I had planned on writing every two or three days but I woke up at 3 am Friday morning (2 pm Thursday afternoon Alaska time) thinking of all the things we'd seen the day before and realizing that America now looks very, very boring to me. We spent the day exploring Bangalore and saw so much I could write a dozen posts just on the experience.
We stopped at the public library which had a field of rose bushes planted in a neat and orderly grid in front and went inside. The librarian at the front desk looked up rather suspiciously and told me I couldn't take pictures and I pretty much obeyed him though as you can see I sneaked a few because I couldn't resist. The main room here had two pigeons flying around near the upper windows and it smelled just like any library anywhere in the world--apparently that lovely dusty book smell can be found in libraries everywhere.
I wish I could have taken pictures of the main entrance where a three-foot black stone Buddha was ensconced in the warm mahogany walls that were topped with a ledge featuring little carved elephants or the public drinking fountain that looked like an old-fashioned soda dispenser with a silver cup chained to it. I tried not to stare as a man poured a drink then tipped the cup back and artfully drank without the glass ever touching his mouth. Mom says Indians do this all the time and are masters at sharing cups without having their lips touch the vessel.
The books were very old and very tattered and there was one section with a sign that said "Blind Books"--though I wondered how someone who was blind would actually know that that's what the sign said. One of the books was titled The Technology of Snack Foods.
In the upper level that overlooked the main room there were men sitting at tables reading newspapers. Of course they looked up to stare at us and wonder who we were and we tried not to stare at them but the picture it made would have been wonderful with the walls carving around the rotunda and all the men reading. Newspapers are a bit of a luxury so they come there to read and it all had the feel of a men's club back from the days of the Raj.
Outside the building were a group of women sweeping the streets--a common site actually--with these handmade brooms and each of them bent over in the most awkward position, I wondered how they managed to work for so long without their backs killing them. One of them was obviously in her last trimester of pregnancy and I thought about how good it would have felt to have spent the day hunched over a broom when I was eight months pregnant.
We stopped by the Tippu Palace which was next to an elementary school and while we wandered alone through the 18th century pillars (I never saw another tourist the entire day) we could hear the noise of children playing. Tippu was a maharajah that ended up surrendering to General Cornwallis--the same Cornwallis that didn't fare so well in the American Revolution. Apparently after the British lost the war there they headed for India.
It was unfortunate really because if the plaques on the palace walls can be trusted he was an enlightened, fair and decent king who accomplished a great deal for his people.
And finally, just before I gave out from exhaustion and dehydration we visited the Bull Temple which has a giant statue of a sitting bull carved from one enormous piece of black granite. I don't have any good pictures of it unfortunately, partly because while the experience was fascinating it was also very strange and awkward.
I wondered if I'd feel out of place in India and strangely enough so far I've felt in awe but always comfortable--until we visited the Bull Temple. We had to remove our sandals and walk across the extremely hot stone slabs into the place where the bull sat, decorated with flower garlands and streaked with white and red and yellow paint.
The man--a priest perhaps?--kept telling me "Come, come, come" as he lead me around the statue, directing me to pat the bull for luck. When we made it around to the front he dumped a handful of faded jasmine blossoms into my startled hands, scooped up a thumb-load of red powder and swished it across my forehead to give me my first bindi mark.
It all felt so strange, so unusual and I didn't know quite what to think of it all. I was ashamed for being so awkward and such an intruder but then I was glad I was there to experience something so different and new to me. I tried not to think of the ants crawling over my feet and the things I'd stepped in as I'd tiptoed around and wondered if I was doing anything that was a huge taboo but all in all it was exciting and wild and wonderful.
Have I said that I love India?
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