2006: India Trip – Return Journey

All in all, although I felt severe shortage of time sometimes, this trip to India was a pretty good one. Attending the Cochin Conference, visiting schools/institutions I studied in, talking to my teachers, hanging out with friends, roaming in/around/outside of Bangalore, seeing places that I had never seen before in my life, seeing people that I had only known via their email-ids, making lot more new friends, shooting tons (and tons) of pictures (over 4000 of them in about 30 days to be approximately precise) and doing somethings I was long wanting to do and such… At the same time, I didn’t find enough time to meet everyone I wanted to meet, visit all places I wanted to visit and do everything else I wanted to do either… This four-line poem describes, in short, as to how a moment turns into eternity.

kShaNavonde anantakAla tAnAguvudu
anubhavake sattva shiva sundaragaLamare |
mana tumbushashiyAgi, nenapamrutavAguvudu
kShaNadoLakShaya kANO – mankutimma ||
— DVG, 445

A moment becomes eternal in itself
When truth, beauty and God combine with experience |
Mind becomes full-moon, memory becomes ambrosia
See the infinity in the moment – Dim Tim ||

Amount of change India has undergone, especially Bangalore (that’s the only city I am qualified to, I guess, talk about), in the last four years was a bit too much to handle for me. During my roaming arounds, I did see significant improvements in certain aspects – such as better roads (mostly outside the city limits which are getting better), private construction of Nandini Infrastructure Corridor, better living conditions for some sections of the society (it’s not uncommon to find just about anybody with a cell phone; most of them have a car or two), day-pass system in local transportation system, efficient advanced booking centers for state transportation spread all around the town, renovated reservoirs and parks, heightened level of courtesy/politeness amongst certain class of officials/bus conductors/auto drivers,… and many such. At the same time, there are other sections of the society whose standard of living has remained the same or has gone down – in relative terms, state of the roads within the city limits (in most areas) is faaaar below decency, there is traffic and there are rules but traffic doesn’t follow any rules, pollution is beating its own previous day record and such… I had to resort to wild life (style) to convince my mom about her city’s pollution and Houghton’s nearly crystal-clear air… Worst of all, not knowing Kannada used to be a sufficient condition to live in Bangalore four years ago, but now it has become a necessary condition. Most people, at least I talked to in many areas, just assumed that I did not know Kannada and/or they just felt inferior speaking that language. Pitiful state considering the fact that this language has the maximum number of Jnanapeetha awards…

There were some embarrassing situations that /me was part of, couple of them that I remember now – both happening on the first Sunday of my stay in M G Road. First off, I hadn’t checked my mail in about 40 hours and I called Surya to know if he knew of any Cyber Cafe in the neighborhood. He did not answer but sent me an SMS saying that he was in a class and that I would be better off asking people around about Sify. All I wanted to do was send a return SMS to Surya about something and I just couldn’t figure out how to send it. After managing to compose the message, I asked couple youngsters walking along to help me send the message — one of them starts to stare at me, top to bottom (thinking if it was some cranky show with hidden cameras) and the other asks me, Where are you from? /me politely answers, Michigan, USA. The staring guy starts to laugh out, in a sarcastic tone, sending out the obvious message but finally helps me send the message. That’s how yours-truly learnt to send SMS.

The second one was even more embarrassing. I was walking along the same M G Road same day, only a few hours later and having lived in the wish, re-wish society for four years, I was trying to wish everyone who passes me with a smile and a nodding head. When I did this to a bunch of three other youngsters, I noticed some concern on their face. Couple steps later, I pause and turn around, only to hear one of them saying bechara, pagla dikhta he (translating to English, it means Poor chap, looks lunatic) and the other two nodded in consent. Well, that was the last time I wished some one on the street…

Given that my parents (and their computer) still live in Store Age (Kallina Yuga instead of Kali Yuga, lol), following is nothing short of an achievement, at least I think so. In about 10 days that I was actually in Bangalore and in about 5 such days I stayed in-house, I managed to convince them to upgrade themselves, in terms of technology, etc. As usual, /me started off with the disadvantages of the other operating system (and its so called free products), then explained to them the cool features of Linux, convinced them that Internet wasn’t actually waste of time/money with an assurance that I could be their remote sys-admin if they did get internet. Hard to believe? check out the pictures below :)

Amount of travel I did (locally within the city and otherwise) gave me plenty of time to read much more than I thought I would. All the books I read were bought from Ankita Pustaka, in BasavanaguDi (don’t know where it is located? It’s a little shop in the basement/cellar floor, located only few steps from the BasavanaguDi BTS bus stop; books aren’t expensive as these guys do much of the publishing too) and spanned humour to biographical accounts to serious novel. They have been doing a terrific job as far as publishing books and publicizing them is concerned. First of the five books I read was gAmpara gumpu (by dAsharathi deekshit) – hilariously hilarious work about 5 dumb students and their teacher. There was more than one occasion when, while in some form of public transit, I started laughing out so loud that others around me thought /me was mad. But the ending (of the book) seemed rather disappointing but a short time later, I realized that there was a Part 2 for it. maraLi maThakke wasn’t as hilarious as first part but concentrated on some relatively serious topics and provided a decent ending to lot of things left open earlier…

Couple of biographical accounts I read (these are not exactly biographical accounts but more of memorable quotes and events) were about T P KailAsam (tyAgarAja paramashiva kailAsam; Kailasam joksu songsu by B S Keshava Rao) and beechi (beechi: bulletsu bombsu bhagavadgeete by B S Keshava Rao). I was (and still am) disgusted with some people who take these two’s (and of others too) in a disrespectful fashion and call them drunkards, etc. But I just cannot understand as to why the same people forget to see the easy-to-see and great contributions they made to Kannada literature – with T P KailAsam known as the Great Grandfather of Kannada Dramatics (ever heard of pOli kiTTi, nam kampani, bahiShkAra, sattavana santApa, nam brAhmaNike, banDvAlavillada baDAyi, The Woman – Eternal Sufferer and The Man – Conventional Consoler and huttadalli hutta, etc?) What was great about his works/dramas was that instead of usual Kings, Queens and Warriors as the main characters, he made heroes/heroines out of common, everyday characters we see on the street, apart from using pretty common language to great effect!

It was while reading about beechi, in the first few pages of that book, that I learnt about another great book – which essentially turned a only English reading/writing/studying Bheemasena Rao into an ardent Kannada reading/writing/speaking/studying beechi! (I have been told that out of respect for both the languages, he started writing his name using both of them – bee in Kannada and chi in English!) Again, I heard quite disrespectful words about this gentleman too – that he was a police officer with too much time on his hands and that he didn’t know what to do with it, so he started writing… and such other bull crap. Wonder how many people with any free time do even care to read what he wrote, let alone write something new? Anyway, the book that dramatically changed beechi (the person and the personality) was sandhyArAga, written by A N KrishNa Rao. Like I had mentioned in my previous entry, this is the best novel I have ever read in this language. It talks about art and life of an artist, and has also been made into a movie. But like a banner in Crossword (one of Bangalore’s new, hi-tech bookshop) said, it’s not a great idea to judge a book by its movie – as far as I understand, a movie cannot show/portray the thought process of a character as can be done in a book. sattavanu eddu bandAga and quite popular tiMmana tale are the other two his works I have read but but had absolutely no idea that he also wrote few thousand four-line poems along the lines of DVG’s Kagga. Classic example of his humility – having known the importance of his own work, he calls DVG’s timma as Sun while calling his own tiMma (note the difference in pronounciation between the two) as a Bed Lamp. Some day, I would love to read his tiMma‘s words…

I did buy few other books that I am yet to read – Dim Tim’s Muses (English translation of Mankutimmana Kagga; so, from now on, I can write almost-authentic English translation for any poem I pick from Kagga :D ), some explanation for Kagga’s poems, and so on from Anikta Pustaka while couple books about bird watching (literal one) in Crossword, following Kalyan‘s suggestion and Surya gave me a pictures-facts book about Sachin (yeah, Sachin Tendulkar – the legendary cricketer) – once opened, couldn’t keep it aside until finished…

Apart from books and traveling, one of the other entities I spent quite a bit of $$ was on music – no, I didn’t buy the new bollywood specials or anything like that but mostly classical music. There were some songs/compositions (sung by certain some artists) that I had been looking for a loooong time. Music World (Jayanagar 4th and 9th blocks) was where I got much of all what I needed while Planet M (/me was amazed by the amount of activity that goes on in this shop, on Brigade Road – talent identification shows, and such) and Calypso (Jayanagar 4th block) got me some specific ones. Cutting the long story short, here are some titles I bought – jayadEva’s aShTapadi (BAlamuraLi kriShNa), Gems of tyAgarAja (M S SubbulakShmi), GaNesh keertana (MahArAjapuram SantAnam), bhadrAchala rAmadAs kritis (BAlamuraLi kriShNa), sadAshiva brahmEndra kritis (BAlamuraLi kriShNa), dAsa kritis (BAlamuraLi kriShNa, SubbulakShmi, VidyAbhooShaNa, MahArAjapuram SantAnam, B S RAja IyengAr, John Higgins, M L Vasanta KumAri, RAjkumAr bhArati and more) and some instrumentals from popular old movies – if I play the all of these back to back non-stop, it will take a few days to finish…

Last Few Days

With less than handful of days left to start the return journey, /me did quite many things that should have been done while growing up (Well, have I grown up? it’s up to your imagination. If you think I haven’t grown up yet, replace the word up with old) – hanging out with friends/buddies. Rags, Gunda, Rithesh, Surya, Suraj, …. (names in no particular order) were keeping company pretty much every day/evening; Nina was kind enough to have all of us (a.k.a. untailed & untamed monkeys disguised as homo-sapiens) in her South City apartment for an evening – wherein, it was after a looooooooooooong time /me played some ping pong and tennis (with proper rackets, net and court) for the very first time. Ping pong games were mixed in result (lost to Rithesh but ended up not loosing to Rags) and so was tennis – glad none kept any score in the latter. Another evening, Srimatha and Deepti decided to keep our (monkeys’) company and needless to mention, we turned Adiga’s (Malleshwaram) into a zoo – for as long as we stayed.

My decent (in terms of behavior) visits included one of my uncles, my teachers and my grand parents; and there is a distinct advantage in Rags having his house in Kanakapura Road – it’s on the way to everybody’s house :D Being the kind-hearted guy he is, he dropped me off at my grand parents’ place (thanks to Deepti for trusting us with her vehicle though) around midnight… It was pretty nostalgic feeling and a feeling of filling up some of the gaps (in that growing up/old procedure) all along these hang outs…

Return Journey

Packing didn’t take much time (I didn’t have anything much to pack – my checked in luggage weighed under 8 lbs on my way into India) and my mom stacked it up with variety of spices, to last me at least a year. I had enough concerns about customs related things for this part and it turned out that I was worried for no reason. Due to tremendous in-flux of foreign nationals (visitors, business, etc), customs officials have probably realized that it’s in the best interest of the nation to put up a decent show. After all, they are the first set of people anybody interacts and if the showcase isn’t too good, it probably doesn’t give a good impression of the house. The only detailed, if any, security check I had was in Bangalore (Jet Airways) and it took under 2 minutes. Thanks to Coffee Day Cafe having WiFi access point, my laptop was happy to connect to the net for the first time outside Cochin…

Flight from Bangalore to Mumbai was delayed by 30+ minutes (/me didn’t have to worry – I had a long layover later and very good company on board :) ) and changing terminals (from national to international terminals in Mumbai) was, as it was on 12th August, a breeze. Immigration clearance took few minutes (probably the most not-so-gentle official during my entire trip) and a Nizami Biriyani (in one of the Oberoi outlets) later, security check in too took about couple minutes. Only things I had to explain was the existence of three lenses in my carry-on luggage.

Surprisingly enough, the in-bound flight from Amsterdam arrived on time and my flight to Amsterdam started on time – I remember, in spite of my sleeping, that the same flight was nearly two hours delayed four years ago. As one good thing leads to another, I had better company for this segment of the journey – a Mumbai based construction engineer working in Virginia area. Discussions hovered mostly around management topics but it was good to learn about a new person and their area of expertise. A brief stay in Amsterdam was good – just long enough to make sure that my face didn’t look like that of a terrorist and force a detailed security check :) I was pretty disappointed upon learning that none of the US bound passengers could buy any gel (or anything like it) and that only meant I had to get rid of my beard with Dove soap :( Journey from Amsterdam to Minneapolis was the one I was eagerly looking forward to (owing to all the technological gadgets I get to play with :D) and it did not disappoint me. Not only that, I learnt some finer aspects of life from a California based social worker who works in Romania (and other parts of Europe).

Entry into US had its share of surprises too – a very very simple customs/immigration check and not even an X-ray scan (of me, my carry on and checked in luggage) later, I was wandering around in Minneapolis/St. Paul airport, eagerly looking forward to eating some filling food. Maui Cafe screwed up my order but thankfully, Quiznos was right around the corner from my concourse. Even more surprising was the fact that Northwest was flying jet service in the afternoon. To everybody’s pleasantly shocking surprise, flight reached Houghton/Hancock 45 minutes early :) As usual, Wil was on time to pick me up and right now, I am at home – eating a self-prepared noodles and breathing air that I am so used to. Only problem is that I have just about 36 hours before I leave Houghton again — wondering if I should waste time in unpacking my stuff and re-packing it all over again…

(Pictures, those that were and were not part of the previous blog entries, have been arranged in some fashion in my gallery. If you wish to check them out, use this here. Comments/Critics/Suggestions are, as usual, more than welcome!)

4 Replies to “2006: India Trip – Return Journey”

  1. Came here after Googling about BeeChi. You’re right, of course. Man was a genius. I’m reading his autobiography and it is brilliant. The lessons he has learnt from life and circumstance are good and well put.

    4000 pictures?? Wow! You’ve been living with the camera, is it?

  2. @Arjun,
    BeeChi’s biography (or Bhayagraphy) is on my list of books to read before I die.

    About the pictures, you are right – I pretty much lived with (and still living with) my camera. Just kept shooting everything and anything I saw – and later classified them into some sections (you could check the gallery link). These pictures take me back to all the places I visited whenever I want to :) — so, kinda useful.

    Will checkout your blog soon…

  3. Greetings, Nice article. I’ve only found out about blogs within the last couple of weeks and I am totally hooked!! It is websites like this that are to blame! =) I have been so inspired that I decided to create my own site. I’m in the process of researching for an article i am writing and was wondering if I may link to this article? I think it will be of great interest to my viewers. Cheers! . Melissa Suffield

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