It was pouring down when we landed at the new Bengaluru International airport on a Saturday morning. The fact that the powers that be have decided to name the airport with a long winded name – Kempegowda International Airport – may have had something to do with it. The airport is ultra modern \, and one does not get the same feeling of “coming home” when there are no mosquitoes or the smell of Dettol in the toilet when we land. It was a proper monsoon belting down with loud thunder and lightning. The rain was so heavy that visibility was only a few yards, and Mahesh had to stop the car for a few minutes on the road side. But it did not last long. By the time we got to my brother’s house, the rain had stopped and the heat returned. It was blisteringly hot for April.
The normal rain that Bangalore used to get every evening during April was missing and the city was dry and hot. The ice crush vendors and tender coconut vendors were having roaring business. Some things don’t change. When I was on my way to the Government press to get yet another document to prove who I was, stopped at the impressive Bangalore University to buy Tender Coconut. There were giggling youngsters in jeans and sneakers buying the same from the vendor calling him “uncle”. In Bangalore, every male over the age of 20 is an “uncle” and every adult female is an “auntie”.
I have to tell you about the experience in UTI – Unit Trust of India. It is a government organisation set up a number of years ago to encourage common man to invest in the future of the country with a promise of plentiful return. I had invested a small amount number of years ago to show that I was a good citizen and had entirely forgotten about it. The amount was small – 10,000 rupees (equivalent of approximately £125.00) and I had left the country. I thought it would be a good idea to get my money back at first. It turned out to be a lot more complicated procedure than I thought. It was all because of change of my name. The government offices in India have taken the bureaucracy learnt from the British and developed into a fine art form. I went into this sleepy office in the leafy suburb of Malleswaram to claim my money back. There were six people working in the office including a manager, and there was only one client to be seen. No one was interested in me. After a while, one officer who was dealing with the lone client lifted his head up and looked at me with a question on his face. I stood up and tried to explain why I was there over the head of the client sitting in front of him. He gave me a form to fill in and went back to dealing with the lady. I sat down to decipher the form. It was seven pages long filled with numerous abbreviations and jargon Sir Humphrey Appleby would be proud of. After the third reading, I was completely lost. I decided to seek help and went to see the Manager himself who was engrossed in sheaves of paper on his desk and he looked completely harassed. I stood in front of him for about fifteen minutes and coughed a few times and said “excuse me” a few times before he lifted his head up and looked at me with an irritation.
I explained why I was there and my predicament. He took the form from my hand glanced at it and scribbled a few words which would take an expert from Bletchley Park a year to decipher and asked me to go back to the other officer I had seen before. Back to the man who was still dealing with the lone lady client. He must have seen come out of the Manager’s office as he looked up and grabbed the form from my hand and asked me to bring back seven different documents all attested by a bank manager and a letter from the government Gazette saying that I was who I was saying I was. It took me all of that week visiting various offices and my bank manager before I could get all the documents.
The highlight of the journey to Mysore was the breakfast stop at Adigas on the banks of river Shimsha. The Idli and Vada they serve are out of this world. It is worth driving 50 miles just to savour that taste. The sight of middle aged women in Burkha doing Pilates type exercises at 5 in the morning in the Bal Bhavan field was unusual, to say the least. On the way from Mysore to Mudigere, we were mauled by monkeys trying to get their share of our lunches.
As we reached Mudigere, the first thing that we saw was the damage caused by wild elephants to some of our coffee plants the week before. The kids with us felt deprived that they had not seen the elephants rampage through the coffee plantation!! It took the persuading power of Geetha to get the workers fix the broken fence during the time we were in Mudigere. Some might call it bullying, but I am not that brave. The walks in the forest were invigorating and were required to work up an appetite after one sumptuous meal to another. It is a wonder that obesity is not rampant in Mudigere.
We met an elderly Italian couple who had made Bangalore as their home with their son working in the ever growing IT industry. Signor Lucca from Bari was absolutely thrilled to speak to someone other than his wife in Italian, although I would not go so far as calling it a “conversation” with my broken Italian!
After two weeks of attack on our senses and stomach, and the heat, it was time to say good bye to India. It is always sad to say good bye to loved ones, but it is specially so from India. It will never lose its charm and attraction, despite its problems with traffic, dust, pollution, corruption, bureaucracy, and lack of water, power cuts and the noise! We Indians take pride in bitterly complaining about all these things and still go back and call it home land!