Sunday, December 16, 2007

Bangalore Express

Okay, I ready to admit I am a jaded consumer who was prepared to confornt "Johnny, who may I help you" customer representative dolling out hi-tech remedies from this obscure corner of the earth. I am so angry with him for taking our jobs and draining resources that could otherwise be wasted at home.

Arrived at the Bangalore Cantonment Station, the secondary stop servicing the city, and was immediately concerned that we have entrusted our computers, DVD players, phones to a town void of traffic lights, but not the traffic with Victorian services and cow drawn trucks. It was late and dark and my intitial assessment was informed by what the station light's illuminated. Anxiouly, I stood waiting for my friend Sandeep to fetch me - he ran 20 minutes late! Did I get off at the wrong stationThis could be a definite possiblity for there were no announcements, no station sign to spy as we cruised in - only the pre-warning that the train will not stop long so jump off quickly. Even the fellow passengers, who were locals, questioned the arriving station. I made the leap and not until half way to the exit did I finally get confirmation of my hopefully true destination. At last, my ride arrived with great relief to me for I feared I wouldf never otherwise find a hotel.

Thye Chalins are a loving family living harmoniously under one roof with four separately interwoven lives. Being in a home was a rich reward and made my momentary train terror quickly fade into oblivion.

My next introduction to Bangalore spun on a dime, or should that be a rupee, with cocktails at a hotspot that could exsist in any hip-groovy city -- sleek, contempary design, commanding cityviews from this rooftop watering hole that was jammed with lable obvious consumers. The new wealth of out-sourcing. Though as I looked around there sat but a lone female among the hordes of whiskey throwong young men. i thought prehaps this was a gay bar but I was sure that Sandeep was straight. It was explained while the bar was indeed straight wome go out with less frequency and always in the company of male companions. Never a group of "Sex in teh City" chicks out for a gilr's night. After being up for almost 24 hours a clean bed and pillow welcomed me.

I woke with still too few hous clocked but EST still controls my internal workinhs. Fortunately, Mr. Chatlin offered a traditional south Indian breakfast of curried dalh, coconut chutney and idly (a steamed rice cake) as well as the best cream of wheat I have ever had. Basically, a semolina porridge that was dense and studded with curry leaves, onions, green chilies and mustard seeds - from what I could make out. Then it was off to SVL Chai House to enjoy a local cup of joe. What a delight, and something missing in my day. A strong, yet sweet shot tempered with warmed milk. I quickly knocked two back. Things were seeming okay again. It was off to rendezvous with Sandeep and his mother who had finally greeted the day. We ran to Russel Market, and purchased some foods for the evening meal. Sandeep and I were going to cook - what I still wasn't sure. All I know was that his father was vegetarian; his mother was vegetarian on Mondays and Fridays as part of her religious observations, and his brother, just had food issues.

Dinner ended up being:
Sauteed Banana Flowers with Garlic and Lime
Charred Eggplant with onions, chilies and ginger
Butter Beans Marsala with Tomatoes
Fish Fillets with Pomegrante wrapped in Banana Leaves

It was a success, or at least the politeness of the family made me feel that way. From my point of view I believed it to be so.

As the meal wound down I asked if I would like to go "blanketing" that night. Curious, I asked what it meant and was told there was a trunk full of woolen blankets that they go and distribute to homeless to offer but a touch of comfort during the cool winter nights. I was touched, amazed and immediately a willing volunteer. We piled into the car: Sandeep, his father, an aunt and uncle and a pair of sissors. The latter were for notching the blankets rendering them defected and therefore unable to be sold for a few ruppees. We headed that night for a neighborhood called Richard's Town. No, not in honor of me just an ironic, humbling twist. Finding needy recipients was no trouble though we did seek out childern, people with just a thin cotton covering or a ratty plastic tarpin as their night's protector against the chill. The trunk was reduced to the owner's manual at an unfortunate speed. For me. I ached as I watched a simple, utilitarian cover bring so much joy, surprise and gratitude to thse who receive sp little in life. They were a car full of people who who know were life they were positioned and yet did not forget that they were still citzens of humanity. It was an awesome ripple they are creating in this tempestous sea.

We induldged ourselves with a sweet paan leaf, soft like butter, and redolent with sugared rose petals, and a dark cup of chai (tea). Quiet laughter filled the car as we recounted some of the more precious moments of the night. I was so thankful to have a full belly but even more indebted to this family fpr allowing me to experience a Bangalore I would never get on the phone.

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