Surrendering to India – Lesson One

By alison - May 23, 2011 (Updated: November 21, 2014)

This entry is part 4 of 10 in the series Incredible India.
Sound OK Horn

Sound OK Horn

“This guy could kill us, take all of our stuff, dump us and no one would ever find our bodies.” Even while saying this to Andrew, in the back of our cab, I was oddly zen about the whole situation.  Andrew merely nodded in agreement. He too was decidedly blasé about our impending doom.

We had arrived in Bangalore, in the wee hours of the morning. The flight from Brussels, via Frankfurt wasn’t bad. In fact, we both managed to get a bit of sleep. In retrospect the naps probably only added to our groggy states. However, it was our quest to find our friends’ house, on the other side of the sprawling city, which threw us for a loop.

Bangalore airport is modern and quite well organised. Although it was busy, we found our driver quite easily and loaded our bags into the trunk. We clambered into the back seats and attempted to fasten our seat-belts. There were none.

Welcome to India. Surrender to your fate.

It was 3 am and the highway from the airport to the city centre was fairly quiet, at least by Indian standards. Even so, we swerved between trucks, cars, buses and two-wheeled vehicles of every shape, size and state of repair. Our driver that night was not a furious honker, or so I learned after many more Indian cab rides, but it certainly seemed like a lot of noise for that time of night.

Normally not a calm passenger, it was almost as if it was all too much for my brain, and nerves, to deal with. I was blissfully calm and didn’t once touch my invisible break.

Despite the late (or early) hour, there were still people out and about. We passed men selling goods on the roadside and construction works that seemed to go around the clock. Our necks were sore from looking from one side of the road to the other. We didn’t want to miss a thing.

We had been warned the trip to our friends’ flat was a long one, still, once we turned off the highway, we assumed we must be nearly there. An hour had passed and although the roads were getting progressively smaller and less, well, road-like, we still didn’t seem to be anywhere near our destination.

After slowly bumping our way through what seemed like a tiny village, we found ourselves in a moonscape. The ‘road’ disintegrated into a series of potholes, some of which I’m sure had swallowed some of the local cows. It was pitch dark and the road was lined with trees on both sides.

It was then it occurred to me we had absolutely no idea where we were. We had placed all of our trust in this one, small, Indian cab driver.

Seconds after making my comment to Andrew, we saw signs of civilization and our driver turned into a set of gates. Immediately several guards swarmed the car and started shouting at our driver, who angrily shouted back and jumped from the car. Realising we were still sitting confused in the back seat, he popped his head back in and said with a huge smile “please wait.”

While he and the guards duked it out, Andrew and I looked at each other and laughed. At the time we had no idea this would be only one of many such incidents, in India – events which could have made us very worried, but in the end worked out perfectly. It was simply our first lesson in surrendering to India.

Our driver jumped back in the car and we zoomed around the compound. Seconds later we saw the smiling face of our friend Arvi.

We had arrived. Let the adventure begin.

Bangalore, India

By the light of day… The road we should have taken

NOTE: We learned later, our driver had gotten a bit lost. The ‘moonscape road’ had actually been totally torn up in order to lay new water pipes and wasn’t being used. Our friends had a good laugh when we told them how we arrived at their place. They showed us the actual route to their house the next morning by the light of day.

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Big Cheese at CheeseWeb
Alison Cornford-Matheson is a Canadian freelance writer and travel photographer and the founder of She is the author of The Foodie Guide to Brussels: Local Tips for Restaurants, Shops, Hotels, and Activities. Alison landed in Belgium in 2005 and, over the years, has become passionate about slow and sustainable travel, in Europe and beyond. She loves to discover hidden gems - be they museums, shops, restaurants, castles, gardens or landscapes, and share them through her words and photos. She has visited 45 countries and is currently slow travelling through North America in an RV, with her husband, Andrew, and two well-travelled cats. You can also follow her work on Google+
One of my biggest goals in coming back to my home province was to learn as much as I could about our First... - 5 days ago


  1. Comment by paris (im)perfect

    paris (im)perfect May 23, 2011 at 12:55

    Wow, what an adventure! I’ve heard so many times that India is such an experience. Can’t really prepare for it – you just have to go!

    • Comment by Alison


      Alison May 23, 2011 at 13:35

      You definitely can not prepare for India. I certainly tried but nothing compares to actually being there. I also think everyone’s experience of the country is completely different. You just have to go and be open 🙂

  2. Comment by wandering educators

    wandering educators May 26, 2011 at 01:39

    love this! you were REALLY calm…

    • Comment by Alison


      Alison May 26, 2011 at 09:15

      Haha, sooo not normal for me 🙂 I think I must have been in a state of shock or just very jet-lagged!

  3. Comment by Unexpected Traveller

    Unexpected Traveller May 27, 2011 at 18:35

    I’m not sure I’d have been able to keep as calm as you did .. but perhaps you’d have to in India, by the sounds of it!

    • Comment by Alison


      Alison June 7, 2011 at 19:03

      Keep Calm and carry on 😉

  4. Comment by Bluegreen Kirk

    Bluegreen Kirk June 7, 2011 at 18:03

    Its funny because you sound like my wife when we go some place that unfamiliar. The whole time I hear about what if this and that. Its funny though that the taxi driver got a little lost but luckily you found your way.

    • Comment by Alison


      Alison June 7, 2011 at 19:04

      Actually despite my comment, the whole point was that I really wasn’t worried. It was an odd feeling for me 🙂

  5. Pingback: What to see in Bangalore India | Expat Life in Belgium, Travel and Photography | CheeseWeb

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