ADAM GOES TO INDIA 1998 December 3 Yes, it's one of Adam's long e-mails, but at least I type these myself. So if the prospect of another of my personal stories is more than you care to take, then enter the DELETE command now. I certainly thought it would be a cold day in Pasadena before I ever made it to the Subcontinent, but this was an opportunity to be seized and I took advantage of it. HISTORY A few years ago, the Department of Operations and Management Science in the Carlton Business School at the University of Minnesota asked me to teach a course as an "adjunct" professor. That means I don't get paid much, as I have a real job somewhere else, but they have to be nice to me, as I have a real job somewhere else. Whether by accident or design, I got a class of a dozen enthusiastic and hard working students and have remained in touch with several for years. The class was decidedly "subcontinental" with Delhi, Bombay, Calcutta, and Madras represented. (I had no Assamese students.) Satish, in particular, was one of those students and we formed a good friendship from the time he was my student to now when I live here in Fort Worth and he lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. Recently, his work has brought him to Dallas several times and we have gotten together in this area, but he visited me in Long Island a couple of years ago as well. I have even gotten him enthusiastic enough about music and hifi to buy a record player and some vinyl LP records to play on it. On a recent trip back home to India, Satish sent me electronic mail that he was getting married! He invited me to the wedding in Madras and very much wanted me to come. I figured I would never have a better chance to experience India, any part of India, than having a whole family of hosts including a good friend. I found a reasonable airfare, arranged to take a few days off from work around American Thanksgiving weekend, and the trip was arranged. I also offered to give a talk and have some discussions at Satish's Alma Mater, the India Institute of Technology (IIT). They offered to put me up in their Taramani Guest House right on their wooded, secluded campus. I asked Indian friends in the States what was different when they came here. I figured those were the differences I could expect to be most noticeable to one going there. The answer was: Everything! I tried to get my tourist visa through the mail and, when that didn't work, waited in lines for about four hours on 1998 November 8, Sunday, with a million expatriated Indians planning to go at holiday time. (The Indian consulate sets up an office in Dallas one Sunday each month, so I didn't have to go to Houston to get my tourist visa.) One friend of mine has been going to India fairly regularly since 1963. He pointed out that a big advantage of an air conditioned room is that I could keep the windows closed. On his first visit, his room was raided by monkeys who opened just about everything he had in their quest for edible stuff. South India is different from North India. While educated people know English, usually as a second language, the primary language of North India is Hindi and the primary language of South India is Tamil. The Tamil language comes from a different root than the "Indo-European" languages: In the way that Russian, Arabic, Swedish, Spanish, and Hindi are the same, Tamil is different. While I like to travel, I am still a bit afraid of going to strange places. And if I found Eastern Europe a bit intimidating, then what was India going to be like? Here I have a chance to go with a whole family looking out for me. After all, I'm the professor friend visiting from far away. Next time I'll be just another white faced American trying to get change for 100 rupees, right? MY TRIP DIARY 1998 November 19, Thursday evening. From Dallas/Fort Worth Airport (DFW) I left for San Francisco Airport (SFO) where I was to meet Satish. I pretty well filled one under-the-seat carry-on bag and figured I would be using its expansion zippers to make it bigger for the trip home. Satish showed up with his carry-on bag and four large and very heavy suitcases full of sundries. He wasn't the only one with a lot of bags waiting for flights to Asia; I get the feeling that a major source of staple items in India is checked luggage. The flight to HongKong (HKG) was fourteen hours and we got breakfast and took three more hours to the "New Asia Theme Park," also known as Singapore. Satish has few strong opinions on places being good or bad, but he definitely felt Singapore was a facade. I came away with the same impression that it was a theme park with its own animal mascot, the Mer-Lion (a mermaid lion), instead of Mickey Mouse. Once we left Singapore and got to cruising altitude on the last flight leg of our journey, Satish was all anxious, "I'm going home!" November 21, Saturday night. We got to Madras (now called Chennai) just before 22:00 but it took over an hour to get off the 'plane, get through immigration, get all four of Satish's suitcases, and get through customs. We were greeted by his family from Madras and her family who had just flown in from Delhi. (Her family lives in Delhi and speaks Hindi, but they're still Tamil and speak Tamil.) I was taken to the Taramani Guest House at IIT and shown my room. Satish's lifelong friend, Mr. Annamalai, had arranged things and he was going to meet me Sunday at 10:00 along with Satish. November 22, Sunday. I got up around 5:30 and ran for an hour. It was hot and muggy, but overcast, so the sun wasn't too bad. I saw two kinds of deer, banyon trees, and some monkeys on my run. The water heater switch was pointed UP, which I thought was turned ON, but I got no hot water for my shower. (In spite of my experience with the lights, I didn't make the connection to pull the switch DOWN.) I went to the guest house dining hall and had an omelet and then my groom friend Satish and Mr. Annamalai showed up right at ten o'clock. After an enjoyable discussion, Satish took me to pick up some family members, including his wife-to-be, and we drove around Madras seeing local sights. I stuck my hand in the Bay of Bengal at the beach, saw some memorials to earlier Indian prime ministers, visited a cathedral with Saint Thomas's remains from 72 A.D. and saw Madras at sunset from the hill where Saint Thomas was martered. I decided to go to Kanchipuram, a town of Hindu temples, on Monday and to Mammalipuram, a more ancient town of artifacts including temples, on Tuesday. November 23, Monday. While I was running early in the morning, a fellow bicycled alongside me, introduced himself as Mr. Pounraj, and mentioned that he was from Mammalipuram. When I mentioned that I was going there on Tuesday, he offered to take a day off and be my guide. I wasn't entirely sure what he was going to get for his services, but I figured the cost of another person on my visit there was small. Even with the switch down and ON, the water heater didn't work and I got another cold shower. They gave me the key to another room with a working hot shower which I tested. When I had offered to take family to Kanchipuram, five people joined me and my driver, so we had a full car. One of them spoke some English and was able to explain things to me and I got a wonderful tour inside one of the temples. At the second temple I was thrown out rather noisily as a non-Hindu and the third made some deal about my camera which took enough time that it was closed by the time it was settled. These lovely temples were about 400 years old and were made with no mortar: The stones just fit well together. These temples are magnificent structures of intricately carved stone in a rectangular spire, ornate in the stone detail itself. Some have darkened from four centuries of exposure. The environment included statues, paintings, and South Indian background music. When we got back from Kanchipuram, I spent some time with Satish's family and Geeta's family and was well treated and well fed. November 24, Tuesday. Without knowing the Tamil language, I would have had a difficult time without Mr. Pounraj as a guide at Mammalipuram, so having him along worked well. He grew up there, so he knew the place inside and out. He also knew which friends and relatives to guide us to for buying postcards and souveniers as well as buying a very nice lunch. He seemed very glad that we had no other company, just the two of us, "good friends." He took me to his friend's crocodile farm, also. At the end of the day, he insisted on coming up to my room and, sure enough, he asked for money. I gave him a few dollars worth of rupees and told him to go away. Clearly, the entire day had been a setup to con me. But who got conned? Satish and I figured out that the total amount "extra" I paid for the souveniers plus the money I paid him was about half what I would cheerfully have paid for the day had he asked for the money up front. After all, it is worth quite a bit to me to have a cheerful guide who actually grew up in this fascinating place. These temples were about 1200 years old and many are carved from single large pieces of stone. He knew the history of the temples and showed me fascinating views, and photo opportunities, along the way. He also knew some good stops on the way there and back. And there was plenty of history to see in Mammalipuram, twelve centuries worth of it. The temples had eight centuries more wind wear than those of Kanchipuram and were in a different, presumably older, style. There was one lovely temple by the Bay of Bengal which I was told had six sisters washed into the sea over time. When I got back, I opened the door and faced The Great Room Robbery. Sure enough, monkeys had jimmied my window I thought had been closed securely and ransacked my room. Stuff was strewn all over the place, my plastic film cans had been opened and the rolls of film had been thrown around, my Pepto-Bismol and aspirin pills had been thrown out the window, and some glass had been broken. The pre-wedding evening festivities were wonderful. Dinner was served on large leaves with more food than anybody could eat. Family members were anxious to sit next to me, the visitor from America, and were helpful in pointing out a few things I should *not* try to eat. The South Indian food was quite wonderful and I ate heartily. Apparently, this is the "engagement party" where, in arranged marriages, the groom and bride meet for the first time. After a ride to the 7:00 pre-wedding festivities was arranged with an uncle, my driver was sent back to IIT with me. Since he had unexpectantly asked me for dinner money the night before, in the very little English he knew, I wanted it clear what I was supposed to sign, to pay, and to expect; he was told that he would not be picking me up the next morning. So we got to IIT and he said, "When tomorrow?" I said, "Not tomorrow" and he said, "Eight thirty?" I repeated, "Not tomorrow" and went to bed wondering if he was going to show up and then expect payment even when I wasn't there. November 25, Wednesday. The air conditioner quit around 3:00 and Madras is warm and muggy enough for that to be a problem. I turned on the light, diddled with the air conditoner and gave up, read for a short while, and then noticed that the key to the working-shower room had been removed during the post-monkey-raid cleanup. So I had a hot room and a cold shower to look forward to and I still didn't know if the driver was going to make a case that I told him to come. I fidgeted for about an hour and a half until revelation came to me. Look, warm friends and cool tempers are a whole lot more important than a cool room and a warm shower, right? And if the driver shows up, well we told him not to come, right? So what am I so bothered about? At 4:30, I put on my running gear and ran for an hour in the dark listening to the sounds of the wooded campus, took my cold shower, got dressed for the wedding, put on my camera, and waited for my ride to show up. I expected a wonderful ceremony and I wasn't disappointed. First was a terrific breakfast followed by wonderful live music, South India style with strident horns and drums. The members of the group later commented to Satish how nice it was that I sat and *listened* to them. Like everywhere else, I guess, weddings may pay well, but they're not a musician's glamor job. Every time something exciting was happening in the wedding, the family gestured to the musicians to play appopriately exciting music which added to the overall impact. Family members pointed out the important events to me. Lunch was another stupendous meal, also on giant leaves, after which I was taken to IIT where I was to meet with Professors Ashok Jhunjhunwala and T. T. Narendren. They had other faculty and a student there along with an associate, P. R. Goudan, from India's South Central Railway. We talked mostly about railroads, they gave me a tour of their wireless telecommunications laboratories, and I gave my talk on Cellular Telephone Service to an audience of about one hundred students. I also took advantage of my time at IIT to change rooms to one with working air conditioner and working hot water. They were very responsive and got me another room quickly. IIT clearly has its priorities straight: The buildings may look old and tattered in places, but those laboratories were new and busy. They had circuit boards for wireless (radio) telephone base stations and phones using various technology and they were at least as current in the radio telephone standards as I am. (I last worked in the area a year and a half ago.) One of Satish's undergraduate professors (whose name I forget, mea culpa) drove me back to the wedding hall for the evening festivities which started off with, you guessed it, a sumptuous meal. The total wedding meal count was now up to four. November 26, Thursday. The power went out at midnight for six hours, so I got dressed for my morning run in the dark. When the power came back on, the water wasn't working right, so I got a short shower before meeting with the IIT folks for some more discussions. Then Mr. Annamalai gave me to lunch at his house, an excellent meal served by his wife with his father and a friend. He took me back to Satish whose uncle took me on some shopping errands and back to IIT. Mr. Annamalai met me with his son and we got a souvenier IIT T-shirt for me and I got one for Satish. When Satish and Geeta showed up, we had dinner at the Taramani Guest House and headed for Madras Airport. SUPERFICIAL DIFFERENCES Differences between here and there range from superficial to deep. While they can produce problems, the little differences are often amusing and fun, especially in retrospect. Here is a short list of some "little" things I observed: They drive on the left, Americans drive on the right. Their power switches go down for ON; our switches go down for OFF. They specifically eat with their right hands; I eat with my left. (I find it wonderful being in Europe where even right handed people cut with the right hand and eat with the left, just as I do.) They eat with a bare hand; I'm used to cutlery and napkins. (There are comparable differences in the indoor plumbing.) They nod their heads on the third axis that we do not use. I don't know if Hindi people do that or just Tamil people. My room's hot water spigot was on the right; ours are on the left. They use Lakh (hundred thousand) and Crore (ten million) multipliers while we use million and thousand million (billion). REAL IMPRESSIONS OF INDIA Can I understand India in five days? For that matter, could I understand India in five years? Everything I see is filtered through an American filter: I'm used to things a certain way. That put aside, what did I learn about India? And did any of that help me understand the people I know who are from there? For the things I seek to understand, I may not be too far wrong in extrapolating from the state of Tamil Nadu to the rest of the Subcontinent. First of all, there is a real difference in wealth: India is a third world country. Many people there lead very hard lives. I think this is an improving situation, but there is a long way to go. The languages are different and the culture is different. I was quite thankful that my hosts took the time to help me and explain things to me, since I would have had a difficult time on my own. Perhaps I simply would have lowered my expectations, but it was a much nicer visit being able to travel and see sights and interact with my hosts as a family. It made the difference between being a tourist and being a guest and I am very grateful for that. But the real difference is that India has found a way to get along with a whole lot less wealth than I am used to. While the people who live there lock their doors, they don't seem to be any more concerned with crime than people in nice American neighborhoods.