Friday was mostly a stay-at-home day; resting, talking, laundering, and playing Scrabble (the Bangalore series now stands at 3-2 in ashacat’s favor).
In the evening we hosted a dinner at the Pai Viceroy hotel for the extended family. I got to meet all of the relatives en masse, which was a tad overwhelming. Especially after one couple, who Asha and I are sure have never met me before, insisted that we had met and were (at least for show) getting kind of indignant over it. Apparently, the last time Asha was in Bangalore, they mistook another white man (a friend of Asha’s) for me, and also insisted that “we” had met. It just goes to show that odd ducks are a universal in any family.
Day 12 (Saturday)
Yesterday was spent touring to the North-West of Bangalore. Sudhi, Asha, and I met up with cousin Sriram at the Rangashankara and headed off in his (air conditioned!) car.
The trip turned out to be a lot longer than we had bargained for. The Jain statue (with hill to climb) that Sudhi had said was “on the way” to Asha’s dad’ ancestral home (our primary destination) turned out to be another 80 km (an hour) past the turn-off to Amruthur.
When we finally reached the town with the statue and the ‘thousand and five’ stone steps up the hill to the statue, we almost immediately found that there would be no climbing up the ‘1005’ steps to see the statue – the temple’s keepers did not permit shoes on the stairs, and there was no way we Westerners were going to climb a zillion steps, in full noon-day sun, in our socks. We turned around and headed for Amruthur.
An hour or two later we arrived in Amruthur. It looked like Sudhi and Sriram were going to subject us to a drive-through tour of this place that a) I had told Asha’s dad I would go see, and b) we had spent six hours in a car getting to. Thankfully, road work got in the way and Sriram was forced to park. That got us a very nice hour of strolling through Amruthur on foot . . . as Asha’s dad would have done growing up.
We walked a chunk of the main drag, walked a narrow side-street to the ancestral home (which is still in the family but presently unoccupied), and continued on to the ‘tank’ (reservoir) where Amruthur women were doing their washing as they have done it since time immemorial. By then, Asha and I had attracted a growing crowd of little kids – who happily posed for pictures, the giggled and ran away. :-)
The trip back to Bangalore was a long slog, with a stop for ‘lunch’ around five. We made it back to the Rangashankara cafe at seven thirty, having spent nearly twelve hours on the road.
Our day, alas, was not done, as we then headed off with Suhdi and Anju to have dinner with Anju’s sister and her husband. I was tired, headachy, and a little motion sick. I was not the best dinner companion. Hopefully I didn’t insult Chandri’s cooking, but by eight thirty, eating dinner was just not happening.
We finally got home at ten. Fourteen hours on-and-off the road in a country where just getting across town can wear you out. I slept like a rock.
Day 13 (Sunday)
Today is my last day in India. There will be packing, and talking, and one last game of Scrabble (I gotta see if I can even this thing up!). We’ll head out for the airport around 11 PM. We need to leave plenty of time for travel, bag check, check in, etc. before my 2:20 AM flight.
The state-wide bandh (total shutdown) that was planned for Thursday has been moved to Monday. In large part this was to avoid causing trouble for the AeroIndia 2007 air show that wraps today. The bandh starts at six AM and runs to six PM. By the time it starts I should (hopefully) be over Pakistan or Iran winging my way to Paris.
As you can imagine, I have very mixed feelings about leaving. I’m tired of being a tourist, tired of being a houseguest, and of all of those things that being in India enforces (bottled water for everything, mosquito nets, anti-malaria pills, etc). I also don’t want to leave Asha. I suspect that the next two months at home will be easier than the first two-and-a-half, but I will still miss her dearly.
It’s nearly ten AM; I’m going to wake Asha up and find some breakfast.