Monday, March 5, 2012

India—Part One, Bangalore

You can see a picture of a banyan tree on Wikipedia at this site. (We took cameras, but kept forgetting to use them.) You see banyan trees in both Bangalore and in Chennai. I like to call a banyan tree "the tree where one tree makes a whole forest".

The dog is well again! The student art show is on display (which deserves a post of its own, one of these days.) And now, at last, India. 

It's hard to believe that two weeks ago Saturday afternoon we were driving home from the San Francisco airport after about twenty-three hours spent either in a plane or waiting for one. And that two weeks before that we were being met at the airport in Bangalore by our nephew after a similar flight. (No wonder we were so jet-lagged!)

We have grown nieces and nephews (with families) and a sister-in-law in Bangalore. During two earlier trips to Chennai (formerly Madras), we had not been able to include Bangalore in our visits. So Bangalore was our first stop this time. Our nephew, Ashok met us at the airport at 5:00 a.m. We stayed with him and his family, and had a wonderful visit with him, his wife, Gayatri, their two children, Rohan and Tarun, and our sister-in-law, Malathi. And also the family dog, Caesar, a 90-pound golden labrador who longs to be a lap dog. I miss them all already! Here's a picture of us all -- minus Caesar: 

On the very first day (Sunday) I also met up a writer friend I met online a little over two years ago, Rachna Chhabria. We had exchanged copies of our books and have followed each other's blogs, and she was a great help to me in navigating aspects of FaceBook. She teaches creative writing at Mount Carmel College. 

Her blog,  Rachna's Scriptorium, always has interesting insights and good advice about writing.  It was a pleasure to meet her in person. Here we are, sitting on a log in Cubbon Park, pondering the hopes and frustrations of writing.

Later in the day, the family left for a graduation ceremony for Rohan's class, twelfth standard. We stayed home, and another niece, Priya, and her husband Balajit came over for a visit. We caught up on news of their two grown children and enjoyed the treats Priya brought — pumpkin Halva and a savory snack called "ribbon" because of the dough's ribbon shape as it is forced through a slat, then deep-fried. (Again, I am waiting for her to send pictures that I can post.)

On Monday, we visited our niece, Nirmala, her mother (Rajan's sister, Pattu, who also has two sons with families in Chennai. Pattu is a much-in-demand grandmother in three households.) We had last seen Nirmala's son, Murari, in California, where he was working on a project, but he is back in Bangalore now. Once again, we forgot our cameras, but luckily Murari took pictures and sent them. 

Malathi had come with us, so it was nice catch-up time for sisters-in-law. Here we all are after a wonderful lunch prepared by Nirmala and Pattu. (Rajan's family is full of wonderful cooks, and every time we visit, I return home with a new batch of recipes.)

Tuesday we had originally planned to travel by car to Belur and Halibid, two awesome temples dating back to the twelfth century and the Hoysala Dynasty. Well, jet lag was kicking in and we changed our minds. We would have had get up at 6:00 a.m. to be ready for a four-and-a-half-hour trip each way with about two hours at each temple, and we probably would be wanting to sleep at the crucial times when we should be admiring the sculptures. So, we passed on the trip, deciding that in a future trip we'll actually take lodgings close by and spend two days there so that we can truly enjoy it. We did take this trip together with family members about twenty years ago, before we had digital cameras; and about forty years ago my husband had taken a bus trip to the temples and taken several black and white photos. To give you some idea of the stunning beauty of the sculptural work, you can go to this website:  You'll see why we want to go again and get images of our own.

But we were glad to stay home with Gayatri and Malathi and rest up from the trip. Ashok was at work; Tarun was at school, and Rohan was studying for his finals. I had time to write down a slew of recipes. And we shopped at a fabulous handicraft store on MG Road (MG for Mahatma Gandhi) for souvenirs to bring home. 

Wednesday was our last day in Bangalore. We went with Gayatri to the movies at a huge shopping mall on a street near MG Road. Afterwards Gayatri and I went clothes shopping at a six-story department store while Rajan had coffee and a nice visit with one of his classmates from engineering college that he made contact with again two years ago when we went to his Golden Jubilee Class Reunion.

A few words about Bangalore itself. The first time I saw it, I was struck by all the beautiful trees and flowering bushes. In fact, it has been referred to in the past as a "garden city". But, in recent years, it has become a sort of "Silicon Valley" due to the boom in digital technology. (Almost all of my nieces and nephews in India have computer-related businesses and projects.) There has been a population influx, and the city has had a hard time expanding roads and infrastructures fast enough to accommodate it. Lots of trees have been cut down to make way for wider streets or new buildings. Still, beautiful trees abound, even if they are not as plentiful as before. The day we went to the movies, we rode in on a local "rapid transit" train. The section we rode was elevated, so you really had a sense, looking out the window, of riding through treetops. And the trees in India are amazing: Banyan, Bottle Brush, the pink-blooming Tabebuia Rosea, the yellow-blooming Tabebuia Argentea. (Clici on the sites to see them.)

We spent a last quiet evening at home enjoying the family, playing board games and talking. And then we went to the train station to catch the 11:00 p.m. night-train to Chennai. It was sad to say goodbye, even while feeling excited about the next part of our journey. 

As for the night train itself: We were in a sleeper car with four bunks with curtains providing privacy. We preferred to share the bottom bunk, head to toe, and store our bags on the top bunk, looking out the window until we were tired enough to sleep. I have always had a thing about trains, and my first long train ride was the trip from Chennai to Tiruchirapalli, again, by night, nearly thirty years ago. On that ride, too, I was more interested in looking out the window at the silhouetted landscape flowing by than in sleeping. But this time, I actually did doze off until we rolled into the station in Chennai at 4:00 a.m. And what a difference! It was pleasantly cool in Bangalore when we entered the train. We stepped off the train into a surrounding heat. 

Almost as soon as we set our bags on the platform, Rajan's eldest brother, Ranganathan, and Ravi, Nirmala's husband, who is working in Chennai and goes home on week-ends, greeted us and picked up our bags. Then we set off for the waiting car and the trip home to Virugambakkam, the name for their district, since Chennai is so spread out.

Stay tuned for India, Part Two—Chennai


Richard said...

I've wanted to visit India for a long time, but doubt I ever will. So give us all the flavor of it you can.

Alleged Author said...

So glad your doggie is well again! And that banyan tree can inspire a story all by itself, can't it?

Joanna said...

I too am glad your dog is better.

I LOVED reading about all your experiences with family in and around Bangalore.. It brought back many memories. While I don't know Bangalore well, I do know New Dehli, Calcutta and the Himalayan Foothills.

How wonderful to have the opportunity to meet up with Rachna Chhabria!

Of course, you have now made me hungry for some authentic homemade Indian food!

Nick Wilford said...

That sounds like an amazing trip. I would love to go. Lucky to have family there too. I've tagged you at my blog if you have time!

Rachna Chhabria said...

Hi Elizabeth, it was great to meet you and discuss our writing and publishing journeys. Am glad that you had a wonderful trip and a lovely memories that will stay with you for a long time.

DeniseCovey_L_Aussie said...

This is wonderful Elizabeth. I loved hearing about your trip and India itself. Silicone valley, huh? No doubt, seeing India is such a big player in the technology revolution.


Cynthia Chapman Willis said...

I'm so glad your dog is better! And it sounds like you had a wonderful trip to India.

Elizabeth Varadan aka Mrs. Seraphina said...

Richard, I'll do my best. Your mentioning "flavors" brings back all those great meals I had during our visit! :-)

Alleged, I agree. To me there is something mystical about a banyan tree. It's just amazing to see one.

Joanna, lucky you to travel all those places. I still have yet to get to the places in India you've traveled. We have friends in Delhi, and are hoping one day to visit them.

Nick, thanks for the visit, and thanks for tagging me. It'll be awhile before I can pass on the tag, but that was so nice. As for having family in India, it does make the visits very special indeed. We usually do one touristy thing only, and then the rest is actually really living there for two weeks, which always leaves me saturated with India and it lingers with me a long time afterward.

Rachna, it was such a pleasure for me, too, to meet in person. And have pictures of the event. :-)

Hi, Denise, nice to see you here. Thanks for visiting and commenting. Hope your writing project for April goes well.

Cynthia, thanks for the good wishes about Cezar. Yes, it was a trip to treasure, to say the least.

Julia Hones said...

Elizabeth: Thanks so much for sharing your stories and pictures. I am enjoying your trip from my desk. Fascinating!

Emily R. King said...

This doesn't just sound like it was a trip, it sounds like it was a journey you will never forget! : )

Anonymous said...

I'm so jealous that you got to meet Rachna! She is a dear bloggy friend. Thanks for sharing your trip with us!

Elizabeth Varadan aka Mrs. Seraphina said...

Julia, I'm glad you are enjoying the journey via your desk. There is more to come!

Emily, yes, it's always a journey to remember. India gets inside one! You don't just visit.

Anonymous, yes, it was a real pleasure to meet Rachna after corresponding so many years and being on the same writers' journey.

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Medha P said...

hi dear very nice blog, planning to spend your weekend in a different way the you must visit bandipur
and also the nearby place br hills resorts