We headed out for our second day of sightseeing around Bangalore in the company of our ever-patient driver, Chandrasekar. Our first stop was the Bannerghatta Biological Park south of the city. Not really wanting to sit in yet another vehicle, we opted out of the diesel bus “safari” around the preserve and chose to walk through the zoo instead.
The Bannerghatta Zoo was interesting, if a bit dated. The concrete animal enclosures were somewhat depressing, as were the chains on the elephants. The animals seemed well cared-for, the food we could see in the bird cages contained lots of fresh-looking fruits and vegetables, but there was little effort made to create “natural” environments like we’re used to seeing in zoos in the U.S. Lots of concrete and iron bars. It was nice to get a very close look at a leopard through the bars, though. It was so sleek and graceful, even in a cage.
As with the botanical gardens, we discovered that we were possibly as interesting as the official exhibits. Children stared and giggled, young folks asked where we were from, families asked for photos. Sitting down on a bench to rest was apparently a signal to the curious that it was safe to approach. Everyone was extremely polite, as always, but after our experience with the news crew the previous night we began to understand just how much of a novelty we were.
From Bannerghatta, we wound our way back through the maelstrom of Bangalore traffic to the profoundly British-looking Bangalore Palace. Owned by the Maharajas of Mysore, the castle was built in the late 1800s. The audio tour that came with admission was interesting, if a bit wordy. The palace was beautiful, but not at all what I’d expected to see in India. Other than a couple of interior courtyards – one with a beautiful Spanish tile bench that was a gift from the deposed King of Spain – the palace almost looked like it was somewhere in Europe. It was a fascinating example of the myriad contradictions we’ve found in India.
After we finished the tour of the castle, Chandrasekar took us to a coffee shop for an impromptu meetup with a colleague. When we planned this trip I was thinking of it as a purely non-professional visit. The thought never crossed my mind that I might have professional contacts here – especially in Bangalore – so I didn’t bother to put the word out that I was going to be in town. When we reached the home of our hosts in Bangalore, I tweeted “Finally on the ground in Bangalore” mostly out of relief at being done with the marathon journey. One of the members of the Canonical PDX posse saw the tweet and mentioned it to someone he knows in Bangalore, who passed the word on to someone I’d conversed with online about sexism in FOSS but had never met face to face: ॥ स्वक्ष ॥ (svaksha). A flurry of messages later, a very short notice meetup was scheduled for a Bangalore coffee shop.
Between the short notice and some confusion about which coffee shop, it turned out to be just the three of us: Svaksha, Al, and I. We had a delightful and wide-ranging discussion on government and corruption, current events, education, and the work/life balance. It was an ideal way to help provide us with some context around what we were seeing here. Two hours flew by and we, sadly, had to end the discussion. Ironically, we ended up not talking tech or FOSS at all. With luck, we’ll be able to try again on our way back through Bangalore on our way home.
When we returned to Biswajit and Sushila’s, Biswajit had brought home a friend from work – Ghopal (please pardon the likely horrible misspelling). The three of us ended up wrapping up the evening sipping excellent scotch and snacking on biryani take-out while discussing large scale data centers, virtualization, the relative merits of specialists versus generalists, and professional altruism.
A busy day sightseeing, some tasty scotch, and two intelligent and engaging discussions was more than enough to set my head spinning. Time to rest up before the wedding reception tomorrow!