Monday, August 29, 2005

My Mumbai and Goa

Ready for our first day in Mumbai!

We had booked another hotel for the second night. We had been told that India was cheap and we had booked accordingly. After one night in Mumbai, we had seen the state of the first hotel and we were slightly worried to go to the second (cheaper) one.

And then, Mumbai! My first impression was that everything was taking so long to achieve: going from place to place, getting an Indian number, getting roupies. Also, the traffic was completely crazy and the pollution level was quite bad.

India makes us so lunatic. I love, hate, love, hate this country.

Foreigners are obviously not welcome in Mumbai. We were even booed in the streets. At first, we thought it was because of our skin, hair, bared shoulders but, according to the educated people we met, many people in Mumbai still have in mind the (negative) image of the British/white colonists.

After what happened in a park (being circled by hundreds of people when we were peacefully sitting in the grass), I sent a text to my dad: “Emergency. Please call…”. He did so the next day (no rush). He was obviously expecting a material kind of emergency (visa, passport loss…) and didn’t seem to understand that mood/mind matters more. I think it's difficult for others to grasp what we are going through.

I expected a bit of curiosity but no animosity.

The second day, we were roaming around in Mumbai and ended up in a book market. It was completely amazing. One can find books like “corporate finance” or “futures, options and derivatives” for 300Rs as copied books are allowed in India. The sales person told us he used to sell such books every day. People, here, are so eager to learn.

We then headed to a Jain temple where we were immediately asked the following question:“Do you have your period?” :o$ We should have known that Jain temples (as well as Hindus ones) typically deny entry to menstruating women to preserve the sanctity of the temple.

A guy offered us (for free!) to be our guide. Among others, he told us that no one is supposed to show his back to the idols.

Our guide then took us to a small lake. It was quite paradoxal. He wanted to be our friend but was so scared of being seen with us that we were asked to walk 20 meters behind him.

We still had a couple of hours to kill before taking the train to Goa (12 hour journey). Interestingly, we met an old university professor who was extremely knowledgeable about Belgium. We headed to a pub and had a few Indian beers with him (in India, you'll get 650 ml bottles!).

At the train station, it took us 20 minutes to understand which wagon we had to get in. And then, surprise! There was no door between compartments. One of us started crying. The beginning of our journey had been stressful and the lack of privacy in the train (and maybe the cockroaches) was the last straw. Also, trains are quite noisy as sellers are yelling “chai, chai, chai (Indian tea)” all night long.

I attached my bags and quickly felt asleep. In the morning, I wanted to enjoy the landscape. Sat at the wagon door, legs hanging into the air.

In Goa, a nice old lady was waiting for us at the hotel. We called her “mamy Goa”.

Love the place! Just relax and enjoy the sun. Had tasty crab for lunch. Time is running fast. Went to the beach at 11pm. Just the two of us, sitting peacefully on the sand.

We learned the next day that there were snakes coming out of the sand at night. Lesson learned!

The next day, we decided to visit the Basilica of Bom Jesus which holds the mortal remains of St. Francis Xavier and is considered as one of the best examples of baroque architecture in India.

On the way back, we met two tourists/Frenchmen acting like conquistadors: speaking loudly, criticising the food and making jokes about Indians. I'm tempted to say... If you dont have an open mind, stay home!

We also tried the feni, a strong local alcohol. The cashew feni is made from the fermentation of the fruit of the cashew tree, while the coconut feni is made from the sap of toddy palms.

Alcohol seems to be a powerful medicine against germs as only one of us got (badly) sick. The one who didn't drink!

Two of us came back from Goa. The 3rd one was left in the care of "Mamy Goa".

To go from Mumbai to Goa, we bought an AC3 ticket. In other words, we had AC as well as a bit of comfort in the train (such as blankets). Cost: Rs800. For the way back, we didn’t book on time and the only available seats were non-AC sleeper ones. Cost: Rs400.

Given the difference in cost, we didn't know what to expect. Two white girls with laptops, digicams and huge bags as well as locks, chains, knifes! I'm only half joking.

Ultimately, we made (Indian) friends in the train and we had a lot of fun. When we arrived in Mumbai, one of them helped us finding a hotel. He bargained for us while we were waiting in another street (foreigners are often charged higher).

It was already our last day in Mumbai. We went to the house of one of the guys from the train. The neighbourhood was quite unsafe (even the taxi driver didn’t want to drop us there). His friends and family were welcoming but it was difficult to communicate (I used to think that Indians have a good English but an incomprehensible accent. The reality is quite different as only a small fraction of the population knows English). These people didn’t have much but they offered us a chai. We sat in/on their temple, a simple wooden plank. The guy from the train was a reporter for an Indian newspaper. I can't understand such low wages for such profession. At least, they had a house which is not the case of half the population in Mumbai.

I'm still scared of bugs/animals and I still dont like the way some Indians stare at us but everything is under control and I know, for sure, that I'll have a wonderful time in India!

One regret! I didn’t manage to see my Indian online friends given a busy schedule.

To the unknown

Floating Mumbai

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Goa

After spending a few days in Mumbai, we decided to take a trip to the sunny beaches of Goa located 700 km away. Read about our excursion here.

Goa, a former Portuguese colony, is India's smallest state by area and the fourth smallest by population. The state is located in South West India and has Panaji as capital. While Konkani is Goa’s official language, Marathi is also widely used in the state.

Celebrated for its beaches, heritage architecture and places of worship, Goa's primary industry is tourism. The land away from the coast is rich in minerals making mining the second largest industry.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Bollywood

Bollywood movies are so full of happiness and colours. They definitely bring a smile on my face.

Located in Mumbai, Bollywood is the largest centre of film production in India and one of the largest in the world. While Bollywood specialty lies with Hindi movies, regional production centres cater for different language groups (e.g. Telugu movie industry).

Bollywood commercial movies are usually three-hour-long musicals. Few of them are made without at least one song-and-dance number. Plots have a tendency to be melodramatic (featuring love triangles, family tragedies, dramatic reversals, sacrifice, manipulative villains, etc.) but may also include comedy, action and suspense.

Mumbai

My discovery of India started in Mumbai where I landed with two of my classmates. Read about it here.

Mumbai, formerly known as Bombay, is the capital of the Indian state of Maharashtra and the commercial capital of India. Mumbai was built on what was once an archipelago of seven islands which were coalesced into a single landmass.

With about 16,4 million inhabitants (2001 Census), Mumbai is the most populous city in India and one of the largest cities in the world. Besides Marathi, Maharashtra's official language, other major languages spoken in Mumbai are Hindi, Gujarati and English.

Mumbai has traditionally owed its prosperity largely to its textile mills and its seaport. This has now been replaced by industries employing more skilled labour such as banking, engineering, diamond polishing, healthcare and IT. The city is also the centre of the Hindi movie industry, Bollywood.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Expectations

My expectations are quite high!

I can't wait to discover India and to meet people with other cultures and habits. Hopefully, I won’t have the malaria or/and the Delhi Belly and I will stay in safe and clean rat-free places… Asking too much?

I’m a girl from a rich Western country. We tend to forget it but we have high standards of living. Trying to forget the millions of people living under the poverty line…

While my trip to India will help me understand what many people have to deal with in their everyday life, I am aware that my (privileged) experience will be biased. I will be a student in a country where a large part of the population can’t read, I will eat three meals a day when millions of Indians are starving, and I will stay in hostels/hotels when many people live in the street.

Still, there will be a cultural shock and I feel ready for it.

NB: I hopefully won't hurt anyone's feelings with my posts. Keep in mind that it is my first time in an emerging country. This blog only aims at sharing my own experience, not the absolute truth.

D-1

Everything ready?

VISA/Passport? Vaccinations (4!)? Mosquito net? Malaria pills, motilium, limodium, maalox, dafalgan, pills...? VISA card? Travel insurance?

All set!

I'm having mixed feelings right now: a lot of excitments but also a bit of apprehension as I'm wondering whether I'll fall in love with India.

Leaving behing my wonderful friends/family and heading to the complete Unknown! India, here I come!

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Kannada

My exchange program will take place in the state of Karnataka where Kannada is the official and most widely spoken language.


While the official language of the Republic of India is Hindi (with English as a subsidiary official language extensively used in business and administration), states can specify their own official language(s) through legislation. There are currently 22 scheduled languages.


Kannada is a Southern Dravidian language which is written using the Kannada script. It is predominantly spoken in the state of Karnataka and to a smaller extent in the neighbouring states of Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Goa. The 2001 census recorded 38 million native Kannada speakers in India.


Saturday, August 20, 2005

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Thank you for all your comments!

Please keep writing and feel free to sign my Guestmap!

Free Guestmap from Bravenet


Friday, August 05, 2005

Saree

The saree is the traditional garment of India and I can’t wait to wear one on special occasions!


A saree is a long strip of unstitched cloth that is draped over the body. It is popular in India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Burma, and Malaysia.

The saree is worn with a petticoat (support garments to hold the saree) of a similar shade and with a matching or contrasting choli (blouse). While the saree can be draped in several different styles, the most common style is for the saree to be wrapped around the waist with the loose embroidered or printed end draped over the left shoulder.

Indian Institute of Management Bangalore

IIMB seems to offer a stimulating academic environment. "There is no married accommodation on campus and given the workload it is advisable for the student to come alone…” Encouraging warning published on IIMB official website!



The Indian Institutes of Management are graduate business schools that were created by the Indian Government. Besides offering academic programs, they also conduct research and provide consultancy services in the field of management.


Following the success of IIM Calcutta and IIM Ahmedabad, IIM Bangalore was established in 1973 and is now recognized as one of the Top 100 management schools in the world.


Old Bangalore

Below are two images of Bangalore in the days of the Raj when it was still a small cantonment town (1946).

Hosur Road, the present day electronics, IT and BPO Hub.

M.G. Road. The building is the Higginbothams bookstore.

Indian Silicon Valley

I will be living in Bangalore during my Exchange program at IIMB. The city seems to be exciting and cosmopolite (i.e. mix of people from all parts of India). The only downside: Bangalore's nightlife has recently been curtailed by police and all bars and nightclubs must now close no later than 11.30pm.

Bangalore is the capital and largest city of the South Indian state of Karnataka. Unlike other parts of India which are extremely hot in the summer months, Bangalore enjoys a relatively mild climate year round.

With about 5.7 million inhabitants (2001 Census), Bangalore is India's fifth largest city. Besides Kannada, Karnataka's official language, other major languages spoken in Bangalore are English, Tamil, Telugu and Hindi.

After India gained independence in 1947, Bangalore evolved into a manufacturing hub for heavy industries. Nowadays, Bangalore is known as the Silicon Valley of India because of its position as the nation's leading IT exporter.

Update: In December 2005, the Government of Karnataka announced that it had accepted a proposal to rename Bangalore to Bengaluru.

Pictures

I usually give credit to photographers for their work. When the source is not mentioned on my blog, the picture is either mine or (in a really few cases) I lost the source.

Don't hesitate to comment...

Why IIMB as Erasmus exchange program destination?

In December '04, I had to choose my Erasmus (Exchange student program) destination. Among dozens of universities, I ultimately picked the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore.

Why India?

I wanted an English-speaking and exotic country. There were two destinations left: Thailand and India. I picked India for its economic potential and dynamism.

Why IIM Bangalore?

IIMB is one of the best IIM's in India (second one after IIMA based on most rankings). I didn’t select IIMA mainly because of its location. There are plenty of places to visit around Bangalore and the weather is a lot more tolerable than in Ahmedabad.

You might want to check other posts to have more information about MY life in India. Stressing on “my” is important as every exchange student will have his own perception/experien
ce of the country.

I would like to add two warnings:
1) Most Exchange Comittees will tell you that India is not an easy destination. Some students have a tough time adapting to the country. In my year, one of the exchange students stayed three days at IIMB and decided to go back home.
2) If your English level is low, be aware that the Indian accent can be quite strong and you might even find difficult to understand some of the professors.

And the other way around? You want to study Business/Finance in Belgium? The Solvay Business School Master in Management was ranked 3rd in finance by the Financial Times Masters in the Management European Ranking 2005.

Me...

I'm a girl from Belgium dreaming about her trip to India.

Currently studying at the Solvay Business School, I have the great opportunity to go to Bangalore as an exchange student at IIMB (Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore). I'll arrive in September '05 but who knows when I'll come back!

India is all about passions! One loves it or hates it! No in-between feelings...

Keep checking my blog! More info and pictures soon!


Thursday, August 04, 2005

Trade your link

If you wish to trade your link, please leave a comment below.

I would be especially happy to link my blog to sites about India, travels or expat experiences (preferably written in English, French, Spanish, Dutch or Hindi).

I will add your link to my blogroll as soon as you add my link to your website/blog under the name "In love with India".