Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Bangalore

I left Delhi on Wednesday, July 15th ready for adventure – but I had no idea what was in store for me. At the airport in Delhi, I encountered absolutely no problems. I arrived way early so I sat down and read for a while. It’s interesting how at Indian airports you see all kinds of nationalities, all kinds of people, and when you leave the airport they all seem to disappear. Where do they all go? Do they stay indoors mostly, or with their own groups? I guess India can be an intimidating place, but it’s actually very friendly if you let yourself go with the flow.

We landed in Bangalore around 12:45 PM. I found myself outside with my luggage in no time. As soon as I exited the airport, right in front of me was a sign that read “Mr. Varun Khanna” held up by a man in a red shirt; I thought he was the taxi driver who was supposed to take me to Aksharam, which was my destination. Aksharam is an office/school/residence of Sanskrit Bharati, the organization through which I first learned how to speak Sanskrit. I nodded to the man and he nodded back with a smile and took me to the taxi, accompanied by another man in red. When I got into the taxi, however, I saw that the driver was someone else! I saw all the papers in the hands of these guys and they all had my name on them, so I felt relatively secure. The second man in red got into the car with me and the driver and we started driving. About five minutes into the drive, the man in red asked me, “Do you know how to get there?”

I was rather confused for two reasons: 1) Wasn’t he supposed to know where we were going?? 2) He asked me the question in Hindi. In Bangalore, the local language is Cannada, and the generic language is English. Hindi doesn’t really make its way into the scene, so I was rather surprised that this guy knew Hindi. It turns out he also knew English and Cannada. So did the driver.

I told them that I had no idea where we were going, and that I had the address but not the directions. About 15 minutes into the drive, the man in red got out of the car at a stoplight and just started walking away. The driver told me that his house was nearby, so he was going home. I was somewhat confused as to what was going on, but I just went with the flow. We ended up stopping four or five times to ask for directions before getting to the place. When we actually got there, there were a few people waiting for me at the door. (I had called them from the driver’s phone to let them know that I was coming). I paid the driver and went inside.

As soon as I got in, I felt at home. The amazing thing is that throughout the country, even though there are hundreds of local languages and dialects, Sanskrit is one language that remains constant. Each person in India can call Sanskrit his or her own. The local languages change by region, but Sanskrit is truly the mother of all languages. So no matter where you go, if people speak Sanskrit, you can get around. More people than expected speak Sanskrit, especially if you know where to go. Another thing is that the bond created between two people who speak Sanskrit is a very powerful one. The language itself is so strong that when the two people meet, they are automatically connected. Unless you experience it for yourself, this written explanation won’t mean very much to you. Also, I don’t do it justice.

I was informed that I was not going to Sringeri that day. There was massive rainfall going on in Sringeri, so much so that some of the buses that left from Bangalore did not make it to Sringeri. Even the university where I would be studying was taking a few days off for the rains to pass. (Imagine that! As opposed to a snow day, a rain day! How much rain must have been falling in Sringeri?) Thus I was advised to stay at Aksharam for a few days, at which time it would be safe to go to Sringeri. I have never known rain to be unsafe, but there is a first time for everything I suppose. I experienced some initial frustration at not being allowed to go, but I decided that rather than being angry at the turn of events, I would go with the flow and seek the good that could come out of this new opportunity. Either way, I was in a Sanskrit-speaking environment, so I was happy.

The rest of Wednesday went by rather uneventfully, I helped out here and there and got to meet a few people. It appears there is the creation of a new Sanskrit dictionary going on at Aksharam, so different pundits and scholars from all over the country periodically come in and stay for a few days or a few weeks to help. I watched them work for a while, I watched others do certain tasks (helped as well), watched a Sanskrit class for little kids take place. It was quite enjoyable. Of course, I didn’t understand a word of what was being spoken outside of the Sanskrit, because it was all in Cannada, but what was being said in Sanskrit I could understand. The day ended early for me, I turned in around 9:00 PM because I was too tired to do anything else. I went right to sleep.

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