This huge thunderstorm is just ending- it was a LOT of hard rain- and sounded soooooo nice. I’m hoping it’ll cool things off a little tomorrow, like it was cool last night. Okay, so there’s a lot to catch up on, so bear with me- I’ll try to be concise. (I know these entries are long, so thanks yet again to all of you who get through them all! It’s much appreciated.)
So last Sat. (14.apr) was the big day trip to Kolar! (the town where my dad was born- in South India, your initials come before your name, & one initial stands for the name of the place where you’re born.) My aunt had gotten us a van & driver & we hit the road @ 9:15am- it was about an hour & a half one way. Now, I haven’t said anything about the driving in India- and there’s a lot to say! You probably know that they drive on the left here, the British way- I adjust to it fairly quickly now, but I do have moments every once in a while where I panic, thinking that we’re turning into oncoming traffic! But that’s really the least of the concern- there are SO many people on the roads, & no real lanes, or “traffic laws” that are enforced by police (my dad figures there’s no point in the cops trying to catch people, since there are so many of them). Honking is a whole language- telling you they’re behind you, trying to get through, etc. My parents observed that though the roads are TOTALLY chaotic, people constantly passing each other, going different speeds, different lanes, etc, but there’s no “road rage”- people don’t get mad @ other people’s driving hardly at all, it seems- each vehicle/rickshaw/cart/pedestrian is just focused on doing their own thing. I noticed that there’s zero roadkill, which surprised me since there are sometimes lots of animals wandering around (dogs, cows, etc)- & so far no one’s really been able to explain it to me, other than “the animals are smart & stay out of the way”. Anyway- the long drive was mildly harrowing, what with people passing each other by going into the oncoming lanes all the time- but we made it to Kolar!
On the way there:
I had no idea what to expect in terms of the landscape/town/anything- I guess there’re lots of things where there used to be absolutely nothing, but there’re still lots of fields, coconut trees everywhere, eucalyptus, & the whole area has huge rocks:
A sign for Kolar! (it was hard to get a photo of one of these signs while we were driving):
A mosque outside of Kolar:
One of the streets in Kolar:
We went to the house where my dad, aunt, & uncle were all born! I learned that my dad hadn’t been back to this area in over FIFTY years! Dude. My grandfather sold the house in the early 50s to a family who turned it into an incense factory, & it’s still there! (they’re not doing super well, I guess, & they haven’t really maintained the building, but it’s there.)
I saw the room where my dad was born, & there are still hooks in the ceiling where they had a big swing in the middle of the house. The owner was really happy to see us- my mom was amazed when he said that the second he saw us he knew we were the previous owners. He was so happy that he insisted that we come to his house- so we did. He has a HUGE place (he’s got some other businesses, as well, which are clearly doing well) that was spacious & full of light. I really loved the layout. We stayed longer than we planned, but he & his wife really didn’t want us to leave! Finally we continued on- we started to up this path to a waterfall, but the path’s been extended & had all these steep stairs & was REALLY long, so we turned back- but not before I got to spend some time w/the monkeys around there. (they can actually be really mean & snatch things/food from you, so my aunt was also really scared to go down the path b/c the monkeys were everywhere!)
We stopped @ this “cafe” (more like an eating hall) called Woody’s. In Kolar. Heh.
We made it 20 miles or so east of Kolar to a village called Devarayasamudram. Both my grandparents’ families are from here- my grandma still has 4-5 cousins (she kept saying “uncles’ sons) here! (she’s the oldest left- almost 88!- of her generation) And all of their houses are the same, all next to each other. It was a bit of a whirlwind for me, going from house to house full of all of these relatives I’ve never heard of before! (and I didn’t learn anyone’s names, since my dad doesn’t know them!)
Wild to meet my dad’s 2nd cousins & my 3rd cousins! 2 boys, Shashank (L) & Karthik (R) were very fluent in English & were my translators @ their house- I think Karthik & I fell a little in love w/each other- they were fascinated w/all of my cameras.
Everyone we met was SO nice & they were all really happy to see my grandma & aunt, & all remembered/recognized my dad! He told a few stories about growing up, but mostly they all caught up. One thing that surprised me a little was that he made a point @ each house to tell everyone that it was my idea to take the trip there- and apparently my grandmother had been really excited & was looking forward to it for months. That made me feel good. It’s custom for the people of the house you visit to offer you food or at least drink, so we had to have something @ each house we went to all day- and usually they also offer small gifts out of respect for you as new visitors. I ended up having a small camera crisis- all my batteries died before we were done (I was taking photos & also videotaping), which was kinda too bad, but at least my dad had his camera with him, too. After the last house- another one where my dad used to live (we don’t have relatives there, but the folks living there let us in), we drive the 2hrs back to Bangalore. (again, driving here is far from relaxing, so there’s no being lulled to sleep in the car, or anything!) I fell asleep really early that night & slept soundly after the big day.
Sunday (15.apr) we all stayed in for the day, mostly recovering; my grandmother has a lot of leg problems, & she’d done a LOT of walking & climbing of stairs on the trip, so she was in pain & resting. But we got in some affectionate time, which was great. That evening my cousin Praveena & uncle Ramani came over for a bit & caught up with us. Monday (16.apr) it wasn’t as hot out, finally, & one of my dad’s friends & his wife came over to visit (my dad’s name is Sridhar, & he had 2 best friends also named Sridhar! Growing up I always thought that was funny.)
On the porch @ my grandmother’s house:
“Juice & coffee point”:
Yesterday (17.apr) we did some shopping in the morning- I got a few more gifts (Indian crafts), & got a kind of traditional top called a kurtha. We met this guy in the store who moved to Seattle a few months ago! He’d been living in CA, working for Hewlett-Packard, moved to Bangalore for work for 3 years, & then quit & just started working for Microsoft in Issaquah. Weird. (but not totally, as Bangalore is more than booming in the computers/tech/IT world- EVERYONE has an office here.) In the evening we went over to my dad’s friend Vishva’s house- he’s the one who my dad has known since he was 8! He did a great job of telling us the history of the house, what he & my dad & their friends used to do there (my dad used to live across the st.), etc. And he now had a blog where he’s scanned a bunch of old photos both of his family history & friends. He & his wife & daughter (who I remember being little- she’s about 10 years younger than me) are all SO sweet. He’s an astrophysicist, too, so he’s super smart. It was really great to hear some stories & see old photos & get to see them hang out. That night when we got home the weather was perfect- like a cool summer night- so I sat on the balcony for a while & read. (I love being outside @ night in the summer, but it’s been SO hot here, even @ night, that being outside hasn’t even been refreshing @ all.)
Outside on the poch swing night:
And today (18.apr) we walked to Lal Bagh gardens in the morning- my dad was disappointed & said it’s nothing like it used to be. He described when Queen Elizabeth came to Bangalore (in the late 50s) & how they had flowers EVERYWHERE & had a whole event for her. It was still nice to walk around, & there were people enjoying their mornings. And there were lots of hawks, which made me happy.
Cows around the corner from the house:
Hawks above a temple-like structure:
“Jams, crushes, squashes, sauces, beverages”:
The “Glass House” (not quite like in Olympia!), & down in the middle you can see the bandstand place on the other side:
A banyan tree:
Gorgeous, vibrant flowers:
We got back afterwards & went out to lunch @ the Regency- my grandmother’s favorite restaurant. The food was pretty good, & I of course had to have mango ice cream for dessert. My dad insisted on taking a photo:
And now it’s time for bed. Soon I’ll tell y’all more about little details of things, to try to paint a fuller picture. Hope everyone is doing well- feel free to drop me a line. . .
Posted from India:
posted Wednesday April 2007