Jeff Warner PHOTOGRAPHIC, Golden, Colorado, USA


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

10/12/11: Homestay Day #2: Mahabalipuram

We awoke at 0700 for breakfast, and were joined by Rao, who arrived at 0300. Rao has a very commanding, yet soft-spoken presence, quite unlike his son Mahdu, and I enjoyed briefly talking with him over a traditional South Indian breakfast, which was wonderful. We had to hurry off to meet the group of homestayers for a trip to a 1200-year old temple in Mahabalipuram (also referred to as Mamallapuram), but Rao promised to meet us back at the house after he worked for awhile.

The 1,200-year old Shore Temple.
 
The Shore Temple, the last remaining of seven temples located on the beach at Mahabalipuram, was now behind a fence to protect it. After walking past a row of sidewalk vendors to get to the beach we came out upon the sand, with a few ‘kiddie’ rides which Reade, Tate, and several college students took advantage of. Nearby was the biggest bas relief in the world, Arjuna’s Penance, which was carved into a large rock wall, adjacent to which is a large boulder perched on a downsloping slab of rock (lots of fun pics to be had there, a la the wonderful children’s book ‘Borreguita’). We were then taken to some additional vendors where Reade and Tate continued to hone their bartering skills, happy that they got some cheap stuff, but still left unsure of the quality of ‘the deal’. They are now getting pretty good at it; feigning disinterest when necessary, insisting that they ‘only have 200 rupees left’ when negotiating the price down, never looking to Dad to kick in the last 50 rupees necessary to close a deal on someone else’s terms. It’s really fun to watch them develop some ‘street sense’ borne of different cultures, of lands 10,000 miles from their home. I can’t wait for their first attempt at bartering for something back in Golden! ;)




LOL, can't say I've heard it called that one before!




Krishna's Butter Ball




Arjuna's Penance bas relief


Jurassic Park, anyone?


As we continued back toward Chennai, we stopped at a crocodile preserve (they are weird animals), and saw some snake handlers collect venom from one poisonous snake, which is subsequently sold to for conversion into venom anti-serum. I’ll tell you, if you’ve never seen a real Cobra stand up to nearly 18” and hiss at you (or a handler, in this case), it’s truly frightening on a primal level. They are universally scary little creatures, right to the core.
 


Hello! May I eat you?







'Milking' a Russel's Viper for the venom, you can actually see it moving down to the bottom of the bowl.



Rao arrived home shortly after we did, and we chatted prior to leaving for a dinner hosted at one of the Rotarian’s homes, a short drive away. Every year Haji adorns his house with various culturally-inspired ‘scenes’. The first room had small dolls, porcelain figures and little ‘story’ figurines, all depicting gods and fables and stories important to the Hindu religion. In another room was a puppet show depicting different ‘now and then’ facets of Indian life, the small puppet-dolls of which were made entirely by Haji and his family, and being operated by a nameless man beneath a table to the recording explaining it all (not in English). Within another room was constructed a model of a holy place in the Himalayas, right up to the ceiling of the room, which had little stars, a sunset over the mountains, beneath which you could enter a tunnel and see 12 different facets of the Hindu religion. Amazing undertaking.

We were then led to the rooftop deck, where a huge buffet was laid out for the 50-ish people that attended. Wonderful food, great people to talk to, some of which ended up singing songs in a circle after eating. They tried to get the college students to sing some songs, but they collectively could come up with little, ending up singing some nursery rhyme-ish song I cannot now remember. As Mahdu had already taken Malathy home, I could tell it was getting late for Rao, and we departed. The boys immediately went to bed, and Rao and I retreated to the basement bar for a beer, the local Kingfisher lager I’d wanted to try. We talked for nearly two hours about many things; the western economic recession, the Indian economy which is increasing by a stunning 10% per year, home life, etc. Rao is an amazing man, very spiritual, getting up at 0400 every morning for an hour of yoga/meditation (not western yoga), followed by an hour walk in the park. Having moved to Chennai from a rural village, Rao started with virtually nothing, and contends that being non-native and ‘not privileged’ allowed (forced upon?) him the drive to excel in a way that many have not. India is a very large country with many different languages that are in few ways similar to one another, and his moving to Chennai was as uprooting as moving from the US to, say, Spain or Italy.

We talked about the obvious parallels of Americans getting complacent, with the obvious future effects on our economy if we fail to consider the ramifications of our refusal to embrace globalization. In my opinion, embracing globalization and responding to it would require solutions whose effects lie 10 or 20 years down the road, and said solutions require immediate action on our part, actions that the majority of politicians flatly refuse to consider, instead attending to the superfluous details of the next year or two down the road. Like India dealing with mounting population problems in the poorer northern sections of the country, we in the US are at a crossroads where something can still be done about our future economic growth, but if our government remains hampered by rich people bickering about the narcissistic woes of the upper class running the country, we stand to lose a lot. If you don’t believe this, you need to see what’s happening in what were once referred to as ‘third world countries’, a term now typically abandoned for more descriptive terms like ‘underdeveloped’ and ‘developing’.  [/rant]

Come 0100 hours, we both hit the wall after finishing our Kingfishers, and retreated to bed, where I aptly controlled the A/C and fan without freezing or sweating, allowing a restful sleep prior to the boys implementing their $100 Solution.

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