I had been in Bangalore for 10 days, locked inside my hotel room, working non-stop on the website. I only came out to get food once per-day or to visit Todd & Lauren from GlobeTrooper.com. I had originally only planned to stay for about 5-7 days max but it was taking me longer to get everything fixed on the site then I had expected and I was trying to catch up on some writing.
I was writing the “Getting Stoned With Cesar Baba” post and looking on Google for a photo of him to use in the article. To my surprise there was only one real photo and it was on Flickr. I saw that the guy who posted the photograph had copyrights on it, so I went to his profile to see if he had any contact information. He had a website and a contact form, so I decided to shoot him an email and ask permission to use the photo in the article I was writing, assuring him I would give credit back. I was just about to send the email off when I noticed the he lived and worked in Bangalore. I’m in Bangalore, he’s in Bangalore… hummmm, cool!
I shot him the email asking for permission and if he were in town it would be cool to meet up with another photographer and talk shop for an afternoon or something. To my surprise he emailed me back that morning, as I figured it would take a week to get back with me if ever, with him stating “No problem on the photo, if you need a bigger copy let me know and I will email it to you” and that he’d like to meet up as well. We exchanged emails several times but I had a little problem. The hotel I was staying in was busting my budget to hell and I had planned to leave the next day for a different city because so. I had already stayed way longer then planned and although the Internet was great I couldn’t stay in Bangalore forever, as it was costing me twice my daily budget just for the hotel room.
Amazement #1: Couch Surfing Offer
Joseph Cairns was the guy and he emailed me back saying it would be ok to meet that evening or Saturday morning sometime, whatever worked best for me. I quickly picked that evening as it worked perfect, as I would just take a late bus over to the new city I was going to, thus checking out that day at the hotel. All was good until Joseph emailed back and said he had some unexpected work he needed to do that evening and wouldn’t be able to meet. Damn I thought, would have been great to meet a photographer while here in India but maybe it’s just wasn’t in the deck of cards. To my surprise he said he felt bad and that he wanted to meet up some way, some how but understood I was planning on leaving because Bangalore is expensive. He suggested I check out of my hotel and stay a night at his home. That way I didn’t have to spend wasted money for an expensive hotel room and we could hang out all day Saturday, him showing me around and we both shooting photographs.
I totally didn’t expect that and it kind of took me back. Here I was the one asking him for permission to use a photo and now I’m being invited into this home. I didn’t want to be rude and say no but at the same time I didn’t want to impose either. He said he had asked his wife and they both agreed it was ok, so I agreed in the end, as one night hopefully wouldn’t put them out much.
Amazement #2: Chauffeured Ride
I checked out of my hotel the next morning and Joseph even sent his driver to pick me up at the hotel to take me to his place. This guy has a chauffeur! I’m on my way with the driver and Joseph calls the driver to speak to me. He asked if everything was good and if I was hungry at all. Anyone who knows me knows I’m not much of a breakfast fan but said I could eat a little. He asked me what I liked and I said anything was fine for me.
Amazement #3: Private Room with Bath
I get to his place and was expecting a nice little spot on a couch or something and not the large private bedroom with private bathroom that he offered me. This room was nicer then the hotel room I had before. We instantly started talking about photography as soon as I walked in. I showed him my camera gear, what I use and liked.
Joseph is a Brit that has a company in Bangalore that headhunts for the gaming industry. He’s been in this line of work for some years and has been living in Bangalore the last four years. He’s married and expecting a child soon. It should be noted that his wife was Miss Asia Pacific. He does photography but only when he can. It’s a passion not a living for him. Oh and he’s really tall (like 6’5” tall). His photography studio is in his home, which I thought was the coolest thing ever.
Amazement #4: Pasta to Die For
The food shows up and he had ordered me a large pasta dish with bread on the side. I love pasta and been missing it a little in India. Don’t get me wrong, the curry dishes have been great but I was just getting a little tired of it after eating it non-stop the last month. While eating, we talked about what I wanted to see in Bangalore and what I wanted to shoot photographs of; I said I was down for whatever.
Amazement #5: Private Tour of The City
He decided to take me to the downtown of Bangalore and show me all the new modern architecture. We go to the UB City Mall that has all the nicest shops in town, as he wanted to get me some aerial views of Bangalore. At the top of the mall is a hotel with a rooftop pool perfect for this he said. Joseph tells the lady at reception a little white lie so we could have access to the pool (even though were not guest of the hotel) and it worked. We even had a lady escort us around and show us the whole complex. Was a nice feeling getting access to such a swank place, especially in India where there’s not as many nice hotels, like in Europe for example. Afterwards, he thinks he can get me a better view from the rooftop bar there, so we go up even higher. He works his magic again and they allow is in on the condition we didn’t shoot any photos of the bar, just the views over the city. “This is getting better and better every minute” I think!
We finally finish up there, and he takes me to the famous Cubbon Park, which is comparable to Central Park in New York City, then to a famous street that has neon signs and lots of foot traffic around. We decided we had better get back to the house as it was going to start to rain any minute and we were both happy with the shots we had gotten so far… well at least I was anyways. Hell I was just happy that someone was taking the time to show me around a city for once, for no reason other then he wanted to. Meeting people like Joseph is what traveling is all about and goes to show you that the world is big but it’s people like him that make it great.
Amazement #6: Private Driver & Beers
We get back to his house and I start downloading my photos to my computer. All day Joseph had been on the phone but I got the impression he’s that type because of his job but some were just him calling friends to ask them what they were doing tonight. Once back at the place he said he was going to take me out tonight with his local friends and show me a side of India I probably hadn’t seen on the backpacker trail yet. I didn’t fully appreciate what he meant by that till later.
We hung out at his house for a few hours drinking beer, while random friends start showing up. Joseph was anxious to get moving to a certain bar, so we all loaded up and left the house. I rode with one of his friends to the bar who had a private vehicle with a driver. We talked about India and at some point we stop, the driver gets out and were sitting there. I’m not sure what is going on but then the driver gets back in behind the wheel and hands the guy and me, in the backseat, a beer. Wow, I could so get used to this!
Amazement #7: Sushi After Three Months
We get to the UB City Mall and find the restaurant bar called Shiros. It’s times like this that I’m thankful that I carry one pair of nice jeans with a good shirt, as everyone in this place was dressed to the 9’s. I walk in and Joseph is sitting at the bar with the rest of the group. He’s waving me over and I see he is holding something in his hands. I can’t quit make it out and he raises it higher and smiles, it’s chopsticks and where there’s chopsticks there’s sushi! I get to the bar and my mouth is watering, just looking at that sushi. I had briefly mentioned to Joseph earlier that day, that I would kill for some sushi but was finding it almost impossible to find any in India. He remembered and had ordered it just for me basically! He quickly asks me what I want to drink but I’m so fixated on the sushi I don’t care, so he says, “You look like a Vodka Redbull type of guy, yeah?” Man this guy is my new hero, that I didn’t tell him!
Amazement #8: Partying Bollywood Style
We hang out for a few drinks while more of his friends show up. One friend, Vinay Rai, was an actor in Thamil movies, which is basically like Bollywood except the movies are in Tamil language and not Hindi. He was super laid back, cool and he might have been very well the first star I had met in India. We finish the drinks and move up to the Skyye Bar that we had visited that afternoon. Vinay leads the group and because he’s so famous the bouncers just let us in and we don’t have to pay the high cover entry either. VIP access with actors is something most backpackers don’t get to enjoy. Again, as soon as were inside, someone asks me what I’m drinking. I tell them I had a Vodka Redbull before and before I could say, “Let me buy this round” Joseph was off getting me one. I step out on the terrace and have a smoke and Vinay comes out with me. I’m asking him questions about the movie business while watching the most gorgeous women I have seen in India walk by. Every five minutes someone is walking up and saying hello to Vinay. Afterwards he would turn and tell me that it was some important guy in Bangalore to know. I didn’t have a clue who they were but I was shaking hands with India’s most elite.
We walk back inside the club and Joseph introduces me to friend of his that’s a model, named Marie. Knockdown dead gorgeous doesn’t describe her, so I just posted a photo instead. We hang out in the club for several drinks before finally deciding to move to another place. Skyye Bar in Bangalore is a must visit just because it’s the only club I have been to that was open air at such a high level. Views of the city there at night are perfect!
We leave there and this time I ride with Vinay to the next bar called Toit. We actually get into a serious conversation about India and what it’s becoming and Vinay views on the subject were very insightful, well thought out. I don’t want to discredit him because he’s an actor but I was surprised some. We finally get to the bar just as their about to stop serving and Vinay is able to influence the bar tender into giving us a round because the bartender knew him from the movies. Partying with actors is coming in handy when needing something. Funny thing though, Vinay doesn’t drink alcohol but still was cool with helping us get drinks.
We close the bar down and end up going to someone else’s house party. We stay there till 2am and finally call it a night. If you know anything about India, that is late night partying because everything pretty much closes at 11pm for the most part.
The next morning I’m dead tired and can’t seem to get myself up. I hadn’t clubbed that hard in a long time or in that style. Joseph went so far out of the way to show me Bangalore and I don’t think I paid for a thing the whole night. Before I could finish a drink, someone had another one waiting for me, before I could say I was hungry there was food that magically appeared. I have before in the past when working, bought drinks, paid a tour for someone, to giving a person a place to crash for other travelers just because I knew how it is to be traveling long term. It was great to actually be awarded back the favors I had given out before, as Joseph told me “Hey man, I love what your doing. Getting to travel the world, doing it cheaply, seeing things you want. I miss backpacking but now that I’m married and older I can’t do it as much but I know what it means to be a backpacker. I just wanted to show you a good time, a different side to India and hook you up for a night. I hope you had a good time man!” Wow, I had to admire that and hope to repay the favor some day to another traveler.
So through 7 degrees of separation (well actually it was 5: I met the French guy in Hampi, who led me to Big Boss, to the fake Cesar Baba, to the actual Cesar Baba, to finding Joseph’s photo on the Internet), that I had one of the best nights in India to date. I met actors to models, ate sushi to die for, grooved at the nicest clubs in Bangalore, saw a whole new side of a city and made a new friend. If this isn’t a reason to travel I don’t think I could give a better case for it.
Below are some of Josephs photographs. He does some creative stuff! Check out his website and look around. Some prints are for sale as well.