshaws (like the orange bajajs in Jakarta) are literally everywhere. Their cars are small, mostly with the size of a Suzuki Karimun or Hyundai Atoz, because the roads in Bangalore are small too. I am impressed however, with the quality of their buses and their development of the Metro (equivalent to the MRT).

Yes, Jakarta has its own MRT plans but believe me, Bangalore is far ahead from us.

The streets are chaotic, yet streaming with life. The food and its spices tantalized my taste buds, although most were vegetarian. There were no Beefburger nor Big Macs in McDonalds but a McSpicy Paneer or the Chicken Maharaja Mac instead, because Hindus, the majority of the people there, don’t eat beef.

Since I was there for my friend’s wedding, I only managed to travel around Bangalore city, then to Mysore, Belur, Halebeedu and Shravanabelagola. I learned about the Hoysala dynasties, the legacies of Tippu Sultan and the Mysore Kingdom. Perhaps I will share these stories on a later time in my travel blog.

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Apart from the sightseeing and the trivias that I learned during my travel in India, one major take away lesson that I learned from my visit, is to learn about the tremendous amount of diversity this country posses. By also being the largest democracy in the world, I don’t know how it survived.

It’s imperfect, but nevertheless it’s amazing to learn about their culture, history and how the nation came together. I bought a second-hand book on the streets by Ramachandra Gupta titled “India After Gandhi: The History of the World’s Largest Democracy” and have yet to read it.

Looking back at Indonesia, we’re also very diverse, and we’ve also been very brave to embrace democracy, albeit after a long authoritarian regime.

I will learn more about India, but I think this should be a note to myself (or any other readers who are thinking along the same lines) that we should not be hasty to import any kind of democratic concepts that India (or any other country) adheres to, in whatever ways that may be. It’s one thing to learn about the practices of democracy in other countries, but it’s a totally different ball game to implement it in your own turf.

We may have once imported the auto rickshaw from India and call it a bajaj. Lessons about democracy? Well, whatever works for the country, what kind of governance model we’re looking into, I hope it’s for the best.

1 thought on “Of Bajajs and Auto Rickshaws”

  1. Thanks for the post. One of my batch-mates said “India after Gandhi” is the definitive history of modern India, so enjoy 🙂

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