Quick Thoughts About India

July 8, 2010 ~ 09:41pm

Well it has been a few days since I returned from India. Each trip so far has been totally different. These are just some random observations that I want to record for myself.

Rains

This is the first time I ever visited India during the rainy season. There is a reason they call it the "monsoon season". It was just non-stop rain. And during the brief bouts of sunlight, the heat was unbearable. And the mosquitoes, what devils. I counted 76 visible bites on me alone. It was an itchy flight back.

Roads

I have never seen the roads in such disarray. Firstly, even without the rains there are potholes the size of cows cars. Why even call them potholes? During the rains, you really can't even detect the full size of the holes or where they are. I had the bumpiest car rides of my life.

When I went to Mangalore at the end of 2007, I could see the start of the new roads and flyover. The construction has progressed but what a mess. The roads are incomplete all over the area. Where it is complete it has totally eliminated any walking space along the side of the road. There is no room left for anything.

Main Event

We had to attend an engagement which happened to be considerable distance away. Getting there I endured the curviest roads and the scariest car ride of my life. The map shows apx 70km but it took well over 2 hours. Rounding some corners made your heart skip a beat. (route is approximate).

In my previous trip to India I was fortunate to experience what a "typical Mangalorean wedding" would be like. I thought then that the many of the formalities were really unnecessary. Well much to my surprise the engagement event we attended was identical in almost every way but without any church ceremony. It was actually pretty exciting sitting up on the stage, but I think the guest of honor found it a bit overwhelming. Those lights can be blinding you know.

Anyways, with exception of the drive there and the heat, it was actually pretty fun. I'm disappointed all my siblings couldn't be there. Maybe next time (assuming there is a next time).

People

This trip was unique that my brothers and I were all forced to speak Konkani much more than we were accustomed to. It was okay for the most part. It was odd for me near the end of the trip, there was some moments where I could almost hear myself thinking or talking Konkani in my head, as opposed to translating from English. Too bad we were there too short to really test me.

One of the new recruits we took with us happened to be American born (like my youngest brother). I was worried how she might adjust. The following story sums it up. If you are a Muslim please skip the next paragraph.

Traditionally pork ("dukra maas") in Mangalorean cuisine leaves a sizable portion of the fat to be cooked along side the meat. If you've never had this before, you might be surprised when you find yourself chewing on a rubbery blob of non-meaty strangeness. Well our newcomer just ate it all up without any complaint (sometimes that's even a little tough for me). When asked, she revealed: "I thought, mmmmm, that must be some different type of mushroom". She ate pretty much everything and didn't get sick, that's pretty impressive.

Sadly I didn't get to see as much family as I had hoped. What was very annoying was the commute between different relatives homes. What would have taken 30 minutes or so previously was taking us almost an hour. Even where the roads weren't too bad, the traffic has just exploded. There were so many new cars on the roads. Traveling a few miles seemed like a journey on its own.

Conclusion

I conclude, at great cost, that India is still there and is still haphazardly growing at seemingly unsustainable rates. Sad to see.

Anyways I think this may be the last trip I will go to India in big group of people. I think I might go solo next time or with perhaps only one other person. I think I want to see more and do more instead of being caught in traffic or rain.

In spite of some of the nuisances in traveling, I think this was one of the more comfortable trips I've taken. But I don't measure a trip in how comfortable I was, rather, was the experience worthwhile? Yeah, I would definitely say: yes.

Quick Trip to India

June 22, 2010 ~ 10:52am

Well "quick" means a little less planned than my usual excursions, and of course, a bit shorter than the past few trips.

This should be quite the interesting experience with many "firsts" for a few different people, and I hope they all manage, seeing as they're not a seasoned desi like me (jk).

I will be intentionally disconnecting from the internets for the whole duration (unlike some BlackBerry toting brethren). So email replies will be a few weeks delayed. Hopefully I won't have any 3G withdrawal symptoms.

Anyways, will report when I get back. Happy start of summer!

India 2007 Pictures Online

March 25, 2008 ~ 10:12pm

I know I am about 2 months late, but I finally put all (well almost all) of my pictures from my recent India trip pictures online. It took almost 2 full weeks to upload them, sort them, arrange them and get everything up and running. It ... was ... soo ... slow. The total amount taken were about 2GB of 5 Megapixel photos (sorry I don't own an SLR). Of those I have over 650 online! Unfortunately I didn't have time to put commentary like I did for 2004, but this time they came out really nice!

Anyways, since I don't trust sites like Yahoo or Flickr, I have them on some secret webpage/location. I will be sending out login information over the next few days. So if you think I missed you, send me an email.

India 2007 - Part 1 - Delhi

January 22, 2008 ~ 10:45pm

Well belated Happy New Year. I returned from my India trip about 2 weeks ago and now I finally feel like the jet-lag has totally passed. I still have a lingering cough that I got some time before my arrival in Bombay. The only one thing I can not seem to kick is this overwhelming feeling of lethargy. It took me forever to write this!

Anyways, I had a really interesting trip with my family. We did a great deal of site seeing this trip, saw most of our extended family, had time to shop and relax.

Delhi

Originally in 2004 we wanted to visit the north, but the May heat was too much so we never quite made it there. This time we decided to start there. We landed in Delhi early Dec 14th morning and the next day ventured all through the city. We started with the Lotus Temple (yes, it does look like a real Lotus). This is the first time I had to walk so much without any shoes. Then we visited the Akshardham Temple - supposedly one of the largest modern temples in the world. Unfortunately the security there was tighter than an airport - no camera, no cell phones, no bags, nothing. The security guards (for men) were quite thorough frisking every little corner. This was probably due to the news that a handful of Islamic terrorists had recently managed to sneak it into the country. While the Hindu temple is without a doubt a marvelous structure, walking past the unfinished areas you can see the filthy 3 and 4 yr old children collecting gravel for the construction. While this is not uncommon throughout India (and the world), it does make you wonder about the massive donations temples like this receive every year.

After the temples, we made a quick stop at the rather simple Gandhi Memorial. From there we drove by the Indian Parliament and Government Buildings (just like the US, you really cannot stop and look). Down across the road from there was the India Gateway. I don't know why, but the drive up to the monument was pretty cool. There's another gateway in Mumbai (Bombay). I felt in some way that this marked the "beginning" of the journey and when I visited Bombay, that would be the culmination.

For lunch we had some really nice Delhi thali. After lunch we made it to Qutub Minar. This is where I first realized how valuable tourism is to India, for entry Indians pay 10 rupees, non-Indians/foreigners: 250 rupees (25X as much). This place is the home of some tombs, a mysteriously non-rusting iron pillar and a really old tower. About 30 years ago when my parents visited, they were permitted to climb to one of the terraces. However since then, many have found it a convenient place to commit suicide, so entry was not permitted. Ohh well, the pictures would have been amazing!

We had about an hour before mass that evening, so we decided to visit the Indira Gandhi Memorial. Ironically I did not have a great desire to visit at first. However it was quite sobering walking through the home and seeing where a national leader was murdered in her own garden by her guard. Adjacent was a memorial to her son, Rajiv, who was assassinated in a suicide bombing 7 years later in 1991. It was quite depressing, but very moving at the same time. (Sadly Benazir Bhutto would be assassinated in Pakistan 2 weeks later).

We attended mass at Sacred Heart Cathedral where Pope John Paul II visited in 1986. The English mass was just like any other. The surprising thing for me, however, was seeing Hindu's visit, praying and leaving before mass. After mass, we had some cheap food at the Bengali restaurant near our accommodations. We slept early, for the next morning would be our trip to Agra!

Agra - Taj Mahal

We woke at 5AM to start our trek to Agra. From the looks on the map, it appears to be about 100 miles(160km). And in my impression the roads from Delhi seemed very well developed and our driver was making good time. We arrived in just about 4 hours. We drove straight to the Taj Mahal. However we were informed that vehicles were not permitted the last kilometer up to the mausoleum because the exhaust fumes were supposedly damaging the marble. This meant horse, camel, pedal or ... walking. The thing about India is that anyone and everyone has to make a buck ... err rupee. Our transportation up to the entrance was trying to sell us something from one of his "business associates". We jumped out and walked the rest of the way. Arriving at the line - Indians: 20 rupees, foreigners: 750 Rs!!!! So we bought our 20 Rs tickets and got in line of about 100 or so people. Someone pestered us saying that for 300 Rs we could skip the line. Too much. Someone else: 200 Rs. Too much. Finally someone said 100 Rs. So we accepted. He just pushed us to the front, he took care of the guards and we made it inside in less that 5 minutes.

However it was only a half victory. The female security check prevented my mother from taking her purse inside (which had passports, money, travelers checks and gold jewelry inside). Often handlers and even guards steal things, so she grabbed all the valuables in her hands and pockets and gave the purse to security check-in. The security check for us men was troubling in a different way. My brother and I made it through fine, however the guard really checked my father for any hidden packages (thoroughly). My father did scold them, and he made it through. After we all re-united, my father realized my mother forgot her gold jewelry inside her purse...

The Taj Mahal was quite breath-taking. Amazing, very beautiful - something definitely worth seeing before you die! I took more pictures there, than anywhere else during the trip. The view to the river and Agra Fort was very nice. We did get to walk inside, shoe-less (or covered), and see the two tombs. After taking it all in, my parents made a mad rush back to the security check-in to hopefully find the jewelry. ... Even though they exited at the wrong spot and ran all across the place, luckily nothing was lost or stolen. Well, as I will say: They will never forget the Taj Mahal.

The next stop across the way was Agra Fort. You could see the walls from the Taj, however the view of the Taj Mahal was even more amazing from the distance across the river. The fort in itself was gigantic. Even though we saw many walkways, courtyards and gardens - less than one third of the site is accessible to visitors. In some ways it reminded me of Heidelberg Castle I saw in Germany in 2006, but this was much better maintained and the artwork was much more intricate here. I wish I could have seen more, but time was limited. After an expensive lunch at some Chinese cuisine, we made the 4-plus hour trek back to Delhi.

Leaving

On the last day in the north, we wanted to do some shopping only to find out that Monday the stores were all "bunth". Fortunately for us, our incredibly competent driver took us to some underground bazaar (Palika) where we had a hell of a time haggling with all the vendors. From 750 Rs down to 300 Rs for a hand-bag - not bad at all :-) After some quick lunch (more thali!!!) and a stop at the bank we visited some very old acquaintances of my parents from their last trip to Delhi in the 1970's. We had a very pleasant dinner atop a book store that towered over the Delhi streets at night. What a view! Especially after a little Black Label :-) It was a relaxing night.

After some packing we were all ready for the next leg of our journey. The Delhi trip turned out much better than expected. The first night it was quite cold, but I learned my lesson and slept with 3 wool blankets. I wish we had a little more time, maybe have visited the Golden Temple, perhaps that will be another trip in the future. The next morning we hopped on a King Fisher flight to Goa. But that is a story for another day.

Spending Christmas in India

December 13, 2007 ~ 12:26am

I probably should be packing or sleeping ... or most likely both.

Time for travel. A little bit poorly planned, I admit, but sometimes you get caught up in things. Tomorrow I'll be leaving to visit my home country once again. Last time I went to India was almost 4 years ago. In that time people have gotten married, babies grew out of their diapers and revered loved ones have left this earth. Even though there is not the same anticipation of my last trip, I am still very much looking forward to it. This time around we made plenty of time for some site seeing, relaxing, and ultimately truly enjoying ourselves. My greatest disappointment is that not all my siblings could come along, but I guess that was inevitable.

This trip culminates a rather crazy year. First there was my brother leaving for California, then there was this interesting family function that I didn't blog about, then there were some other life things that I didn't blog about (I know I'm lazy to write). Well I got to meet quite a few fascinating new people this year which I am so grateful and unfortunately I've had to wish farewell to some very admirable colleagues as well.

So while I maybe stuffing my face with idli sambar or admiring the Taj Mahal, somewhere in my thoughts I am hoping that everyone has a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Thank you everyone for all your support! See you in 2008!