Friday, May 31, 2013

To Bangalore and Chennai, and Back Again

Bangalore is one of my favorite cities, so when Women's Web asked me to do a workshop with them there, I jumped at the offer. And not only is Bangalore lovely, it's also India's startup hub, and Nilesh and I decided this was a good excuse to go there and meet a few entrepreneurs we wanted to talk to.

Chennai, too? Women's Web asked. I agreed, and only later realized that Chennai in May was probably a bad idea for a heat-averse person.

Anyway. Bangalore was just as lovely as I expected.  We stayed with a friend I hadn't seen for thirteen years, and her boyfriend and brother, and they graciously made room for us and cooked for us and included us in their days. They even cleaned after us -- and used as I am to us and all our friends having household help, this feels like a big deal. We felt so much at home I wasn't homesick (and I'm usually homesick the third day I'm away from home, and this was five days).

We were also incredibly fortunate that our hosts live right near the Outer Ring Road, and the bus stop was just a few minutes walk from the flat. Even with my foot that hasn't quite healed and keeps swelling up scarily when I'm not extra-careful with it, taking buses to our various destinations (and then maybe an auto driven by a friendly, polite man! -- which is such a surprise, every time!) was quite easy.

Not just autowallahs -- everyone in Bangalore seemed so polite and friendly. We got off our 15-hour bus ride and walked to the local bus station nearby and hesitated near the entrance, looking lost. A bus driver and an official asked us where we wanted to go and directed us to the right place. Somehow, I've never had that happen anywhere else.

The people we met were lovely and kind too: entrepreneurs, marketers, startup advisors. So many wonderful conversations that I wished I had more days for more regular meetings with many of them.

The weather was lovely too. A few degrees too hot, but often cloudy and breezy.

The workshop itself was great fun, and the energy in the room was amazing. I met the wonderful Starry, and wish I could have stayed and chatted with her longer, but I had been standing and talking for over five hours and was exhausted. (Sorry, Starry, and I'm so glad you came to meet me!)

And then Chennai. We got off the AC train and were loosed upon the hot hot city. The first two days I was tired and maybe slightly heatstruck: I varied my sitting and reading with lying and dozing. The day of the workshop, all my energy came back, and it was another very interesting session, with a very involved group of participants.

In Chennai too, we had kind hosts who cooked for us and generally looked after us: I'm afraid Nilesh and I behaved (and felt!) a bit like spoilt children on this trip!

Saturday evening, we finally went to the beach, but my foot hurt to walk on sand, and it was already near sunset by the time we got there, so we didn't spend a lot of time. (We did manage to get all drenched, hip down, due to a rogue wave that washed over us as we were sitting to put on our shoes, and made all our careful feet-dipping for naught.)

Sunday morning was amazing: our kind hosts drove us to Mahabalipuram. I'd been there once before, when I was maybe six, and the temple seemed to have shrunk.

"Good doggy," I say, patting the Nandi's nose. "Good bully," Nilesh corrects.
Which reminds me, our hosts have a very friendly but polite dog, and I lost no time making friends with her. I'm generally a bit scared of dogs, so I'm very proud of having made my first dog-friend.

Back to Pune on Tuesday. We changed flights in Bangalore, and reached Pune to find that our luggage hadn't made the flight. It was midnight and we were too tired to argue, so Nilesh obediently filled the airline's forms. But the bags were delivered to our home the next day, and I think I prefer this mode of travel to having to haul them ourselves from luggage conveyer belt to taxi and from taxi to home.
And hey, I actually wrote a personal blog post this year! Maybe I'll write another within the next six months. 

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