1. The foreigner
My visit to Bangalore is part business-trip part vacation. Traveling with me on business is a German colleague whose eyes reveal a side of the city I usually gloss over. On the first day, he is puzzled by the security measures at the hotel entrance. Our bags are scanned, the contents of our pockets verified, and we pass through a metal detector. The shopping mall attached to the Marriott has another checkpoint. Why so many security checks here, he asks, when everything seems normal outside?
It is his first visit to the country. On the afternoon he arrives, he takes an auto-rickshaw to Bangalore Palace, and later sends me a picture of the rickshaw on WhatsApp. He is curious about Indian food, but soon runs into “stomach issues due to the spice.” At the restaurant, he tries to make sense of the waiters in the scene, some flitting from table to table, others hanging around doing nothing, and a few just giving orders to others. In the evening he goes looking for mineral water — the bottles in his room are exorbitantly priced — but the nearby BigBasket outlet has no stock. In another supermarket at another mall he picks up four water bottles — it is all they have. Why do supermarkets here not stock water? he asks. I am equally puzzled.
But I am not puzzled when the security guards ignore me and wish him Good Morning. And it is no surprise to see the Crossword bookstore attendant approach him with a greeting and ask if he needs help. Why didn’t he ask you, my colleague wants to know. Because I’m not white, I tell him.