Monday, January 9, 2012

Sounding Out India

By the time we exited the Bangalore airport the sun was setting. As we stood in the very long metered taxi stand line I tuned into the sounds around me: the touts of "illegal" taxi drivers trying to lure you into their cars, the excited murmmer of families just reunited after months, if not years, of separation; the pounding of hammers at the construction sit on our right;  and the gentle tinkle of dabbas (Indian lunch pails) being carried by airport workers going home. When we finally arrived at the front of the line we did not find ourselves in a quiet air-conditioned sanctuary that would provide a peaceful journey to our hotel. Instead we continued to be bombarded with aural stimulation. Perhaps it was due to the darkness and the fact that as we traveled the narrow road our vision was blocked by the thick traffic, hundreds of people walking along the road, and the towering raised road that was under construction on our right. Or maybe because I needed a distraction from the aggressive approach our taxi driver was taking to get us to the city--but I couldn't block out the noises that surrounded us. 
Bollywood music, intermingled with Christmas jingles, blared from the radio. The constant ring of the driver's phone was answered with a sharp hello, and followed by a rapid sequence of words I was unable to understand. My attention was drawn to  workers on the concrete pillars high above us, as the clanging noise of hammers beating steel rebar penetrated the chaos below.
I was acutely aware of the lull of the tires on the asphalt, occasionally replaced by the crunch of driving over gravel as the driver zig-zagged on to the dirt shoulder to negotiate the traffic. Of course, there was the non-stop tooting of the car horns--ours and those around us--and with each blast I grasped the car door handle a bit tighter. The animated claxon of the local buses caused me to hold my breath as we cut off the lumbering giants.
As we approached the city and the traffic became thicker, rather than cursing and swearing the driver just began to pound his hand against his leg, in rhythm with the lively music that emanated from the radio. It wasn't long before Mark joined in. It was precisely at this moment that I knew that over the course of the next week or so India would become a country that I would come to either love or hate.


  1. Your descriptions are so evocative. I could see and hear your arrival. Late arrivals come be thrilling and frightening at the same time.

  2. Hi Maya, what an introduction you seemed to have had on your arrival. I love your descriptions too. Gave me quite a visual, the noise, the traffic and the music. Talk about sensory overdrive.

  3. Hadn't had a chance to read your entries on your India trip. Most enjoyable and visually stimulating.