I Wish I Had an Extra Set of Eyes
In the three days since arriving in Bangalore, I’ve found myself wishing I had an extra set of eyes. This city demands that you be looking in all directions at all times in order to ambulate through the seemingly never ending stream of rickshaws, motorcycles, and cars on the streets that are the source of constant noise. This city moves at a pace unparalleled to anything I have ever experienced, and to say that we hit the ground running could not be more of an understatement. Down time has been few and far between, and attempting to match the tempo of Bangalore has felt almost chaotic.
While each day and excursion has presented a new challenge, nothing has felt as difficult as our first attempt to explore the city on day one. We left UTC as a group of almost 20 naive newbies, and after a close encounter with a bus while trying to cross an intersection, we were again reminded that we would not be able to rely on our intuition to carry us safely through these new streets. The task of adapting to our new environment was further mounted when we visited the Iskon temple. I opted to carry my shoes in my bag rather than leaving them in the designated area, resulting in a security guard escorting me off the premises. As he hurriedly rushed me to an exit, he remarked, “This is not our culture.” I felt a lot of different things in this moment; embarrassment at having gotten in trouble, guilt for breaking the rules, and a feeling of discouragement at how difficult the task of making this new place feel like home might be.
The daunting feeling that I would never really settle here followed me into my second morning. I woke to an alarm I had set to go for a run with a feeling of apprehension and anxiety about the day’s activities. My mind raced with self doubt as I dressed to meet my friend in the lobby. Would we be able to find the park where we wanted to run? Would we be noticed and jeered at in our exercise clothes? I dreaded leaving the safety of the UTC campus, which felt like an island in a sea of disarray.
Despite the relentless train of thought telling me that I was not cut out to make it in Bangalore, I successfully executed a run that morning, and I even enjoyed it. The park was a pocket of peace, and the early morning air was crisp and fresh. While I still felt that I had to keep a 360 degree scope on my surroundings, being in the midst of banyan trees and enormous green leafy plants made this feel much less demanding.
Later that day, we had the opportunity to participate in a scavenger hunt with students from St. Joseph’s college. In teams of four we ran around the city, exploring the different modes of transportation and seeing several favorite spots of young people from Bangalore. Zipping through traffic in the back of a rickshaw made me feel giddy instead of anxious as we weaved through lanes of cars and trucks. Our final destination on the hunt was to Blossom’s bookstore, a famous Bangalore landmark and an institution that was unlike anything I had ever experienced. The tall, narrow, 4 story building was packed with books in every available surface. Piles of pages were stacked to the ceiling, lining the windows, and even spilled out the door and onto the street. Letters and words jumped off the book covers in all directions, and in attempting to take in the clutter, it felt almost cozy to be surrounded by so many books. I reflected on how this cozy chaos seemed to have entered my life right as I was beginning to feel welcome in this new city.
If I’d had an extra set of eyes in that moment, I would have been able to take in more of the sublime pandemonium of Blossom’s bookstore. The peace I found in this moment was enough to make me feel almost at home for the first time, and it is a moment that I continue to reflect on as new challenges further test my confidence that I can indeed survive here. An action-packed first three days has left me excited for the opportunity to rise to meet the chaotic, high speed pace of Bangalore, and I am confident in my ability to make the most of this experience.