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The Crazy Motorbike City of Bangalore

Bangalore boasts the largest number of motorbikes of any city in the world. The guys at work have told me that stat a few times and I have also read it somewhere, so it must be true. The police department of Bangalore have every safety precaution in place like any other city around the world. Helmets are required, road-worthy certificates are required. And I have actually seen a police officer giving a ticket to a motorcyclist once — in the MIDDLE of road, during rush hour traffic (why they didn’t move to the curb is beyond me). Yet with all of those processes in place, it appears — at least to me the outsider — that anarchy reigns supreme here in Bangalore. NOTE: I have added a lovely little slide show of some of the madness that goes on here, I hope you will pause the photos I’ve snapped over the past week, please look at them one by one because there are a couple of real winners in the bunch, with one of gramma sat side saddle with her belly roll hanging out and more!

After living the past eight years in Barcelona I am accustomed to living and driving alongside motorbikes. But the craziest thing I ever saw in Barcelona was someone riding without a helmet two or three times. What I have seen here in only two weeks is insane.

As a mom, I have to say that the most irresponsible activity I have seen has been the numerous children that ride with their parents. From actual babies in a mother’s arm who is riding side saddle behind her husband, to a complete family of four with dad driving, two kids in the middle and mom in back using her arms as guard rails as the only protection for the children. I understand that this might be the only mode of transportation for some families, I do understand the reasons behind the actions, but it still makes me stop and wish there was another way that the gentleman could take his family from point A to point B.

If you didn’t know this already, many Indian women still wear traditional sari’s everyday so imagine the difficulty of trying to hop onto your husband’s moped with that on! It just doesn’t work. So the ladies here will look oh so elegant, although not too safe, riding side saddle just like in the olden days when women rode horses. The first time I saw this it was a cute little old lady so I thought it was an age thing, not something I would come to see every day all over the place, haha. I really wish I had a photo of her. She was fabulous, soooo elegant and with a perfectly twisted bun in her hair looking as dainty as could be on the back of her husband’s bike.

Now, don’t get me wrong, the power girls are out there too. Super chic girls on a their sporty mopeds running about town wearing either traditional Indian clothes or the latest western fashions. Typically the younger power girls always wear proper helmets, and I have yet to see a power girl with a baby or toddler in tow so there are less women that choose to do this then men which I find interesting. I know that less women have motorbike licenses than men (99% vs 1% I suppose) but I still find it interesting.

With respect to the guys, there is a bit of everything. I ADORE catching a glimpse of the really good looking Indian guys who ride their motorcycles wearing the latest designer sunglasses and with their helmets sitting on the gas tank… it would only mess up their fabulous, perfect hair right? hehe. On Monday I snapped a photo on the drive into work of a moped with three guys on it, with one of them wearing a construction hat as their helmet (see slide show). OH and my very, very FAVORITE “man on a moped” sighting was last week when it was raining one night. I had just stepped out the office to head home and what did I see? A man of about 50 years drive by holding a black umbrella to protect himself from the rain! Ahhh bless him, I think I will remember that guy for a long time. Kind a modern-day male version of Mary Poppins if you can imagine that 🙂

Now for anyone who doesn’t know me personally, I really need to preface this next bit by saying that I lived in a little village called Sitges, which lies just south of Barcelona, off and on for the past 18 years. It is a wonderful place, picturesque and is the town that my heart calls home. Sitges just happens to be one of the three major gay capitols of Europe, where gay men and women can walk around hand-in-hand, openly and safely. Well, about 80% of my mates are gay guys… so for me, whenever I see two guys holding onto each other as they walk down the street here or touching as they are riding by on a motorbike together, I have to remind myself that I am in Bangalore and not Sitges. These guys are just family members or friends touching. Period. Even so, I never fail to smile whenever I see two guys on a motorbike go by when the passenger is sort of “snuggled up” or holding on to the driver. In Sitges it would have been a gay couple. Otherwise, the passenger would have been holding on to the back tail bar to demonstrate openly that he knows he is on the motorbike of another dude but he is doing his best not to touch him because he is not a gay. haha But HERE men are much more secure about their masculinity and just do whatever is easiest or most comfortable. I like that.

Tonight I am sat at a relatively new, swank restaurant called Little Italy on 100 Feet Road, enjoying yet another candlelit dinner with my laptop. I really should name my laptop so I have “someone” to go on a date with instead of something. Hmmm…any suggestions?

Forget the four door sedan or the mini-van, here in Bangalore they have 4-seater motorbikes perfect for Mom, Dad and the two little ones! No helmets required. No joke!

I had a helluva day due to the fact that I spent 4 hours and 20 minutes at the Foreign Registry Office office to register my employment visa with the police (I will certainly blog about that hell) and was so excited to sit down here at Little Italy to have a glass of wine yet — alas — NO MAM! haha OMG, I seriously laughed when they waiter suggested a mocktail instead, haha. Apparently, their liquor license will be here in a couple of weeks… so you can all guess how soon I will be coming back here! 🙂 Today my personal chauffeur started, he is a really lovely gentlemen named Shiva (well, really it is Shiva…then something really long after that, but I could only remember Shiva for today and he was cool with that). Shiva is “the god of the yogis, self-controlled and celibate, while at the same time a lover of his spouse.” Hmmm, he is superman I guess! The cats are still stuck in relocation purgatory, I hope to collect them mid-week now. And the move into the new flat is now scheduled for around the 12th I think…I can’t wait!

XOXO from Bangalore

© Angela Carson, Angela’s Adventures in Bangalore blog and photos, 2011

Angela Carson

At 21 I left uni, jumped into my Jeep Wrangler, and drove from my native California to live an adventure in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. I've explored 37 countries on 4 continents, residing in 8 of them (currently Indonesia's Riau Islands is my home). I even have a private pilot's license and was shot at once by bandits!

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  1. This post really cracked me up..I would have noticed all of it while in Bangalore but never gave a second thought about it, except for the snuggle guys. The 1st time I came to Bangalore and I saw guys snuggled up on the mobike, the only thing that I had to say was ‘WTF’.. In my city two guys holding onto each other or touching as they are riding are considered gayish, But that’s the way it is Bangalore and that’s something you cannot change. 🙂

    Funny things like a man with a construction helmet as his riding helmet , or someone holding an umbrella while riding are plentiful. I found it hilarious when I saw a bunch of chickens tied to the mobike or someone delivering milk on their moped. Also someone carrying a load of hay/grass on a moped where the rider literally had no place to sit and had his feet on the road were all too funny for me during my initial days in Bangalore. 🙂

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