My travel to Bangalore was spent praying that my bottom wouldn’t erupt, and the first few days of the summer school followed in a similar manner, with me positioned close to the lecture theatre door…
During this summer school I experienced my first real mood drop since being in India. Micha had just left, it was raining, cold, and I was to be confined to an institute in the middle of nowhere, 20km from the city, comprising of grey buildings, under a grey sky, with nothing around, and whose perimeter I could traverse in less than 5 minutes. It may also have been caused by residual effects of the stomach bug, or the fact that we had to share rooms, and being a light sleeper this meant my sleep was even more disturbed than usual. Just to add salt to the wound, the Brexit news came out, and my country appeared to be in disarray, with no prime minister and the political parties fighting amongst themselves. My Indian colleagues seem more concerned about the football result.
But I got up, got dressed, got blessed (by Lakshmi the elephant in Pondicherry) and tried to be a success. Slowly I began to regain some motivation and to discover plenty of hidden pleasures in Bangalore. It was a highly cosmopolitan city, similar to a major city in many other countries (with an Indian twist). It had shiny shopping malls, imposing business districts, plenty of fancy restaurants and bars which felt like being back in London at times, and amidst it all, the holy cow was still grazing in the middle of the road.
I ate BEEF burgers, drank cider, attended an exclusive roof top party and made new Indian, American, Australian and Polish friends. In short, there were a lot of things to enjoy in ‘the Bang’. The traffic however, was not one of them. Every venture into the city involved hours in Uber or Ola (an alternative to Uber) taxis. Apparently the population of this city has doubled in the last few years wrecking havoc on the road systems.
One weekend I made a visit to Pondicherry on the east coast with an american guy I’d met at a couch surfing meet up. The bus station where we got our overnight coach from was buzzing the coaches and the bus itself was pretty plush, with blankets, cushions and curtains. It seems the south is well geared up for coach travel, which makes sense with destinations like Goa, Hampi, Ooty, Madikeri, Wayanad and Kerala all an overnight coach journey away from each other.
Pondi turned out to be a (relatively) clean coastal town with a heavy french influence. There were street signs with the words “rue de la …”, and a long broad walk beside a pebble beach from where you could sip red wine with your steak-frites.
We rented a scooter for the weekend, drank beer and watched the waves on a sandy beach south of the city.
We also visited Auroville, a community founded by “the mother” in the 60s (surprise surprise) for people from all countries to live in peace in a self sufficient community. It had grown into a small township with approx 2500 people living there (1/3 are indian) with people from 49 countries. In order to join, you have to forgo your earthly possessions (and a large sum of money) and in return you get a house or land and building materials. All the money goes into an Aurovillian ‘pot’ from which anyone is allowed to submit a request for and withdraw from. We wandered around and saw some large houses resembling those found in the country back at home, with large well-kept gardens. They do organic farming and at the visitor centre we also learnt that they’re running lots of workshops for everything from yoga to using bamboo as a building material to help the locals as well as themselves. Whilst admiring the grand houses of some and hearing tales of in-bitching as well as complaints from some of the locals, it is hard to know whether this idealistic lifestyle is really working for them.
Overall the summer schools had been interesting, and it was nice to notice that there were a large proportion of females in the audience… though no female speakers. After 3 weeks of lectures however I decided I could sit still no longer and I “Brexited” back to Kanpur to get on with some work of my own once more.