A huge white plastic statute of the Hindi God Shiva towers above us, suspended in the hazy sunshine of the polluted city air. Below devotees sit around a pond surrounded by a labyrinth of grey Styrofoam rocks. We make a donation and walk through the labyrinth where a series of glass cases display the gods and rituals of the Hindu faith. Instructed, we throw coins and float lighted candles on the pond and make a prayer. Recorded Hindi music completes the tableau. This newly constructed Shiva temple is aptly squashed behind a shopping mall, epitomizes modern urban India, and especially Bangalore, the hi tech capital of India.
We have come here only to see Shruti (Bushan and Kamal’s daughter) and her husband, Arvind, who’ve relocated there for work. The city holds no pull for us otherwise. Growing at a phenomenal rate, city facilities cannot keep up. Crossing the road in Bangalore is like Moses crossing the Red Sea. Only through God’s grace do the cars part long enough for us to scamper across; and then the honking mini monsters flood back in spewing their noxious fumes. The sidewalks are a mass of broken concrete slabs with holes and crevasses with who knows what lives. With little incentive to leave Shruti’s apartment we focus our attention on the family..
It’s wonderful to be with Shruti and Arvind and three year old Simrita. She speaks remarkably good English because she’s already learning it in preschool; amazing how a child can adapt between English and Hindi, and because a year ago she spoke about as much English as we speak Hindi.. She remembers nursery rhymes better than I can. Something incongruous of girl in Indiasinging “jingle bells, jingle bells, oh what fun it is to ride in a one horse open sleigh…..”
With all good intentions Shruti planned an entertaining week with us but her contract work was extended. The most serious was emergency surgery for Arvind’s sister was almost fatal. Arvind was on Skype most of the night communicating back to the US. After three separate surgeries, she’s now in intensive care and hopefully through the worst. On a less serious note, Shruti lost her maid and cook for the week we were there. Gerard was called into service…but not as the cook!
We celebrated Gerard’s birthday, with an eggless Black Forestcake with real whipped cream that was delicious! And the celebration continued for me with a trip to the beauty parlor- while Gerard stayed home and washed dishes. Shruti bought a discount package on the Internet – my first spa treatment! It took over three hours – first, one young Indian girl administered a ‘chocolate facial’, painstakingly applying massaging an authentic smelling goop; then another kneaded my scalp with olive and coconut oils. To complete the pampering, I sat on Astroturf my feet dangling in a pool full of tiny fish who immediately swarmed around and began nibbling my feet. After the initial shock, I actually began to enjoy the tingling sensation of their little teeth chomping away on my dry skin. An ultra feminine saried Indian woman sat down next to me and dangled her feet. Tired of my dry skin, the fish swarmed to her feet. “Ticklish, Madam!” she giggled. It was also her first experience of skin eating fish.
After all this excitement, it was time to say goodbye to our hosts, and leave Bangalore on the night train for Goa.
Somehow Gerard doing the dishes and being the helpmate domestically feels very familiar…and the trip to the spa seems so very delicious, and yet it also appears in my head as incongruous with the image I have of the two of you as intrepid travelers, undaunted by the elements…I like the way this trip is feeling so far; so slowly moving away from the urban, westernish "civilization" and yet Goa is next and that seems downright colonial.