Modern Bangalore

Trip Start May 05, 2008
Trip End May 09, 2009

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Flag of India  , Karnataka,
Friday, January 2, 2009

Bangalore is the IT city, in more ways than one, the new face of modern India and we were curious to see it. What we found was a city of contradictions, where the hallmarks of a modern city: large avenues, fancy condo buildings, shopping malls and skyscrapers are found side by side with the same old problems of India: the same greedy rickshaw guys, the same garbage everywhere, and more of those beggars with gold nose-rings which swear at you when you refuse to give them money. We stayed here for two days and did a bit of shopping (when you constantly get screwed by small shop vendors, shopping malls can seem like a god-send). We also had probably the worst hotel experience on our trip. Bangalore is a city of expensive hotels oriented towards businessmen, so even its crummy hotels are overpriced. We stayed in a place which came very close to scraping the absolute bottom of what we are prepared to accept in terms of standards of cleanliness. This however was not the biggest problem, which occured at checkout. Tavi was discussing the balance to be paid with the hotel attendant, an old muslim in shalwar kameez, knitted white cap and long white beard.
This is what the conversation should have been like: Tavi- "So I owe you the balance for 2 nights?" Attendant "No, it is actually 3 nights - this is 24hr check-in and you stayed an extra 4 hours" T- "Nobody informed us of what the terms of 24 hour checkout mean: there's no signs anywhere, nor did your staff tell us anything at any time" A-"I understand you come from a different place where the rules may be differenct and we made a mistake by not telling you. You also only stayed for a few extra hours. But you will have to pay a penalty of a half-day" T- "That sounds fair"    
This is how the conversation actually went: Tavi- "So I owe you the balance for 2 nights?" Attendant "No, it is actually 3 nights - this is 24hr check-in and you stayed an extra 4 hours" T- "Nobody informed us of what the terms of 24 hour checkout mean: there's no signs anywhere, nor did your staff tell us anything at any time" A (yelling) "3 Nights! Gimme the money!" T - "It doesn't seem fair to pay for 24 hours when we stayed for 4, when your hotel failed to properly display or tell us the rules. I didn't sign anything binding either. I will give you the money for 2 and a half nights." A (yelling and slamming fists on desk) "You set no rules! Who is the boss here?!" T (also yelling and slamming fists) "I am. I am the customer. I pay you for a service, hence I am your employer. You should pay attention to what the customer wants!" A (turning purple and yelling at top of lungs) "I have dealt with hundreds of customers like you!" T - "If hundreds of people complained, then maybe you have a problem. It's just not fair!" At this point, several employees, all muslim men looking like younger versions of the attendant surrounded us. One of them said "I have listened to the conversation and you should be educated (with much emphasis on this word) enough to know what 24hr checkout means" T- "Don't talk to me about education. I don't even want to get dragged into that one, but I've been to hundreds of hotels in 25 countries and I've never come across a hotel like this" A (yelling at the top of the lungs "You should be educated to know what the rules are. Gimme the money!" At this point, Virginia was getting nervous at the dozen people surrounding us and tugged Tavi's hand. Tavi (turning as purple as the attendant) "I have never been treated like this by any hotel. Here's your stinking money (counts some money). You will hear about this on the Internet!". Leaves amongst the jeers and swears in several languages of the employees.
This is quite interesting when you consider it. On the one hand, you have the North American, with the "customer is always right attitude", who is upset at having to pay without ever having been informed of what the rules were. On the other hand, you have the Indian, convinced that A) Americans are stupid and uneducated (you should have heard the tone of voice when they said educated); B) The customer is wrong and has the responsibility of always conforming by the rules which are set in stone, even when the rules are not written anywhere. India used to be (and still is to a large extent), a very bureaucratic state modeled upon the Soviet Union (its Cold War ally), and the resulting attitudes are still widespread, even in one of its newly capitalist metropolis such as Bangalore is. The other thing is an inherent tension and a certain inferiority complex. Since we've been here, we saw several headlines proclaiming India's superiority in education over the West and this incident further confirms my suspicion that Indians view the average westerner as uneducated and simply lucky to be born in a country which became wealthy as a result of colonialism. From the rickshaw drivers to shop owners, many Indians treat westerners as if they understand nothing and they are simply cows to be milked of as much money as possible. They often adopt a subservient attitude to mask this, which can confuse westerners as to their attitudes on life and on the West. The situation creates an updated form of racism for the 21st century, where the modern rhetoric gives way to a great rift of miscommunication between the two civilization. As the new Indian dream has risen on the ashes of the old caste system, money is more important than ever for Indians and Indian society is as materialistic (or more) as the West. Money therefore is at the root of the great rift of miscommunication and will only continue to deepen as India moves on its path to modernity.
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