I'm sitting in the last of the sun on my last retreat day here at Sangam House/Nrityagram. I'll miss the bird sounds, the one that sounds like a tap dripping, the mournful doves, the musical twittering of the parrot-like birds (I think), some kind of swallows, and even the crows who wake us up at between 6 and 8 a.m. every morning by pecking on the high windows. And I'll miss the food, the sound of drums and singing most of the day, and most of all the gracious people.
I'm heading to London early in the morning for some celebrations for the UK release of Shelter. I'll be there 4 days and then back to Delhi to continue my India travels. I actually get to return to Sangam House for one day to meet up with two friends I met here and then we travel together to Hampi. I've been very lucky to have this gentle introduction to India.
But to finish the Banglore story. After our bookstore tours, our taxi took us to Fabindia. If I could, I would insert here a dramatic ascending note, raga-style. Everyone told me I had to go to Fabindia. It's a store that's been in India for over 50 years, carrying textiles and furniture made in India in beautiful traditional patterns and dyes. I could have spent hours.
In a post-consumer haze, we got back in the taxi and got the full-on Bangalore traffic experience. We headed to the Toto awards for young (under 30) writers and visual artists. We got there a little late, (blaming the traffic, not the amount of time we spent shopping) but still in time to hear a few writers reading in English and Kannada. Since I've read a shortened version of the Mahabharata, I recognized the references one writer was making about narrative. I also heard references to Koshy's where we were going for dinner later. It's kind of an institution in Bangalore, a place with Indian, Chinese and Western food. In fact, when we got there and the owner heard there was a woman from Korea in our party, he went to the kitchen and brought out kimchi (I think that's right), a kind of hot pickle made with cabbage. She pronounced it (sotto voce) "fake kimchi" but politely told him it was "unique."
After dinner at Koshy's (our table ordered everything from pork chops to egg foo yung to scrambled eggs to kofta and palak paneer--that was my end of the table. We also had Indian wine, Seagrams Nine Hills, not bad), it was late and time to head back to Sangam House. At one point in the road there was a checkpoint, mainly for trucks who take the back routes to avoid the tolls (sound familliar, Neil?) but our taxi was stopped. The guard seemed puzzled by this taxi heading into the countryside with an Indian driver, a white foreigner in the front seat, and one in the back, along with an Indian woman and an Asian woman. He asked the driver the same set of questions twice, apparently to make sure he was telling the truth, then he asked my name and I said, "Francie." (as if, surely you've heard of me?) He said "Francie," nodded, and let us drive on. We all laughed about that afterward. "Francie Madam" Nabina kept saying.