Bangalore, the fifth largest city in India. "One of the seven most high-tech cities of the world with direct nonstop flights
to and from San Jose, California," my Brahmin driver Prakash proudly told me. In some ways, I felt I hadn't left my hometown of Austin, Texas. As I sat in the lobby of the
Taj West End Hotel it looked as though at least half of us were from the states. I even ran into a couple of high-tech entrepreneurs from Austin in a local store.
Bangalore is a very westernized city, with India pushing up against its outskirts
. Visit Deepam Silks and Sarees from some of the most beautiful scarves and ties to be found. Navrathan Jewelers has so much beautiful gold jewelry I
found it completely overwhelming. There is such a tremendous selection to view that it is impossible to spend a brief amount of time there. Driving just
outside of the city you will see bears wearing muzzles being led along on leashes. Tribes of monkeys run across the roads and play in the dappled
shade of the trees. Cobra mounds are everywhere to be seen.
One morning I was wandering about and heard live music being played. I headed towards it and found a car festooned in garlands of flowers. I
supposed that it was a wedding. I found someone who spoke enough English to understand me and they took me to the brother of the groom. In his
perfect English he told me that he lived in San Jose California and invited me to stay and photograph the wedding along with the other five photographers
who were jostling for position in front of the wedding dais.
A Hindu wedding ceremony is very colorful and full of symbolism. The bride sits on the dais with oil lamps burning
and many offerings of food, spices and other precious things. She is surrounded by a curtain of tinsel and garlands made of yellow marigolds. The groom's feet are anointed by the
priests. There are many family members up on the dais as a part of the wedding party: women, children and finally the bride and groom. Towards the end of the ceremony the
bride and groom stand side by side. The priest takes the small finger of each and delicately joins them together with a piece of straw.
The coattail of the groom and the shawl of the bride's dress are also tied together. These gestures symbolize the lifelong union of this man and woman
. Anyone who has a camera is invited to join in the photo opportunity. It is appreciated that all of these people are recording the wedding couple's big day
even though there is a constant friendly competition to get the best camera position in front of the newlyweds.
Arranged marriages are the norm in India and this was the first time the bride and groom had met. Once again, so
called Western sensibilities must be abandoned. In the well-ordered social hierarchy of India this system seems to work, for the most part. My friend from Bombay did not have
an arranged marriage because her parents wisely recognized that with her strong will, she would rebel against it completely. However, all of her other brothers and sisters
did have arranged marriages and are quite content.
India is a sensory experience. I replay the vision of sensual beauty she
seductively reveals. I don’t know if I have a greater tolerance, understanding, or wisdom. Can there ever be too much? As I unwound the threads of my
trip, as I repacked my clothes and journeyed back home through the airports that had been my passageway to India, I remembered the last weeks as
though no time had passed. The contents of my suitcase are a reminder of weeks spent exploring a new place. Retracing the steps of my journey and
heading back home, I was reminded of how exciting it is to see something for the very first time.
My stay in Bangalore was the final stop in my travels in India. As I boarded the plane from Bangalore to Bombay and prepared for my journey home I
made a mental list of the things I would not miss upon leaving India. I could think of only three things: being called "madam" by the cacophony of shop
keepers wanting to show me their wares, being touched by a beggar, and being the center of attention.
I wouldn't presume to tell you where to go or what to see in India. There is an adventure around every corner. She is full of beautiful beaches, temples,
people and life. She is the enigma of what we condescendingly call a third-world country. She is an ancient culture steeped in tradition.
The one thing I will tell you is that everywhere you go someone will want something from you. We are
wealthy by comparison. You will be treated with great respect and curiosity as well as as a potential benefactor. If you can assume the responsibility of
the burden of wealth, then you too will be able to see the beauty of this place called India.