This past weekend, I decided to venture off on my own to explore Bangalore’s science (Visvesvaraya Industrial & Technological Museum), history (Karnataka Government Museum) modern art museum (National Gallery of Modern Art), and planetarium (Jawaharlal Nehru Planetarium). With Bangalore traffic this journey took about an hour to reach the heart of the city where all the museums nestled in between the lush greenery of Cubbon Park and beautiful Vidhanna Soudha, Karnataka’s state legislative chamber.
The cab ride started as most cab journeys around this city, with the driver asking where was I from, as usual I answered US. Normally that would be end of the conversation. However, this driver was different, as my being from the US sparked his curiosity. The driver asked me if I knew Kannada, which is the local language for Bangalore and all Karnataka. Knowing that I didn’t much besides the words for no, want, and yes (haudu, which has taken on a special significance for my intern group), I meekly responded, “kannada gottilla” meaning, “I do not know Kannada. This prompted a jovial laugh from my driver. He listed all the languages he knew, Kannada, Hindi, Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam. He admitted that English wasn’t his strongest language. I told him that English wasn’t my strongest either, a joke that caused us both to chuckle.
We started our conversation discussing the traffic. He asked if the traffic in Bangalore was similar to traffic in the US. I told him that we have more traffic lights in the US. From traffic we moved on to cars. We talked about the difference between the cars I have seen in India versus the cars in the US. The mainstays of Indian roadways are Suzuki, Tata, Mahindra, Toyota, Hyundai and Honda. I told him the US also has its fair share of Hondas and Hyundai’s. The US does have nearly as many motorbikes as I have seen here. The biggest difference between these two nations in terms of motoring is the gearbox, or transmission. In the US the majority of the cars are automatic. In India like many other countries manual gearboxes are the norm. It’s fascinating here in Bangalore, as manual transmissions are generally not very conducive to traffic.
We also talked our families. The driver mentioned how proud he was of his two children, both engineers. He asked if my parents were worried that I was so far away. I told him that I keep in contact with them regularly though WhatsApp.
From family we shifted our conversation to politics. The driver gave me a primer on Indian politics. He remind me that Prime Minister is Narendra Modi. I told him that Modi was coming to the US very soon for a meeting with President Trump. We also discussed differences in our currencies. I told him about the uniformity in color and size of US dollars. We also discussed the value of our currencies. I informed him that one US dollar is equivalent 64.5 Indian Rupees. I gave the driver a dollar that I had on hand as a gesture of goodwill.
As the cab pulled up to the science museum, I thanked the driver for his conversation and company. As we went our separate ways I thought about how appreciative I was for the opportunity to talk with a complete stranger and discuss various small topics such as traffic, cars, family that we all can relate to no matter where we live. These topics that we can all relate strengthen the common bonds of humanity. This conversation with the driver only reinforced my belief that people no matter where they reside are more similar than they might think.