Sunday, June 16, 2013

Taking care of Auntie

To fly from Pune to Calcutta, one must go either via Delhi, Mumbai or Bangaluru. Having already visited both Delhi and Mumbai, I opted for Bangaluru. And, since I was stopping over, I might as well stay a couple of nights and visit. A quick email to a neighbour from Bangaluru living in Canada asking what I should see in Bangaluru received this reply: “Forget Bangaluru; visit Mysore.”
I arrived at my hotel very late but nevertheless enquired if there was a tour to Mysore the next day. In India, with the remote possibility of backshish, everything is possible. A quick telephone call and I was booked for a 7 o’clock pick up the next morning. For the equivalent of $10. I would be picked up at my hotel to join a bus of Indian tourists for the 140 km drive south to Mysore, a tour of the city and return to my hotel.
Promptly, on Sunday morning, a taxi arrived at my modest hotel where I seemed to be the only tourist and the only woman; I was delivered to the tour bus. There was one seat left at the front, by itself: the only seat with actual view to the road from where I would enjoy the semi-tropical flowers and the palm trees during the two-hour drive to Mysore. In India as in Mexico amongst others, for some reason unknown to me (but I suspect it is to prevent road fright) a curtain is drawn at the front of the bus, behind the driver. On this particular bus, the curtain was actually only ¾ of the way so that I luckily had unobstructed view.
I was the only non-national on the tour and was thus offered that seat, the very best one on the whole bus. It was a little humbling but, knowing the hospitality of Indians, I knew every single one of them was proud to let me have that seat. Shortly, a young woman behind me asked: “Excuse me, Madam, what is your country?” I was, by then, very used to this question and was thankful for all the times it had been used as an overture to conversation. The young woman was part of a group of 6 young people, all university graduates spending 2 months in Bangaluru training in I.T. They were from all parts of India.
I ended up spending the day with these very lovely newly graduated students; it was not the first time that I experienced the wonderful hospitality of Indians. When I tried to purchase their lunch in order to show my appreciation, they flatly refused. "No, no, Auntie, you are a guest in our country." At dinner time, I managed to sneak payment for their meals to the waiter but when they realized what I had done, they firmly refused to let me pay and asked the waiter to refund my money - they paid for my meal as well as their own.
Back in Bangaluru around 11 pm, the bus driver announced that unfortunately, it was too late for him to drop everyone off at their original departure point as he was supposed to do. The 6 students refused to leave until a solution had been found to have me safely delivered to my hotel. Not being familiar at all with Bangaluru, I had not wanted to take a taxi, and eventually, the kind bus driver talked to his supervisor who instructed him to drop me off at my hotel.
I was sad to part from my young friends but the memories will remain.

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