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Monday, April 6, 2009

Bangalore, a first suspicious impression (the english version)

Beirut, Cairo, Bangalore and many other “southern cities”, we think that they are so different. We start digging for specificities to brag about, and we point out our singularity. But in reality they give you a similar feeling, contradictory emotions and suspicious first impressions. That is what I thought when I arrived to the Bangalore airport and took the crazy bus to the city. From the window I saw the people, the cars and the sometimes dusty roads. It felt like like Cairo, or maybe it was Bangalore.

The characteristics of daily life are redundant in these cities. The same suffocating traffic jams, crazy drivers but their skin is different, crowded streets and roads, blinding dust that nests in your lungs, and other things you see in expanding cities that devour people, and make you fall in love with this chaos and mess You say to yourself: yes, there are people living here, and a lot! However, you begin to wonder is this chaos a sign of creativity and freedom, or is it mere self-destruction, desperateness and resignation from every will to change the oppressing reality? One thing is for sure, those cities will inhabit your spirit, for better or for worse…

On the road to the university, I thought that I was facing the reckless taxi drivers of Beirut, passing through its traffic jam under every bridge. Here also small shops grow everywhere like mushrooms, beggars sell inutile items on the road, buses race with cars, every existing cab horns for you to get in. I saw a bridge wrapped with publicities and filled with cabs, I almost stepped off the bus to take another one to go to Tripoli, but I remembered that I wasn’t under the Dora Bridge in Beirut! I couldn’t really get where I was until I have succeeded to merge in my mind the picture of a Palestinian camp with some areas of the southern suburbs of Beirut and the suburbs of Tripoli…it is Bangalore…

When I was in the plane, one thing came to my mind: finally I will get to the country that the Europeans have been fantacisizing about, just like for the Arab east, making it a mystical land, they used to say: that is the magical East! Yes, I found the east, an east made of cement cities, the randomness unorganized urban planning, the east of poverty and beggars, the east of social contradictions where in the middle of a street crowded with simple and humble people, a big fancy and ugly residential building, guarded by security men, rises up and besides it lies a commercial center alienated from its surrounding. This is the east, where there are electricity cuts, where corruption becomes a part of daily life… tourists come with the luxury of finding themselves and their souls, but they find a people alienated from himself, their souls are tormented with poverty and social injustice!

Those are suspicious first impressions. The scene is full with women wearing the lightest and most colorful of cloths, their bellies show but it is indecent to show the shoulder or the leg. As a stranger you see that people are dressed alike so you can’t differentiate them socially, always with smile and humbleness. The spice is in every meal, even breakfast, as if it was their way of saying to the murderous hot weather that they don’t care. You drink a coffee immersed with milk in order to temper the fire of your body temperature, or it is just the way that the English prepare their coffee, it is not important! You sit, observe people laughing, talking and getting emotional, then you say to yourself: they are not that different, they only shake their heads from right to left to acquiesce, and their smiles are wider, and they drive on the left side of the road…But it is just a first suspicious impression… 

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