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Thursday, September 9, 2010

Flying into Bangalore

The pilot begins our descent as massive clouds outside the window are pulsing with electricity, lightning bolts flashing and leaping, illuminating the night sky… It’s the tail end of the summer monsoon, so we expect to get some pretty good downpours these next couple of weeks in India. But as we drop into Bangalore, the weather clears, and we land under a beautiful starry sky. The weather here feels remarkably cool and refreshing, being away from the steamy coast, and up about 3,000 ft. on the Deccan Plateau.

Rama and her son came to meet us at 2am, and it was such a joy to see smiling faces outside the gate. She was even wearing her Amstock T-shirt! Karen and Eliza drove with Rama in her little Maruti, while Lupin and Sylvie were in a taxi with me. My girls were struggling with the seatbelts in the back seat, as there were shoulder straps but nothing to clip to. The driver reassured us, “no problem, no problem Sir, driving slowly, night-time driving no traffic Sir!” So of course he took off like an Indy 500 driver, zooming along the new airport expressway. The new airport is way north of Bangalore, almost 30 or 40 kms., so we had some distance to cover. It’s true, there wasn’t much traffic on the road, but what little we saw consisted of huge cargo trucks and cement mixers, trundling along at 30 mph in the dark without any lights on! We’d race up to them in the gloom at 60 or 70, hit the brakes and swerve around them. We also encountered a few newly constructed major intersections, complete with traffic lights, usually red. Apparently ‘red’ just means ‘take your foot off the gas for a couple of seconds, and blast right through.’ Welcome back to India!

The air was wonderfully cool and moist and refreshing, as if it had just rained. Aside from the white-knuckle driving, it was a great time to arrive… Our taxi driver knew the general way to Malleswaram, but I had to guide him once we got off the main drag. It was great, after a 3 year absence, to still be able to feel my way “home” on deserted late night streets. Mekri Circle… Sadashivanagar… Sankey Road… “go left here… right here… now straight ahead…” We passed 7th Cross, 11th Cross, 15th Cross. We spotted several favorite restaurants, all shuttered for the night… Shanti Sagar, Pizza Corner, Adigas’, Corner Dosa, Veena Stores. We are all SO excited to start EATING!

Barely any people are out at this hour, but hundreds of dogs are laying around in the quiet dusty streets. The girls compared and rated each dog for cuteness as we swerved around them. We even passed the local Malleswaram “garbage donkeys” that roam the area eating discarded plant material and paper. Lupin said, “ooooh, they’re so cuuute! I just LOVE garbage donkeys!!!”

Pulling up to 15th Cross/8th Main was so familiar! It’s hard to believe it’s been 3 years since we were here! I smiled wide when we saw the house, 3 stories high with a palm tree growing through the roof. A neighbor came out to give us the key and let us in… Into that familiar musty smelling post-monsoon house. It’s a vacant house owned by relatives of Rama, and various extended family members stay here now and then. The last occupants must have cleared it out, and so there isn’t much furniture or kitchen gear. It’s also in need of a bit of cleaning, but we were all thrilled to lie down horizontally on clean sheets and start snoring! Well, most of us were! Lupin and Sylvie just wanted to run up and down the stairs, shouting and echoing, trying to open every door and get out on the roof! We read a book together in bed, which finally conked them out. It’s great to be back!

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