5. Bangalore ReceptionDecember 12, 2018 in India ⋅ ⛅ 27 °C
For our day in Bangalore, Nam recommended that we visit Lal Bagh. Translated as 'The Red Garden' in English, it is a 240-acre botanical garden in southern Bengaluru primarily constructed during colonial occupation with a Persian architectural style, formerly home to an exotic zoo, still home to various rare bird species and one of the most popular tourist destinations proving, if proof were needed, that I've finally got a decent connection to Wikipedia.
As an ambassador of the former colonial power, I enjoyed a typically English breakfast. Corn Flakes (invented by American John Kellogg), Tea (Asia import, presumably not imported in this case) and toast with jam (origin disputed, but likely middle-eastern). Toast is as historically ubiquitous as the bread it's made from, coming about when someone had the whiz idea "well it worked out the first time, let's slice it smaller and do it again."
Our first task for the day was to switch hotels, en route passing by the stunning parliament building and a smaller, newer government building that our driver told us was called something that sounded like "mini banana soda", which I refuse to look-up as there's no way the real name will be as good.
We checked into the YMCA, where we heard it'd be fun to stay, and met up with Roger; Sid's friend from work who'd be joining our group and thusly my blog and Facebook friends list for the remainder of the trip. Charlotte and I had met him before, but I had no recollection of him. It took little time to recall why. Roger works for bank; quite possibly the most boring industry one can have the misfortune to be connected to. Whenever anybody in the profession attempts to converse with me, be it concerning their work or otherwise, I lapse into a dull daydream of overwhelming disinterest, emerging only once the excruciating mood-murderer had moved forth to their next victim. This does occasionally make my job rather tricky.
Roger aboard, we crammed ourselves into the five-seater (our bigger vehicle to accommodate our increased number arriving tomorrow) and headed to Lal Bagh. I'm not sure why it's called the 'Red Garden', my Wi-Fi is gone again, but for an area consisting mainly of topiary, foliage and water features even if absolutely committed to a naming methodology incorporating a primary colour I could think of two better choices right off the top of my head.
Two-hundred and forty acres large with a glass house based on London's Crystal Palace (Wi-Fi's back!), recent plans to demolish a portion of the site to enable the construction of the new metro line has caused controversy, lead to a contingent of citizens to come out in a series of protests against the loss of greenery and recreation space in the city. Initially well-attended, these demonstrations have attracted dwindling numbers as activists became increasingly frustrated with the logistics of getting to the protest site, public transport links being somewhat lacking.
The park is exceedingly pretty, features of note including a rocky hill offering views of the Bangalore skyline, a stone bust of Dr Mari Gowda (a horticultural hero by all accounts) and a strangely popular abandoned building which had it attracted the crowds to the same degree when it was whatever it was mightn't have ended up becoming abandoned. There was also a Bonsai garden full of Bonsai trees, which I found slightly odd as I'd always been under the impression that Bonsais were popularised amongst those that lacked the space for a real tree/garden setup. It's like filling a cinema auditorium with 32-inch flatscreens. Or a Tamagotchi zoo.
Our driver next took us to a craft store he presumably had a measure of business arrangement with to browse the available wears. I was genuinely interested in some of the items on offer, being precisely the sort of thing I was looking for as a souvenirial solution, but they went for the hard-sell approach, so I issued a hard-pass.
Before heading back to the hotel we stopped off for a late lunch at an Indian restaurant. Acknowledge obviously that every restaurant we eat at here, purely geographically, is an 'Indian' restaurant and most have even been 'Indian' by way of specialist cuisine, but this was the first Indian Indian restaurant we'd visited that was making such an effort to apply an Indian aesthetic to such an overt and stereotypically clichéd extent. Patterns on the ceiling, gold-trimmed wall-hangings, vibrant fixtures and fittings, 'that' music playing (you know the sort) and with an elaborate water feature in the centre, it was as if the remit was to distil down every trite touristic expectation as regards an Indian eatery and check every tick-box when designing this diner, becoming an emblemic distortion as to culture it purports to represent. Much like what the Beefeater chain attempts to do with Britishness, or at least used to before they got rid of their 'beefeater' imagery and replaced it with a cartoon cow, undoing a cute visual pun in favour of a reminder of the cute animal whose life is sacrificed for your chips & peppercorn-sauce accompaniment. #veganuary
Before heading out for the evening, Charlotte, David and I went out for a wander near the hotel, roughly attempting a route Roger had described to us as having completed the previous day; a basic loop round the surrounding area. Had they not been refurbishing the pavement across 60% of the route, forcing us to walk mostly in the dusty dirt, this walk might have been entirely uneventful. Still might be, depending on your personal perspective on the noteworthiness of slightly scuffing-up one's shoes.
For the evening Roger and I went fully suited, mine being my tailored ensemble purchased on my last trip in Hôi An (see blog post "Hôi An Then...An then, An then, An then..."). David wore a shirt/trouser combo with velvet jacket; apparently Nam's favourite of his wardrobe options. Charlotte couldn't find the dress she'd planned to wear, possibly because she channelled efforts into Instagramming her circumstance of bring unable to find it instead of looking for it, but eventually chose an alternative ensemble that we considered entirely appropriate for the occasion but that, according to Charlotte's reports of a couple of 'looks' she received during the evening, mightn't have been a pan-reception concurrence.
Were I being reductive, I might describe the reception as a 'catered photo-shoot'. But, located in an absolutely stunning hotel setting with a stage and high-calibre lighting with a phenomenal range of appetisers, mains and desserts this was far from your average point/click/munch affair.
Once again, there was a refreshing lack of formality to proceedings; the 'reception' just sort-of occurring whilst everyone invited generally pottered about the place, taking their own snaps or filling their bellies. The happy couple spent, as a loose estimate, 99 9% of their evening on the stage as rotating configurations of family, friends and possibly crashers joined them on-stage to be immortalised forever in photographic form.
Having gorged on ample Indian food earlier in the day, my main focus here was on desserts. In addition to a lovely coconut creme caramel there was a delicious, creamy, custard-like concoction that tasted rather like rice pudding with the rice removed (an odd omission given the prevalence/popularity of the substance here). I was later told it was basically milk with sugar, but then that's probably what rice pudding is too.
A little later the wedding cake was cut, adding a further option to the dessert table that I dutifully made a second trip for. An apparent custom that differs from what I've observed in the UK is that when the cake is cut, the bride and groom take slices and feed first each other then some of their family. I'm not sure why this is a thing, there was nobody on hand to explain this to us, but I've got to believe it's more symbolic than them all just being hungry.
After spending literal hours in front of the intense lights, the bride and groom were eventually able to mingle a little. One of the guests, I'm presuming a relative, had been intermittently singing songs, I'm presuming romantic songs, both for Nam and Sid and to entertain the guests throughout the evening. He had an excellent voice but, not to be outdone, as soon as the microphone was transitioned to karaoke-mode Nam positioned herself to deliver a sweet serenade to her husband of 'How Long Will I Love You?'. As usual, her voice was so good that few stepped-up to follow her. One of the younger guests gave us a performance of 'My Heart Will Go On' ; a song I've heard far more times this week than average for a song 20+ years old. Perhaps it has a particular cultural relevancy here in India that we don't relate to. Perhaps Titanic was subject to a delayed release and the country has only recently experienced the beautiful yet doomed obsession between Jack & Rose / pubescent boys & Kate Winslet's tits.
I haven't yet mentioned the dress. OMG it was, like, totally fabulous. I wouldn't habitually render much comment on a bride's attire, save for an obligatory vague compliment, but I was genuinely taken with Nam's choice. With the wedding feeling like a deeply Eastern experience, the reception overall had more western overtones, without losing an Indian essence. As such, Nam's selection of a fairly traditional-looking western-style wedding dress with undertoned floral patterning felt like a perfect crest for this cultural clash. Sid looked alright too.Read more