Monday, April 13, 2009

A Tamil Nadu Escape

Trees, wind, and cool breezes.
Club, pubs, and lots o' sneezes.

Three 1/2 months in India and I can just now say that I've left the state of Tamil Nadu! Thursday evening, Meera and I departed from Chennai central bus station to Bangalore, capital of Karnataka, roughly seven hours away via bus. The bus ride was largely uneventful and I slept terribly. Somehow I find that "semi-sleepers" are even more uncomfortable than regular, cushioned bus seats. After seven hours of horrendous back posture (and an unsightly bathroom pit stop), we arrived. 4:30 am, good morning Bangalore!
The objectives of the trip were both work/pleasure related. I had an interview scheduled Friday morning so after a quick catnap, I headed across town to meet with the CEO of a company providing affordable solar panels to the rural poor. Affordable solar panels? Sounds like an oxymoron, but this is a guy whose motto seems to be "where there's a will, there's a way." Now, thanks to him, over thousands of solar light fixtures have been installed in rural homes.
After the work-related agenda, more fun ensued. I toured around Bangalore with Meera and Solai, her personal driver. We stayed all weekend at her grandmother's house. To have a place to stay and a means of transportation was incredible, to say the least. It felt like the first time in months since I've had the luxury of riding around in a car, windows up, pumping A/C and tunes. Although part of riding in a car in India feels like a cop-out (it's too easy to ignore the smells-both good and bad-and air pollution), the joy that comes with doing those exact things is immeasurable.
We shopped, we dropped, we dined out. We walked around the city and checked out Bangalore's streets, parks, restaurants and galleries.
Some highlights:
-Picos. A delightfully grungy old pub that's supposedly the oldest of its kind in the city. Meera's Dad used to frequent it in his younger days to enjoy the very same things we enjoyed- Creedence Clearwater Revival/Led Zeppelin tunes, cheap pitchers of Kingfisher (India's Budweiser), and spicy hot paneer tikka.
-Patti and Thatha. Meera's wonderfully old and exuberant grandparents. What a joy it was to spend time with grandparents again! Made me miss mine that much more. They are an adorable couple who have been together for nearly 60 years! With grandparents comes home-cooked meals, constant reminders to stay safe, hugs and kisses, and of course, splendid company. (side note- in addition to Patti and Thatha, I met several more members of Meera's family and friends. All good people, and very hospitable!)
-Quality food. From home-made rava idli to Caperberry's vegetarian platter, the cuisine was delicious. We ate from a much bigger variety than what's typically available in Chennai.
-House. No, not house music which was played at the club both nights we went out, but house meaning a home. It was nice to feel like a part of someone's home, as the place was filled with memories and photographs.

I could keep going, but I'm too tired to write more. Got back into Chennai at 4:30 this morning and desperately need sleep! I'll post some pics up soon...

PS- An updated injury note-
While I'm not sick anymore (thank God, knock on wood!), I managed to injure myself over the weekend (surprise, surprise). Slammed the bathroom door on my fingers Saturday night, causing a bloody and slightly emotional mess. No worries, though- both fingers are now able to bend again, signaling a road to recovery.

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