Sunday, March 21, 2010

Heading to the Indian Coast with So Many Indians

IndiaJust a quick update today--we've been on the road the last two days, driving from Bangalore to the coast where I can now say I've seen the Indian Ocean. More specifically, the Bay of Bengal. It looks very much like the Pacific only somehow it just feels more exciting. Not sure why but it does.

East Coast of India
We drove southeast to Pondicherry, a former French colony, while seeing monkeys and abandoned forts and villages along the way, then drove north along the coast to Mahabalipuram and then onto Chennai where we spent the night.

The upper photo shows a place where they were collecting salt along the coast and the next photo is a group of men in Pondicherry at the sea wall where we sat and ate "milkshakes" that were interpreted to be scoops of ice cream submerged in glasses of milk with chopped apples, papaya and pineapple as garnish. Interesting but not in a bad way--especially when it's 87 degrees. Fahrenheit.

While I didn't see many men and women being affectionate I did see groups of men holding hands or with their arms around each others' shoulders. Dad said that it's a cultural difference and that men will commonly do this and it doesn't mean the same thing as it would in the west--it's merely a sign of affection and friendship. I thought it was interesting and kind of nice actually.

MahabalipuramWhen we got to Mahabalipuram it was even hotter but unusually cool for that time of year which is why you see me doing a Mary Poppins impression with my umbrella. While wandering the temple built in 700 AD by a Pallava king I was attacked by a group of school children who ran at me en masse to practice the two English phrases they knew, namely "How are you?" and "What is your name?" with such captivating little rolls of their R's and such beautiful smiles.

I was delighted as you can see and had a fabulous time taking their pictures and trying to tell them how adorable they were but unfortunately they hadn't got to the word "adorable" in their English lessons yet. I tried to tell them I had a daughter their same age at home who had asked me to find her an Indian friend but they couldn't quite understand and my Tamil is limited to "wanna-come" (and that's completely phonetic) which means "hello."

In my ignorance I've always tended to assume that people are the same everywhere and while that is true on one level--we all have the same needs and emotions and such--we can all be so different culturally. My first impression of India was of more people than I've ever seen in my life, all coming and going and everyone on their way to some place. Yet even with so many crammed into such a small area in the city if you smile at a stranger most often they will smile back. Something about the exchange of a smile connects you and you'd never get that in New York, London or Toronto.

And they're helpful. Many times we've been stopped in traffic and Sampath will roll down the window and ask the driver next to him questions (I'm not sure what he's asking because the man knows the cities like no one else, it couldn't possibly be for directions) and they'll always try to help--even if they don't know the answer and have to make things up--they will do anything to help out. Once a driver even jumped out of his car and came around to Sampath's window and spoke for a half minute before going back to his own car.

Anyway. . . it was another great day. I'm starting to get used to the time and the fact that there are so many amazing things here I couldn't possibly record them all.

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Peruby said...

I like that idea of the men friendship and public displays of affection.

It would be hard to imagine that many people and how crowded it is there.

Sounds like you are having a wonderful time. Be safe.

Chocolate Inspector said...

I really love reading about your trip there. My former neighbor and great friend is from India. Truly the nicest family I've known who did Hena art on our hands for my daughter's birthday party and shared her food many times.
I saw a home video of their's and they were grinding sugar cane between two large rolling cylinders with a hand crank. I wonder if you'll see that there. Enjoy every moment!!

bigguysmama said...

Enjoying your trip with you! India is so colorful. My daughter, who is going to India on her mission trip this summer, is now following you! I'm so excited to see what she's going to experience when she gets there (to a degree!)


Heart2Heart said...


Hard to believe that you are actually someplace so warm and you living in Alaska would find that a difficult transition to make between temperatures! Are you missing home yet?

Love and Hugs ~ Kat

miriama said...

Please Please take me with you next time! :) I love the pictures and your stories are wonderful.