India update: We leave Monday!

Gratitude.

That is what I expect to feel when I return from India, and that is what I feel right now.

I feel grateful my visa came through – this Tuesday, less than a week before we are set to leave – after a mountain of paperwork and bureaucracy.

I am grateful for friends who helped and encouraged my mom, daughter and me when we were skeptical that would happen.

I am grateful for people who remind me India isn’t a retreat to relax the body, but rather an experience to enrich the spirit.

I am grateful I have the kind of parents with whom I want to travel the world, and the kind of kid who wants to join us.

We leave Monday afternoon.

I plan to write and take pictures. In the meantime, we’re rushing to pack and prepare.

We are grateful for advice and kindness. (We have a growing list of questions on the next page.)

Thanks, y’all.

Questions Lily and I have about visiting India (in no particular order):

  1. I’m a runner. Will there be anywhere for me to run? Dad says the streets are a “no”.
  2. We know it’s respectful for women and girls to wear sleeves. Are shawls appropriate over sleeveless dresses?
  3. What about knee-length dresses?
  4. We’ve been told to pack light and buy clothing in India. Really?
  5. I’ve been told “Eat the street food!” and “Whatever you do, don’t eat the street food!” Which is it?
  6. I’ve been told pretty universally not to give money to beggars. Ok. What do I tell my daughter when she asks me why we’re not giving money to people living in shacks and asking for money?
  7. Speaking of money: Come equipped with all the rupees I’ll need, bring travelers cheques, or do they have an ATM on every corner?
  8. We have a layover in London. We have only 90 minutes to get off the plane, go through customs and board the next plane. How close are we cutting it?
  9. Should I leave my iPhone at home?
  10. I’d love to visit some Hindu temples. What’s the most appropriate way to do that?
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17 thoughts on “India update: We leave Monday!

  1. Greater Bangalore Hash House Harriers
    94, Infantry Road, Bangalore 560 001
    Phone : +91 80 4113 2547
    e-mail : info@greaterbangalorehash.com
    Contact : Gul Mohamed – +91 98860 26857
    Perry Menzies – +91 98450 13055
    S. P. Kadam – +91 98802 99081

    Web : http://www.greaterbangalorehash.com

    I have always run into savvy locals, interesting expats, great advice, incredible hospitality and unexpected wonders when I have dropped in unannounced. believe me, you will be welcome, they will help you run (and run with you) and you won’t be sorry.
    Mark

    Greater Bangalore Hash House Harriers

    Welcome to our website.

    We walk / run / party once a month. The gathering is an interesting mix of professionals from various corporate organizations, business folk and expats.

    Normally this will be in a scenic run site on the country side. We meet at 4 pm on a Sunday afternoon. This is followed by the typical ‘hash circle’ where the gang gets together for a few laughs; as is done in 1,904 HASH Clubs, across 1238 cities in 183 countries worldwide. The post run celebrations at times also include a party followed by dinner.

    Sunday mornings @ 6.30, the serious runners, wanna be runners and those who wish to drop weight, meet behind the Queen’s Statue – Cubbon Park, M. G. Road entrance, to meet their personal fitness goals. Whether it is running a 10 K, half marathon, full marathon or just to get a brisk walk in a pollution free zone.

    After completion of three hash runs, the individual is christened with a hash name, which is normally funny, it could also be rude but certainly creative. Hence forth he will be called by his new HASH name amidst the HASH community. A HASH identity gives you access and acceptance with other HASH clubs around the world.

    At the HASH, you are as good or bad, as your sense of humour!

  2. Read some of the comments here (wow, quite a lot and good ones… pretty impressed about how much people know abt Bangalore aka Bengaluru aka Blore.)

    My history with Blore: Began in 1994 when I got there to do my Bachelors in Computer Sc. & Engg in a nearby city called Tumkur (Blore is to Tumkur, what Nashville is to Franklin). After college in 1999, I started working and living in Blore from 2000, settled there after getting married in 2002, until 2007 when my wife and I flew straight into BNA.

    1. Running – Yes, agree with your Dad that the streets are not the best place to run though you can find good spots in the city. There are a lot of runners in Blore and I have seen early birds going for a run on “Inner Ring Road” and nearby areas… but surely not a good option for tourists. However, there are parks all over the city. You can run if you really want to experience the city. Do it during late mornings or early evenings and preferably with some Indian friends. If I know where you are staying, I can map out some good parks or places to run.

    2. Dressing – Its going to hot, so where something comfortable. Blore is a modern city. You are going to see young women in sleeveless shirts, tank tops and mini skirts. In any case, getting some indian wear – skirts, salvars, etc would be a great idea. I would ask you to blend in as much as you can with the crowd and the culture. But the city will surprise you in how modern it is.

    “Eat the street food!” — experience the city, especially the food. Bottled drinking water is a must, even in hotels order “Bisleri” water. Better still, carry your own bottled water. Even local residents do that. But experience a little bit of what the city has to offer. If you drink tea or coffee, have a taste from a local fast food place…. have “Chaat” from the street vendors… just be extra careful on water and have lots of it.

    Walk away from beggars…. dont encourage begging. Do NOT seem sympathetic… just walk away. You cannot fix the problem but “helping” one…. and it is almost always a scam. They are persuasive, especially the little ones but thats just good training. (Watch slumdog millionaire again if you want to refresh your mind abt the business behind street begging. That part is 99% accurate in the movie.)

    Note: When you walk the streets, make sure your have some Indian friends with you. They can help keep the beggars from pestering too much and also with suggesting the best street vendors for some local food.

    Speaking of money: There are ATMs everywhere. Check with you bank about using Citibank, HDFC and ICICI bank for intl withdrawals… if they suggest any other bank, i can help you map them near your hotel.
    You can convert your dollars at the Blore airport. Better still, take some 2000Rs. with you. Rest in TCs. Again, check with your Bank for ideas and associations with major banks in India. In any case, this is not a major issue.

    90 mins in London: Just enough if you ask me. If I were you, I would at least brisk walk it to the next gate.

    Carry the iPhone: My wife Vee, she took it with her in 2009 when she went for her first vacation after we moved here. Keep roaming ON… and check the rates. It is pretty expensive and I would use it sparingly. If you can get a GSM phone and get a local SIM card, that would be idea for your local needs and Intl texts. I may have one GSM phone lying around… let me see if I can find it for you.

    Hindu temples: Some good ones in around around the city. I can help map some for you. I will email it to you.

    Hope this helps… There are a lot more things to worry about… i will email you that as well.

    My longest comments ever… but I figured you preferred to have it posted here anyway. btw, dont have it in me to check for typos. Sorry. 🙂

  3. From Ipsita Chatterjea, a very helpful friend of my friends Andrew and Peg Duthie of East Nashville (I look forward to meeting her in person upon our return!)

    2. You may not want have to drag shawls everywhere as it’s very hot this time of year anything with at least a cap sleeve should work. The key thing is lightweight fabric. Bring a good, sturdy sun block. And think of sleeves as partial UVA/UVB protection

    3. Err on the side of at the knee or slightly below and you should be okay.

    4. You can definitely buy clothing in India and this will help in terms of it being the right weight, skirt and sleeve lengths. Packing light also means you have more space for bringing things back. Government emporiums in any major city are good in terms of basic assurance of quality. If you like shawls, the definitely look at the emporiums, the selection is pretty impressive and hard if not impossible to find here for fine gauge wool and silk. You can basically revamp your summer wardrobes while you are over there.

    6. The reason you need to be wary of giving to beggars is the danger of being over whelmed when they see you have money and are handing it out. You’ll draw a crowd that can get out of control.

    I do want to emphasize that for as much as the Indian economy has grown a middle class and is making strides on economic opportunity, the poverty is very shocking, and people from the West are not used to it, and I don’t know that anything could prepare you for it. If you feel compelled to do something, find a transparent, non-sectarian organization allied with a cause that you think is useful run by locals. With the caution that my second cousin is a program director, this is one of the charities that works with the poor and has well localized programs. http://www.pratham.org/

    8. Make stone cold sure you have at least two changes of clothing in your carry-on and that you have downloaded an airport map and know where to go. Your odds are better if your flights are on the same airline, but they lose luggage, or it doesn’t make the connecting flight all of the time. I say this even if you plan to check your bags through to your first destination city.

    I can only imagine what the trip represents for the three of you and with the right cautions/background insider information, you can have an amazing time of this trip. I’m sure you’ve prepared.

    Consult the Lonely Planet Guide for Guidance on which Over the Counter Medications you should have with you, and other packing suggestions. The books are well researched and really meant to equip you for a trip.

  4. Follow up….whatever you decide on any of the questions…have fun, enjoy everything, absorb it all, listen to your playlist sometimes, the sounds of Bangalore other times, act like a tourist sometimes, like a local other times, be present in every moment and savor each second and experience

  5. From my friend Danny, who wrote a very helpful response but my blog timed out before it posted:

    My opinion only but on #6 it’s a very simple “Lily it’s not safe for us to give to the beggars.”

    Your layover is tight but manageable. Heathrow or Gatwick? Heathrow is easier to navigate, IMO. Flying direct to Bangalore or going to Delhi or… Mumbai first? Man o man I hope you don’t have to go through Delhi. Only time I’ve ever feared for my safety in an airport.

    With respect to cash, I never get foreign currency until I get there and then I get it from the ATM in the airport. There are typically several near the currency exchange places. The ATM exchange rate will be waaaayyyy better but if you feel more comfy with carrying some rupees then don’t let me talk you out of it.

    Take iPhone and do FaceTime when on wifi?

    Your father is right…save the running for when you return.

    Agree with John on food. Of course I was there during the bird flu scare so they were advising against chicken too. No beef and no chicken. I was miserable.

    Enjoy!

  6. Take the I Phone. Surely you will find some “FREE WIFI” along the way. I am downloading Ann Patchett’s new book “State of Wonder” to my I Phone for my upcoming overseas trip. I will keep the phone in airplane mode except where I have free wifi. I will enjoy my reading, music and other apps that I can use offline.

  7. Well… I’m sitting here with my fiancee and her kids and they are going to help answer these questions. I’m so excited for you. this is going to be a great trip. You should know from the outset though that because you are a woman in a very male dominated culture that things aren’t like they are at home. All people aren’t seen as equal. You will be stared at all the time and it will feel uncomfortable at times but that’s the way it is.

    1. Dad is right. no running in the streets. run on a treadmill in the hotel if you have one. otherwise you will be sweating so much from the heat you won’t want to run. its really not safe. think 115 degrees and add 100% humidity.

    2. if its a short sleeve that ends just beyond the shoulder, that’s fine, but you are going to feel more comfortable if you don’t wear sleeveless. Don’t wear tanks.

    3. knee length dresses is fine.

    4. If you don’t have appropriate clothes then it’s easier to buy it there. You will feel more comfortable in indian clothes, so get to a store soon after you arrive. Since you will be in Bangalore, the culture is a little more advanced so you might not need to worry about buying clothes.

    5. Don’t eat the street food. take cipro with you. Better to eat at the hotel and drink water all the time. Brush your teeth with bottled water as well.

    6. Don’ give money. (this is answered by Alex who is 12) Tell Lily that if you give money to one person, everyone around you will expect the same. There won’t be just two or three around you… there will be loads of people needing money. it’s too overwhelming and you won’t have enough on you to fill the need. it’s better to give to a local church or charity.

    7. Traveler’s Cheques are good. Your dad will know where to go to cash them since he has been there. it’s not a good idea to carry lots of cash around with you. take only what you need for the day. there will be several places you can use a credit card for purchases which is always the better exchange rate.

    8. Close. you will not have to go through customs as much as you will have to go through an international transfer line. Show your passport and go back through security. Do not take your time and follow all signs for international transfer and make sure you ask someone where to go when you get off the plane. this might take an hour. I’ve had the process go quick… and i’ve had it take an hour.

    9. NO. you can get an international roaming rate with ATT. Don’t plan to make any calls because its crazy expensive but have it for emergency. Go online, look at your features. You can add international texting… 100 texts for a little extra $$ and international data roaming for additional $$$ so that you can check and send email…or twitter:)

    10. Don’t know the good answer to this one. I’ve only been to one and it shared a wall with one of Mother Teresa’s missions… here’s the link http://www.spencesmith.com/mother-teresas-home-for-the-destitute-and-dying-our-last-day-in-kolkata-india/

    Alright… I hope you all have a blast!!!!!

  8. 2. We know it’s respectful for women and girls to wear sleeves. Are shawls appropriate over sleeveless dresses?

    Me: When we visited some mosques in Turkey, they wanted women to cover up…if the women weren’t covered up to their satisfaction, they gave them shawls to put over their shoulders. So I would say shawls over sleeveless are ok

    6: I’ve been told pretty universally not to give money to beggars. Ok. What do I tell my daughter when she asks me why we’re not giving money to people living in shacks and asking for money?

    Me: Well, showing you have money in another country isn’t usually a good idea, and as much as you and she will want to help them, you can’t help all the people begging for money. It’s tough

    7. Speaking of money: Come equipped with all the rupees I’ll need, bring travelers cheques, or do they have an ATM on every corner?

    Me: I don’t know about ATMs there but everywhere we’ve been it has always been a better exchange rate to withdraw straight from the ATM rather than use money exchanging kiosks. I would say bring plenty of rupees and some travelers checks but try to use your debit card if/when you can. One other note: watch your pocketbook/purse/etc. We always have our money/passports/etc in a pouch hanging around our necks and under our shirts because of pickpockets

    9. Should I leave my iPhone at home?

    Me: I say yes…will it even work outside the US? probably not…and you don’t want to lose it…and part of the fun of being in India is going to be being disconnected.

    10. I’d love to visit some Hindu temples. What’s the most appropriate way to do that?

    Me: I would think just not having exposed arms, shoulders, etc would be all that was needed. Hushed tones I would think would also be appropriate

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