Sunday, May 8, 2011

Don't Wear Shorts In Bangalore

Yesterday, two of my young colleagues took me out on a tour around Bangalore.  We visited the Visvesvaraya Industrial and Technological Museum (a Science learning center targeted at school aged children, about 1/10th the size of Chicago's Museum of Science & Industry), the Venkatappa Art Gallery (which I called the 'broken shards of pottery exhibit), and the Bangalore Palace (a British colonial mansion built in 1887 prior to Independence, full of nude and semi nude art work).  In not a single location, did I see anyone else wearing shorts.  I did see a Gandhi style loin cloth at the museum on one older man, but not a bare calf anywhere.

I'd asked my quieter and recently hired colleague if 'shorts were ok to wear?' before we left the hotel.   I knew it would be in the 30s (C, 90s F) with humidity in the 50 to 70% range, and sporting my recent cricket acquired knee abrasion, I didn't want to be sweating in long pants, long sleeves, and having my knee ooze down the inside of my pant leg where I could not check my bandage.  He said it would be 'fine', so shorts I wore.  I probably saw close to 2000 people at the crowded museum, another 100 at the art galley & palace each, and 100 at lunch downtown, as well as many many thousands on motorcycles, scooters, and as pedestrians.  Not a single person wore short sleeves or short pants.

At each venue that was not tourist heavy (only the palace was) I got gawked at middle aged mothers who had children with them, teenagers, and small children.  I am used to being gawked at in China where I stand nearly a foot taller and I am usually the only one without black hair in the room.  In India, most people are shorter, and again I am the only non brunette, but I am also the only one not wearing long sleeved pants and shirt in everyone I saw in the city. 

At dinner I saw a white male sitting at an adjacent table, also wearing shorts, and as I finished my meal, paid my bill and got up to leave, I asked him if he'd noticed.  In a thick Australian accent he responded "I didn't notice, I was on a scooter most of the day around town."  He's a much braver man than I, since traffic in India, is a remarkably chaotic and tumultuous experience than I would EVER attempt to drive.  At the hotel, most of the non Asian tourists wear shorts, but not in this city of almost 10 million people.

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