Travel India: It's never a bore in Bangalore

Jethro Tull was playing on the jukebox, and the pina coladas were served without alcohol - but even that couldn't spoil a first date in this beautiful Indian city.
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The Independent Culture
"SURELY YOU must come to Bangalore, Claire, it is the most beautiful city in India," my Indian uncle had said. "My most best friend, Shashi, lives there." As we drove through the tree-lined avenues, I could see what he meant. Although Bangalore is the fifth-largest city in India and clean air is not the main ingredient of life, the city is lively and full of colour.

That evening I waited in the hotel reception to meet the others but only my uncle's "most best friend", the doctor, arrived. Apparently the rest were "all very sick indeed" but, of course, Shashi and I must go without them. It was my last night in India and I wasn't about to spend it watching the hotel film channel.

We set off for a drive in his little Maruti car (quite the vehicle these days in urban south India). But I realised things weren't going too well between us after our fourth drive past the Vidhana Soudha, an imposing, neo-Dravidian-style building.

I was growing frustrated. I had heard tales of exciting nights out; bars with impossibly loud music and chilled Kingfisher beer. Noting my discontent, Shashi made a suggestion: "We could check out Purple Haze." With a surprising glint in his eye we were off, roaring down Residency Road.

The bar was furnished in a manner true to a plush American diner. The sound system looked as though it was a refugee from the 1970 Isle of Wight pop festival, and uncannily pumped out exactly the same music: Jethro Tull and The Doors. The mainly male crowd mouthed the words in unison, throwing their heads back to wild air guitar. As I ordered a pina colada, the waiter whispered to ask me if I wanted any alcohol in it.

"That's the idea," I screeched. His curly moustache twitched disapprovingly.

Somehow the deafening music had broken the ice and Shashi and I began to chat freely. As we climbed into the car again I asked if we should be wary of traffic police. It was Shashi's turn to laugh at my naivety.

We stopped in at Airlines on Lavelle Road for drive-in coffee. As tinted- windowed cars thumped loud music all around, it seemed that Bangalore was beginning to get going.

"So where to now?" I giggled.

Shashi glanced sternly at his gold watch.

"Now you must go back, it's better for you. You must get some rest." So, like Cinderella, I was back at the hotel before I knew it. The line of receptionists nudged and winked as Shashi and I shook hands on the steps. As I closed the door of my hotel room I realised two things: I had never been on such a formal date, and I had rarely had such a pleasant first-date experience.

The next morning a package was waiting for me at reception - a compilation tape of his favourite music, from Shashi.

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