I typed up this post from the Mapbox office on 100 Feet Road in Indiranagar, one of Bangalore's busy new commercial neighborhoods, yesterday, my last full day in India. I'm editing it today from London's Heathrow airport on the way home to Denver, via Chicago. I don't have many photos uploaded yet, but here are a few from the office, the deck of the office, and the street outside.
I saw little of the city outside Indiranagar on this trip and spent a lot of time in the office. It wasn't a vacation. Still, I've never been to India before, or anywhere in Asia, and had a bunch of new experiences. New to me, that is, commonplace to a billion other people.
My coworker Pratik has generously shown us around the neighborhood and making sure that we try a variety of restaurants. We never went to the Taco Bell across the street (see the photo above) or the Domino's Pizza 2 doors away. Three doors up the street is a one of the Mavalli Tiffin Room (MTR) restaurants, a very popular local spot which serves a correct cafe au lait. Around the corner from the office is Pratik's beloved Sharon Tea Stall. I'd be happy going there every day. Service is friendly and fast and they have a range of infusions that they add to a base black tea, sweetened, with and without milk. The tea is served in a 4 ounce shot glass or clay cup for a few rupees more. My standard recipe at home is not unlike Sharon's clove elaichi (cardamom) chai. I should use more whole milk and more sugar to make it correct.
The black kite (Milvus migrans) is everywhere in the city. Look at the sky for 30 seconds and you'll see at least one. They play a dual role here, part predator, part scavenger. I saw them hunting both rats and squirrels.
I had my first auto rickshaw rides in Bangalore. These green and yellow compressed natural gas-powered 3-wheel people movers are the least expensive way to get around without a personal vehicle in Bangalore. I didn't see any women driving autos in Bangalore, but read that the formerly all-male profession is slowly being opened to women.
The beep beep of auto, bike, and car horns is constant. It's not aggressive honking; you beep only when you pass someone, which is all the time. Sidewalks are rare in Bangalore, or are repurposed, so it is normal to walk in the street and absorb beeps.
Shade trees are part of Indiranagar's character. Often these are Gulmohar, an import from Madagascar, or Rain trees, from South America. The rain tree reminded me of my neighbor's honey locust, and for good reason: both are large Fabaceae (pea) plants. Sadly, street trees are heavily threatened by redevelopment in Bangalore and are being cut down to widen streets and extend building footprints.
The two times I got out of Indiranagar were to run, once around Ulsoor Lake, and once in Cubbon Park. Mornings, the park is closed to motor vehicle traffic and is filled with runners, walkers, yogis, and nature lovers. A barefoot runner gave me a flier for a half marathon in the Nandi Hills on Sunday. That would have been interesting, but I had to settle for running at home in Fort Collins instead. Cubbon Park is a gem, with a nice network of gravel trails around the edges, sculpture, shrines, specimen trees, and outcroppings of Archaen gneiss.
Working at the Mapbox office in Bangalore was a good experience. The space is nice, the people super sharp and very kind, and I learned a lot about the challenges of working in Mapbox's largest satellite office, offset 10 hours from DC and 13 hours from SF. I don't expect to go back to Bangalore soon, but would happily do so, and consider myself fortunate to have been able to make this trip.