A visit to Bangalore is always filled with mixed feelings. Initially i.e., nearly twenty years ago, all the family I knew were going strong. My peers in the family all were just starting one or were trying to establish they foothold in the family space and the professional space. It was the IT boom time. Coming back from America was something special at that time. A lot of youngsters looked forward to seeing us. Over the next twenty years, things have changed dramatically. The same youngsters are all now graduates and have jobs that serve multinational clients. The work atmosphere is nothing different from what you can find in America i.e., there is no novelty involved in talking of an American or UK client. A lot of the same youngsters have visited the foreign shores. Economy is booming for most of the middle class.
You can get what you want in India itself. One has to visit America or the UK or Dubai just because they can afford to now. At the same time, everyone is now busy with their own tasks and challenges be it finding a match for their eligible children or their own involvement in personal activities. Once the novelty washes off, you will start finding that you are on your own. You better have a good agenda while visiting. Not that it is hard. With all the relatives you need to visit and the few places on the calendar, times goes by fast. Then there are some dear ones and friends who still are in touch with you. And there will be some social event or the other within the family that you get invited to. We had two of these to visit apart from specific events for ourselves. It is nice to catch up with distant ones once in a while.
At a 75th birthday celebration, we got our first taste of festive food on a plantain leaf amidst the dense smoke created by the homa (fire offering). It didn’t matter that the smoke was bothering our breathing and there was not adequate ventilation. We still enjoyed it enormously. Then there was the naming ceremony of a cousin’s newborn grandson. My sister-in-law who is a professional singer, had organized a singing event with her students just for my wife’s landmark birthday. It was wonderful to hear the children render devotional songs like pros. And I was insisted to sing a melody and I chose a para from a Raghavendra Swami song sung by Rajkumar.
Entire days went by like a breeze. Somehow time seems compressed while in India much like the space is. I was looking at the verandah where I used to study throughout my high school and college days. It is the about 8′ x 8′ – our current bathrooms are bigger. I used to sit on a Godrej chair and a wooden desk with no draws and study into the late nights and sometimes into the early morning. I was not mindful of the many mosquitoes that would sting me. As I sat in the same space, I couldn’t concentrate much given the noise from the road, the neighbors. Even the birds don’t seem to sleep too long in the night – I would hear one caw continuously around 4 AM in the morning and the sunrise is around 5:45 AM. And all my awareness was constantly seeking out any mosquito that was finding my American tempered blood a delight to suck upon! I wonder how I got past my childhood there!
With the current effort to demonetize the 500 and 1000 rupee notes, there has been a rush at the banks to convert the old notes into newer ones. Many old timers would just save money at home and never had a bank account. Such a lot would have been affected – all hard earned and saved money. Since a lot of transactions were cash based, there have been probably millions of small businesses that couldn’t account for the ‘excess’ money. Fair enough. They should have paid taxes in the first place. After all the middle, salaried class have alway paid taxes. It is a good thing that Modi drove this effort and hopefully will be the first step to eradicate corruption. I read of many in Pakistan producing counterfeit Indian currency and one such even committed suicide after the announcement. Given a lot of such black money would be converted into Gold, the goldsmiths were issued a memorandum that they need to keep track of all transaction from two weeks prior to the announcement into the end of the year. Of course, corruption is hard to eradicate. Many street-smarts had connived with many a bank officer to get newer currency in exchange for a commission. Many such were caught red handed by the IT department officials. Good luck Mr. Modi. I am getting a sense of confidence that India is on the right track after nearly sixty years of independence for the first time.