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!)
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