a reunion and a homecoming


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i was more than excited to see a familiar face when i stepped onto the platform at the Bangalore City Train Station.  i used to work with Srihari years ago in Seattle.  when he left to move back to Bangalore i promised him i would come to visit.  now, here i am 4 years later keeping my promise.  for the next 5 days i stayed with Srihari, his wife Durga and their children Sidanth and Shradha in their home on Rainbow Drive and endured some of the kindest hospitality i’d ever experienced.  i quickly went from feeling like their honored guest to a part of the family.

Durga is an amazing cook.  each evening she prepared a new authentic Indian dish that seemed to put all other Indian food i’ve ever had to shame.  she also runs a bakery business out of her kitchen so i got to sample a multitude of delicious desserts.  Sidanth and Shradha are on summer break and have taken up the recent task of caring for a stray cat who had just had a litter.  they proudly named each one and pushed all their potted plants together on the top balcony to give them a place to play and be covert kittens.  Srihari and Durga are philanthropists at heart and share a passion for giving back to their community.  all this made for an inspiring 5 days to say the least.

i arrived on a weekend when Srihari was off work.  this was a great opportunity for he and i to relax, catch up and reminisce about the office war stories of way back when.  i also joined the family for a game of ‘street cricket’ (cricket with appropriately modified rules) to which i learned that i can’t throw a ball straight to save my life.

P1020731during the work week, a family friend named Vinod toured me around the city on the back of his motorbike.  Bangalore is a massive sprawl of a place.  home to over 8 million people, it’s easily the Indian Los Angeles.  one could get very lost very easily here and i felt lucky to be in such good hands.  we toured some gardens, a giant mall, an interactive science museum and the palace of Sultan Tipu who had both a morbid creative streak and a deep seeded hatred for the British.  he also took me to his house to meet his family and friends.  he politely excused himself to milk the town cow while his parents and i caught the last 20 tear jerking minutes of the Titanic.

Vinod is a shy and thoughtful man who speaks little english, but that didn’t stop us from establishing a solid friendship.  each morning he would show up with a smile on his face that said “can Roark come out and play?”… and of course i could, especially after a hearty home-cooked breakfast.

P1020721one day he took me to a local temple festival 20 kilometers outside of town.  we took part in a special ritual that involved the breaking of coconuts into a troth and then cramming ourselves into a small temple with a hundred others to take turns getting blessed.  when we finally reached the other end we were fed sweet bread balls.  not too far away we met up with Vinod’s entourage who were making preparations to feed an army.  each year they come to this festival and stay awake for several days straight to feed anyone with an appetite amounting to a couple thousand people in all.  the men cooked giant pots of sticky millet paste while the woman rolled them into balls and served them on leaf sewn plates with rice and vegetables in sauce.  i immediately felt the need to contribute to this process and then proceeded to convince them to allow me to do so.  a very nice young woman named Soumia gave me a crash course lesson in shaping the paste which involved dipping your hand in water then spinning the paste with a fast side-by-side jerking motion.  as soon as my hand came in contact with the stuff it scolded me causing me to retract my arm and wince from the pain.  they all started laughing at me.  after which i made several more attempts until it became clear that i was just no match for these woman and the years of experience they had on me.  after that i was kindly asked to leave the kitchen.  i just couldn’t take the heat i guess.

after that i wandered over to a drum circle off in the distance despite the simultaneous ‘use your better judgement’ looks that Soumia and Vinod gave me.  soon after arriving the drumming halted and the circle opened and forced me into it.  the next few seconds seamed like an eternity as i came to realize the seemingly blood-thirsty looks on the faces in every direction i turned.  “dance!” screamed a voice.  then the drumming started again.  then the P1020726blood-thirsty faces all turned into screaming blood-thirsty faces.  i simply had no choice in the matter.  a switch went off in my brain and i became a dance machine.  after demonstrating my best moves i beckoned them all to join me.  dancing turned into moshing and moshing turned into climbing on top of me and riding me like a bull.  as soon as there was a break in the drumming i clawed my way out of the circle when almost every man there insisted on shaking my hand and having their picture taken with me in front of a heavily decorated tractor with a framed photograph of a man mounted on the front.  Vinod and i eventually made our escape then walked around the outskirts of the festival for a cool down.  we watched as tractors pulling large water tanks would fill up troths for people to bathe in.  this is as close to Burningman as it gets here in India.

on my final day in Bangalore i repaid my thanks to Vinod by treating him to see the hit action movie “Oblivion” staring Tom Cruise.  he didn’t understand any of it but i sure did.  it was a sad goodbye when i left Rainbow Drive.  it was the first time i’d truly felt at home since my actual home.  i had even started to refer to Srihari and Durga as my Indian parents.  i mounted Vinod’s bike one last time with my pack on my back and Escapo sandwiched between us.  he drove me back to the train station and patiently waited with me until my train departed.

Hampi, here i come!

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  1. #1 by Barbara on April 27, 2013 - 8:57 am

    Wow, what a great adventure for you and for them. So glad you took the time to visit and share this experiance. So I am thinking you worked together at the E M P? What are you doing now?

  2. #2 by Kelly on April 27, 2013 - 9:03 am

    I had no idea u were going to visit Srihari! We shared an office for years at the chex. He taught me to put cardamon in banana smoothies (yum!) Sounds like u guys had an amazing time! Glad to hear u aren’t still trapped in the drum / dance circle. Looking forward to ur next post!

  3. #3 by roarkb on April 28, 2013 - 10:27 pm

    Barbara :

    So I am thinking you worked together at the E M P? What are you doing now?

    greetings Barbara! we worked together at a place called Marchex (post EMP). what am i doing now?… i am traveling the world:)

  4. #4 by roarkb on April 28, 2013 - 10:30 pm

    Kelly :

    I had no idea u were going to visit Srihari! We shared an office for years at the chex.

    oh man.. .how could i goto India and not visit Srihari.. we talked all about you. your presence was thoroughly missed!

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