Sunday, December 12, 2010

Breaking a long silence

Please accept my apologies for being absent without leave (AWOL) for so many weeks. I have been feeling guilty but I had very little to talk about. But now I am back and I have lots to talk about. I promise to be more regular as we move forward. It is the lack of knitting content that was keeping me silent.

First of all, the featherweight cardi is done. This is a bad photo of it in its unblocked state. I need to block it today. I wore it a few times and enjoyed it. It also came in useful as I needed a light cardi right after I finished it.

One of the reasons I was silent was that we made a quickly planned trip to India, Cambodia and Thailand. More on the latter two in the coming weeks. This post is devoted to the India part. We went to visit family so there isn't a lot to blog about with respect to activities. There was a lot of visiting, eating and a little shopping.

While I was in India, I took a solo train trip to visit my aunt and uncle in Bengaluru, Karnataka state. The visit itself was fun and uneventful but both ends of the train trip were fraught with excitement like a pair of bookends. To set the scene, it had been raining heavily off and on while I was in Chennai, Tamil Nadu. My train was scheduled to depart at 6 am and I had arranged for a taxi to come and pick me up at 5:15 am to get to the train station on time.

I woke up at 4:30 am to find it raining cats and dogs. I didn't think much of this as trains in India deal with rain all the time. I showered, dressed and finished packing for the 2 day trip. At about 5:05 am, I started looking out for the taxi. They usually come about 5-10 mins early. In the rain and early morning darkness, it was difficult to see whether it was there or not. But I hung out on the porch looking for it.

At 5:11 or so, the power went out. Now, it is common for power to go out in India and most people have batteries on inverters that provide power for a few lights and fans for an hour or two. However, in the house where I was staying, the battery wasn't holding a charge for more than a few mins worth of power. So we hurried to look for flashlights and candles. Being guests, we didn't know where these were. My hostess was still asleep as far as I knew. Our host was up but was floundering as badly as we were. My husband kept a watch out for the taxi while my host and I continued with the hunt for the lights. At 5:20, defeated, I gave up and went to wake up my hostess. She was up and had her cell phone out wondering if the taxi driver might have called her for directions.

She came down and got the candles lit and called the taxi company. They gave her the number of the driver's mobile phone. Unfortunately, he was still about 20 mins away due to the rain and bad planning on the taxi company's part. By now it was 5:30 am. We waffled a bit - first we told him to cancel and I decided to give up on the trip; then we remembered that there was a train an hour later and called back to tell him to come anyway.

I rolled up my jeans to the knees so I could wade around in the water and puddles. My husband came with me to the station to see what we could do about getting a seat on the later train. We were at the train station by 6:10 am or so. Sadly, as we expected, the train had left on time despite the rain. The Indian railways are one of the most amazing logistical operations in the world. They move millions of people daily with minimal disruption due to weather and other conditions.

We dashed up to the counter, waited in line (my husband went to the info counter to find out what we needed while I waited in the reservations line), filled out forms while we waited, and were able to get a seat on the later train. Yay! This was done by 6:30 am! The next train was at 7:15 am so I had a bit of time to wait. While we were waiting for the train, I thought I would call my cousin's husband in Bengaluru and tell him I was coming by a later train. He was going to meet me at the station there.

We had left our Indian cell phone back home here in the US so I had borrowed a pre-paid cell phone from my nephew. It didn't work so I thought it was missing minutes. My husband said he'd make sure some minutes were added to it but I gave him my cousin's husband's number and asked him to call. It is a good thing I did because the phone was missing its SIM card! It was just a pretty weight in my bag.

After all this excitement, the rest of the trip was anti-climactic. But it was fun. I met up with a number of crafty Ravelry friends. I was meeting them in real life for the first time. They were hospitable and generous. They brought me gifts. I feel very guilty that I didn't bring them anything, but I have ideas for the next time I visit. Here's the entire group. What a lovely group of ladies and two gorgeous sons!

If you've been following along, you'll remember that I said there was excitement at both ends. I made my original train on the way back. I made small talk with the lady sitting next to me, I napped while listening to my ipod, I ate my breakfast and drank coffee and was anticipating seeing more family members in Chennai.

After we left the penultimate station, the train suddenly stopped for about 10 mins. This is not unusual as sometimes trains have to wait for signals outside stations. But suddenly, a large number of porters boarded the train and told us that the train wouldn't be moving for a couple of hours! For people who were getting ready to disembark, these statements caused total disbelief. A few of the men in the carriage got down and checked on the situation. Unfortunately, it was true. The porters told us we were about 1.5 km from the destination station. We had two options: walk along the tracks to the station or get onto a road near-by and find a taxi or auto-rickshaw to take us to our final destinations. Since I had no idea where we were, I opted for the former.

A very nice gentleman helped me get out of the carriage (it is a l-o-n-g way down when there is no platform) with my bag and we walked together to the station. He was very companionable and we had a nice time chatting as we walked. As we walked, we ran into the problem that had held up our train.

This locomotive had come off its rails and was blocking our train. [You can see our locomotive on the right hand side] It belonged to an oncoming train that was on a parallel track. The amazing thing is that no one on either train was hurt. But our train had to wait for the locomotive to be put back on its rails before it could continue into the station.

One of the things I love about India is how friendly and inquisitive everyone is. I had a nice chat with my co-passenger on the train and found out all about her family, where she was going, and other little details about her life. The gentleman who walked back to the station with me also shared information about his family and his business. He even complimented me on not looking my age. In return, one is expected to share the same sort of information about oneself. Maybe I've been in the US too long but I don't like to tell people where I'm from. I am willing to tell them where I'm going, all about my family etc. But not where I live. I think I've lost some of that Indian generosity of spirit by being so reticent.

More on various other aspects of the trip in future posts as well as my next knitting project.

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