Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Adventure 15: Chennai

Yesterday morning I left home at around 8:00 AM to get to the Delhi Airport by 9 AM, so that I could check in for my flight (which was going to be at 10:10 AM) on time. (Oh yeah, I came back to Noida from Varanasi on the 26th morning… it was an overnight train, which was pretty fun. Not much more to say about that.) I ended up arriving around 8:40 AM and so I checked in, and sat down. I was flying Indian Airlines, and so naturally, at 10:30 AM I noticed that there was a flight that was supposed to leave at 9:40 that was still boarding. So I waited, and waited, and finally about an hour and a half late (not too bad!) I boarded my flight for Chennai. Now, my dad’s office is in Chennai, of which he happens to be the CEO. So when I arrived in Chennai, one of his chief helpers came to pick me up, and we went to the hotel called Green Park Hotel where my dad stays when he goes. It is such a sweet hotel… Take our 5-star hotels, add some extra service and food, and one of the coolest foyers I have ever seen, and you’ve got the Green Park.


After dropping my stuff off at the hotel, we went to my dad’s office. It is so nice! And my dad’s personal office space has this big sign on it that says “CEO” and under the sign is another sign that says “Rajiv Khanna” which was the coolest thing to see! I could just imagine when my dad comes here; he probably gets such an awesome reception and stuff, because in India, the corporate culture is different. The respect given to one’s boss is unparalleled. Even the respect given to the boss’s son (me)!! I felt like I was in a scene right out of a Hindi movie, the classic “son of the boss goes to dad’s office, meets office workers, they like him, etc” scene. So I met his workers and then sat in his office (which only gets used when he comes here).


I must comment here that it felt so awesome to be in my dad’s shoes for a while. Of course, I didn’t have to do the work he did, but just to sit there even felt so cool. The same goes for when I went to BHU. It was my dad’s alma mater, so it made it all the more special for me. Those of you who have gone to the college your parents went to, or done something your parents used to do when they were your age, or even visited your parents’ workplaces, doesn’t it feel special somehow? I think it does. Anyways I was so proud of my dad for establishing such a nice office and large company, and that feeling mixed with the relief of being done with my coursework officially was really nice.


After retiring to my room in the hotel, I realized how luxuriously we live in the States, and in classy places like Green Park Hotel. This is because only a few days ago I was in Varanasi, with no electricity, running water only half the time, no gas, and a temperature that was WAY hotter than Chennai… It occurred to me that even living in such a classy hotel, after having experienced what I saw in Varanasi, I could never get used to this. Just knowing that there are people out there in the world with nothing but a cloth to bunch up to put their head on when they sleep at night, outside, on bare ground in the heat of summer, it is so hard to live with oneself in such luxury. I realized our worlds are just little bubbles of security, especially for kids of successful parents, because the kids themselves were simply born into such luxury, they never have to work for it… they will never get to experience what 95+% of the world is going through. And without this experience, they cannot know what is going on! And yet, these are the people that run the world. We always talk about helping people on the streets, helping the poor, saving the world. But do we even really know what we are trying to save?


Of course, the problem is not the luxury we live in. It is the thanklessness with which we live in it. We complain about food, we complain about clothes, we complain about people, dorms, classes, TV, politics, weather, facilities; we complain about EVERYTHING. If we could just adopt an attitude of gratefulness for our circumstances, life would be so much more beautiful and meaningful. It is hard to adopt this attitude without knowing what we COULD be living in, I know; but maybe that means that each one of us should make a trip outside our little bubbles of security? Gratitude is the key to living a meaningful life, I think, but nobody can give you gratitude… you have to feel it. Step away from your security bubble, wander outside your comfort level, and observe the real world. Then gratitude will naturally enter your being.


Finally today I went to go see one of the friends I made at Veda Vijnana Gurukulam, Arvind Agraja. He lives in Chennai, so today I had a taxi ordered for me, and made my way to his house. When I got there, I saw that Bharat Agraja was also there, as were a few of the other students from the Gurukulam!! They were apparently finishing some week-long program they had set up for Sanskrit or something. It was so cool to see them after a couple of months! I sat with them for a couple hours and we talked, and then I had lunch there. After lunch, it was time to go. I left and then I asked the driver to take me around Chennai. He said ok, and we went first to Marina Beach. I got out of the car, and decided to walk around the beach a little.


Marina Beach is one of the biggest beaches I have ever seen. There had to have been over a thousand people within sight range, I’m not kidding. And it was something like walking into a carnival. In India, in big cities and in crowded places, the street vendors have a method of finding their way into the center of attention. And their stuff is always carnival-ish, which makes these locations a lot more entertaining than if it was just a lot of people in one place. So I entered the festivities and walked all the way to the ocean (which was a 10 minute walk, so imagine how big the beach must be), and then walked back to the car. It was a short but enjoyable experience at Marina Beach, and then I told the driver to go to our next location. He then took me to the hotel, so I guess he was satisfied (and so was I, I was exhausted)! It probably also has to do with the fact that the driver didn’t know English, and I don’t know Tamil, so we couldn’t really communicate very well. I used hand gestures to get my point across, but it seemed to work.


Anyways, tomorrow I’m leaving at 5:00 AM to go to Pondicherry, so I think I will end this entry here.

1 comment:

mary said...

Varun.. isn't it nuts how nice the hotels are there! i remember staying with my dad in mumbai for a few nights and it is so surreal... to go from working with people on the streets all day to sleeping on sheets of egyptian cotton. I completely agree with what you said about people here taking things for granted though.. more to follow. lots of prayers!!!