India exerts such a pull on me that when I return, it takes me about a month to really get out of India. From the time I step out of the airport in Chennai into the 1:45 a.m. heat, see my husband's brothers patiently waiting amidst the throng of other families meeting arrivals, then ride in the careening taxi along Chennai streets until we reach the house, where my kind sisters-in-law greet us with rich strong Indian coffee, I feel a sense of homecoming that lingers all through our visit.
This trip was busier than most. In addition to our visits with relatives, about 3 days were devoted to the reunion of my husband's graduation class from engineering college, and an earlier fourth day was set aside to meet old college friends he had not seen for years. There's no way I can cover the whole three-week trip in one blog, so I'll try to spread it into a few blogs, knowing that even that cannot do it justice.
As a quick prelude,let me just say that India is a land of contrasts: Extreme poverty flanks great wealth. Ancient temples and shrines provide a backdrop for modern hotels and restaurants. Vegetable wagons and ox-drawn carts travel alongside tour buses and oil trucks. Small kiosks display wares along the street next to bigger businesses lit with neon signs. Billboards are everywhere. In the bustling city of Chennai, everyone seems on the way to somewhere. A liveliness of spirit pervades the atmosphere. Yet, woven through it all is an abiding spirituality, an attitude of dignity, a warm friendliness, and the incredibly gracious Hindu hospitality.
I have been fortunate enough to travel many places, and I appreciate each culture I encounter. I love our home and life in Sacramento. But India permeates my heart and psyche like no other place. Right now, when I close my eyes, I see again the bright saris patterned like butterfly wings, hear the cacaphonious sypmphony of traffic and the rise and fall of Tamil voices, see the banana palms and mango trees, hear the strange repeating call of the Indian cuckoo, taste again the incredible treats cooked by my nieces and sisters-in-law, and I am transported all over again, despite the chill, pale Sacramento afternoon outside my window.
Tomorrow I'll mention our trip to the Rock Fort Temple in Tiruchirapali.