Dr. Stuart A. Varden
Professor of Information Systems
Apple Industries through its information technology subsidiary, APTECH, at that time operates, either directly or through itsfranchises, over 125 proprietary computer training centersthroughout India. The large number and increasing growth ofthese centers are in response to a high demand for computereducation in India, running from elementary workshops inmicrocomputer software packages to semester long graduatelevel courses of study in computer science and softwareengineering. (Many more centers have been added since our 1993 visit.) APTECH is authorized to award certificates tostudents who have taken a sequence of courses and passedexaminations covering a particular body of knowledge. APTECH,however, cannot award college academic credit or degrees, andthis is where Pace University comes into the picture.
Apple and Pace have entered into an arrangement wherebyAPTECH instructors teach four graduate level courses in Indiausing curricula and exams developed by Pace faculty. Examsare administered in India but sent back to Pace for scoring.Students who successfully complete the four courses areawarded an APTECH certificate and are invited to continuetheir studies leading to a master's degree in computerscience at Pace in the U.S. Pace has agreed to waive therequirement to take the four courses completed in India. Ineffect, fourteen credits of the thirty six credit master'sprogram are conducted in India, while the remainder takesplace in the U.S. This arrangement, coupled with a twentyfive percent tuition discount and an opportunity to work as agraduate assistant, reduces the overall cost by over fiftypercent. This cost savings is very important to most Indianstudents, and has stimulated great interest in the program.
In addition to computer science, there is considerableinterest in information systems and software development aswell. Frank and I, as members of the information systemsfaculty, were visiting India to introduce APTECH students toPace's programs of study in information systems. This, then,provides some background for our journey. The narrative isaccompanied by photographs I took, which are cited by number.
After leaving India, we spent several days in Singapore withmy brother, Craig, and his family, and also a day in Seoul,South Korea. The details and personal observations aboutthis part of our trip are not included in this account.Finally, several facts regarding the sites visited come fromreferences that I researched after my return to the U.S.
My wife Ceil and I drove down to my office at Pace UniversityPleasantville Campus so that I could finish some last minutework before heading to Frank's house and the limo to KennedyInternational Airport. After our "good-byes", we were off.
The limo ride went uneventfully. The driver, Ted, is aformer IBMer who provided congenial conversation on route.We arrived at about 6:00pm for an 8:15pm Air India flight to Bombay via London and New Delhi. After an unexplained delay,the flight took off at 9:30pm. Security for internationalflights is much stricter than U.S. domestic flights.
Although American built, I felt like I was already in aforeign land the moment I entered the plane. My fellowpassengers were at least ninety percent Indian, the odors ofIndian food and incense were everywhere, and the wall screenplayed highly stylized Indian music videos when it was notproviding the standard instructions on the facilities andsafety features of our Boeing 747-B aircraft.
I had the middle seat, Frank the aisle. A pleasant youngwoman from Ireland, Julie, had the window seat. She iscompleting a master's degree, and would like to continue fora Ph.D. in government at Georgetown University, but needsfinancial support.
I could not sleep on the flight. I eventually curled up on anopen area of the floor for a couple of hours. A small boylay next to me; he slept like a log.
In general, I found Air India food to be surprisingly goodand interesting, and the attitude toward flight regulationsto be rather relaxed compared to US domestic standards. Idon't think that I would have been permitted to sleep on thefloor on a U.S. domestic flight.
My window seat companion, Julie, had been replaced by amiddle aged Indian woman from the city of Baroda in the stateof Gujarat. Her English was weak, but another Indian womanand child, also from Baroda, sat directly in front of us.She turned out to be a chemist from South Plainfield, NJ whowas returning to India following the death of her father. Westruck up a conversation, which eventually resulted in herinviting us to Baroda and the exchange of addresses. Thisturned out to be a hint of the hospitality that we would findthroughout our travels in India.
After another delay, the last leg of our flight got underway.We arrived at Bombay's Sahar International Airport at 3:45am,about two hours late overall. All together, the trip tookabout twenty hours. We were exhausted but also excited tofinally be in India.
After further security checks, immigration, customs, andbaggage claim, we found our greeters, two polite young AppleIndustries employees, Godwyn and Ramesh. We were led to anIndian-style taxi and headed for the hotel. It was stilldark and not much was visible. It was warm, humid, and theodor of car exhaust was strong. Cars drive on the left handside of the road, no doubt a result of India's British past.
We arrived at the "Sun-and-Sand" hotel located in the JuhuBeach region of Bombay at about 5:30am. It looked prettydreary from the outside, but my spirits were lifted by arather pleasant looking lobby, agreeable hotel staff, and afirm but receptive bed. I was asleep by 6:00am.
We had put in 1:00pm wakeup calls and were to meet Ganesh andUma Natarajan at 2:00pm for lunch and discussions of thelogistics of our stay. Ganesh is CEO of APTECH, theinformation technology company of Apple Industries, and Umais a senior manager there as well. Before Ganesh and Umaarrived, we were up investigating the hotel and surroundingarea. There were several shops on the ground floor. I soonlearned that the Asian style of retailing is much moreaggressive than I was accustomed to in the U.S. Uponentering a shop, the sales clerk was soon engaging you inconversation regarding the virtues of the shop's goods, andwould not let up until you either purchased something or madea stealthy retreat from the shop. The defensive maneuver ofsaying "I'm just looking" was of no avail.
Next we investigated the front of the hotel which looked justas dreary as it had looked at night. There was a parkingarea for taxis, private cars, and motorcycles. A uniformedguard wearing a beret controlled the entrance to the hotelproperty. It was not clear why a guard was necessary untilwe ventured past the entrance and quickly found ourselves theobject of much attention from beggars and street peddlers.After a couple of minutes, we sought the safety of the hoteland its guard.
Then we turned to the rear of the hotel to discover anoutdoor swimming pool and a large beach area that looked outonto the Arabian Sea. Although the beach area was not veryclean, there was much activity nevertheless. People walkedup and down the beach and seemed to be in fine spirits. Fromtime to time a camel and rider would go by. We discoveredlater that today was Lord Krishna's birthday which iscelebrated throughout India. The weather was overcast but notrainy, even though it was still monsoon season.
Shortly after 2:00pm, Ganesh and Uma arrived along with A. M.Thimmiya, the National Sales Manager for Apple Industries."Timmy", as he is known by, was informal, open, energetic,and anxious to please his new American friends. Happily, hewas our companion for much of our stay in India.
We had lunch next to the pool. Frank was in his glory as hebegan to absorb the local culture and food. It grew quitewindy, but we remained outside and enjoyed some interestingBombay delights. We were both concerned about the drinkingwater situation, but were relieved to see sealed bottled"Bisleri" mineral water brought to the table. "Bisleri"water was our constant companion throughout India.
After lunch, we headed to the new Apple Industries corporateoffices. We entered through a rather inauspicious backalley, up a flight of stairs, to a modern office complex.Ganesh and Uma are quite pleased with these new headquarters,as they provide much needed space and are no longer locatedin the highly congested South Bombay area.
We learned that the APTECH business is divided into two mainareas: (1) computer training and (2) information systemsconsulting. Ganesh also heads something called the "Centrefor Business Transformation" which focuses on businessprocess reengineering. He pointed out the APTECH missionstatement and quality program. A bit later, we toured thefacility and were introduced to the management team. Then wediscussed the Apple/Pace Program, including a variety ofprogram arrangements, the U.S. visa problem, and the formatof tomorrow's presentations.
Following our meeting, Timmy took us to South Bombay, themain business center of the city. This included a trip alongthe "Queen's Necklace" shore area, the luxurious Taj Mahalhotel, and the Gateway of India arch. It was now dark, andspotlights lit the impressive though conventional structureWhile there, we were continually approached by street vendorsand beggars. Our Western looks apparently aroused the hopesof these unfortunate people. Timmy advised us not to giveanything to the beggars. We concluded the evening with anexcellent dinner at the Khyber restaurant. A birthday partywas in progress, and many attractive and well dressed peoplecame by to join the celebration. Timmy told us that Bombayand India has become a favorite vacation spot for middleEasterners, particularly from the oil rich Arab states. Wereturned to the hotel at about 11:00pm.
The presentation was scheduled to run from 10:00am to noon,followed by a buffet lunch. About thirty managers from localcompanies and governmental agencies attended. I began with adiscussion of trends in database systems and client/servertechnologies, and Frank followed with his thoughts on trendsin applications development and telecommunications. Therefollowed a question and answer session. Initially, themanagers had no questions. Ganesh had to ask a question toget things started. The audience apparently felt uneasy inaddressing the "American experts" in public. Many wouldapproach us individually, however, during the buffet lunch.
The formal part of the program concluded with some remarks byGanesh. Ganesh did a beautiful job of tying our remarks tohis message on how Indian companies must reorganizethemselves and adopt new ways of thinking in order to takefull advantage of the benefits offered by informationtechnology. As he spoke about the consulting servicesoffered by APTECH's Centre for Business Transformation, itsuddenly became clear to me that Frank and I had not beeninvited to India just to give a few informal talks on trendsin the computer field. We unwittingly had become part of theAPTECH marketing team! We were the centerpiece of a highlychoreographed series of marketing presentations. We werebeing exhibited as APTECH's American university connection tothe latest ideas and trends in the field. This did not botherme, since we had been given a free hand in what we were tosay. I suspect that Frank had appreciated our true role moreclearly than I. He told me privately that he felt that weshould have been paid for our remarks beyond simply havingour expenses covered. I was just happy to be in India, andthankful that we had come well prepared for our "informaltalks."
During the buffet lunch, I recognized (but could not place) afamiliar face. It turned out to be Suneel Sajnani, a formerPace student of mine who was visiting his family in India atthe time. He is married to Calli Sajnani, the well regardedAdministrative Assistant for the Pace New York InformationSystems Department. Suneel had learned that two Paceprofessors would be speaking in India, and had asked Ganeshif he could attend.
We headed back to the APTECH offices at about 1:30pm forfurther discussions and more introductions. On the way, wenoticed a funeral procession proceeding along the side of theroad. A body covered with flowers was being carried on theshoulders of four pall bearers. The procession was no doubtheading to a place suitable for cremation according to Hinducustom. Thus, we had seen a wedding and a funeral in thespace of a few hours.
Ganesh suggested the following format for the afternoonstudent presentation: (1) Frank gives a brief overall of theinformation technology trends, (2) Stuart introduces thestudents to the "feel" of the Pace campuses using a set of35mm slides showing the main Pace campuses, (3) Frankdescribes Pace's degree programs in information systems, and(4) Ganesh offers some concluding remarks.
We left the APTECH offices at 3:30pm. The presentation wasto be held at St. Xavier's Boys High School, and wasscheduled to begin at 4:30pm. It had been raining and theground was still wet. Students had already begun to gatheroutside of the partly outdoor auditorium as we arrived. Theylooked at us with coy curiosity as we approached, havingcorrectly concluded that the "Western looking men" must bethe Pace professors that had been mentioned in Monday's Timesof India. Yes, we had made the local papers.
The auditorium looked rundown and seemed ill suited to ourpurposes. We were on a raised stage with a podium andstationary microphone. I knew that Frank would prefer not tobe tied down behind a podium. Moreover, the overhead andslide projectors were set up to project onto a relativelysmall portable screen that was set well back on the stage.This meant that only people seated in the first few rowswould be able to see the screen.
It was soon apparent that there would be an overflow crowd.It was hot and humid, and we were dressed in our suits andties. I did not know what to expect, but assumed that Ganeshknew what would work and what would not. Then suddenly wewere approached by two young women with garlands of flowers.We soon found ourselves in the midst of a traditional Indiangreeting ceremony, which included having the garlands placedaround our necks and receiving a red "bhindi" mark on ourforeheads. The students applauded their approval. We werepleased and touched. We did not realize at the time thatthis would be typical of our reception throughout India.Even so, we never got entirely used to such treatment. Ganeshhad arranged for a photographer to capture the moment. Laterwe were presented with a set of photos.
Although the surroundings looked shabby, the students didnot. They were well dressed and groomed, and were veryattentive and respectful. An estimated 450 had now arrived.We were not sure if it was polite to remove the garlandbefore speaking, but were assured by Ganesh that it would beokay. Suneel had joined us on stage as the presentation gotunderway.
Frank told the students how pleased we were to be in Indiaand to have a chance to share some thoughts with them. Thestudents seemed pleased to learn that this was our firstvisit to India, and that we were having a wonderful time.
After Frank had completed a twenty five minute overview ofinformation technology trends and had fielded a fewquestions, it was my turn to speak. I echoed Frank's thoughtson how delighted we were to be in India. I then added that Iwanted them to feel equally welcome in the U.S. and PaceUniversity, should they have an opportunity to study there.
Fortunately, I had taken the trouble about ten days earlierto buy a new camera and visit the four main Pace campuses totake 35mm slides. I wanted to give the students a feelingfor what Pace was like and to assure them that Pace is alarge university offering many resources and opportunitiesfor learning. I emphasized the computer labs and data centerfacilities, and included several slides of Indian studentswho were studying at Pace. One slide in particular drewapplause; it was of the four APTECH students who were now inthe U.S. studying to complete a Master's degree in ComputerScience at Pace. I had taken down their names and homecities, but did not yet feel confident enough in my abilityto properly pronounce them. One other slide, which I almostdid not include, also received applause. It was a photo of aflower garden that is located on the Pleasantville campus.Apparently, flowers are very much admired in India.
Frank concluded with a overview of Pace's degree programs inInformation Systems. We knew that this was the main reasonwhy the students had come, namely to get information on theApple/Pace Program and the opportunity to study in the U.S.We were to appreciate more fully why this was so important tothem later in our travels through India.
Ganesh concluded the presentation and we fielded some morequestions about Pace. Suneel was asked to stand and identifyhimself as a Pace University graduate, which gave furthercredibility to Pace and its programs of study in computing.Once the formal part of the program was over, many studentscame by to welcome us and find out more about the Apple/PaceProgram. There was considerable interest in the possibilitiesfor financial aid, scholarships, graduate assistantships, andhow to get a visa to come to the U.S. The students weregenuinely polite and respectful to a fault. The afternoonconcluded with a joint photo with Frank, Ganesh, Suneel, andI seated with about twenty students standing in back of us.
Ganesh and Uma then drove us to their apartment. There wemet Ganesh's mother and reacquainted ourselves with Karuna,their ten year old daughter, who we had already met in theU.S. a few weeks earlier. Ganesh's mother had made someinteresting cakes to celebrate Lord Krishna's birthday.
We then went to a fine restaurant at the Centaur Hotel, oneof the best in all of Bombay. Our food was wonderful butrich, and was accompanied by traditional Indian light classicmusic. It was a very pleasant conclusion to a highlyinteresting and successful day. When we were alone, Franksaid that he felt the day had far exceeded Ganesh and Uma'sexpectations. We were back at the hotel by 11:00pm.
We were picked up at about 8:00am and taken to the APTECHoffices. We were chatting for a while with Ganesh and Umain Ganesh's office when a young Apple employee, DhanashreeMahadevan, entered. Introductions were about to begin when Iquickly excused myself from the room in the hopes of reachingthe men's room before having an accident. I didn't make it.Luckily, no one was around to see me lose the breakfast Ihadn't eaten. After regaining my composure, I returned toGanesh's office and introduced myself to Dhanashree. She wasto be our guide for the day. Dhanashree is in her earlytwenties, presents herself well, is engaged to an officer inthe Indian Navy, and is an Apple management trainee.Both Frank and I observed that the portrayal in the westernmedia of the poor conditions of Indian women was certainlynot the case at Apple Industries. Fully sixty percent ofAPTECH's managers and professional staff are women, and arewell respected for their contributions to the company. Infact, they are generally considered to be better workers.
We set out for the congested South Bombay area once again.Signs and billboards were everywhere, including many thatadvertised movies. More movies are made in India per yearthan any other country in the world, and Bombay is a majorfilm center. We also saw many makeshift huts along the edgesof the streets, and countless little businesses and shops.I saw no sign of Western-style supermarkets, large departmentstores, or shopping centers.
The three-wheeled auto rickshaws were everywhere, honkingtheir horns and darting in and out of traffic. They wiselyhave been banned from the main commercial district. British-style doubledecker buses and taxis were very common as well.On a typical business day, it takes over an hour to drive thetwelve miles from the Juhu area of Bombay to South Bombay.Most people who work in this area take the commuter train.
Our first stop was at the Hari Krishna Temple. It was aplace of worship to Lord Krishna, but also seemed to be ashrine to a famous 20th Century guru whose very lifelikestatute was prominently displayed in the center of thetemple. He was posed in the lotus position in a meditativestate looking onto three very elaborate displays of Krishnaand related deities. I did not understand the religioussignificance of this, but enjoyed being there nevertheless.
We then stopped at the Mani Blaven, a building where MahatmaGandhi stayed during his visits to Bombay between 1917 and1934. It has a pictorial exhibit of incidents in Gandhi'slife and contains a library of books and papers by and aboutthe Mahatma. On the second floor is a very plain lookingroom with Gandhi's spinning wheel upon which he spun threadto make his clothes.
We then headed for an American Express office to convert sometraveller's checks into Indian rupees. While driving there,we passed by the Gateway of India arch again, but this timeit was during the daytime. When we got to American Express,we learned that the current exchange rate was one dollar to30.95 rupees. This was only slightly more favorable than ourhotel was offering. I exchanged $100.00 and received in turna fat wad of India currency that made me feel wealthy, atleast momentarily.
We then stopped for a buffet lunch at the National Council ofPerforming Arts. Of course, I had no interest in food butordered a lime soda anyway. This, along with hot tea andBisleri mineral water, proved to be my favorite beverage inIndia. I had already learned from experience that Indian-style ginger ale and the local cola product (Campa Coke) werea sad disappointment to my Western palate.
Not long after drinking about half my soda, I once againfound myself making a mad dash for the rest room. As before,I did not make it in time, but again went unnoticed as therestaurant was nearly empty. When I returned to the table afew minutes later, Dhanashree was not there. Frank said thatshe was making a phone call, which I imagined was to getadvice as to what to do with the "under the weather" Americanguest. About ten minutes later, a young Indian Naval officerdressed in his Navy "whites" showed up. It turned out to beDhanashree's fiancee. She had not called the APTECH officeafter all. I was relieved at that, as I did not want tobring unnecessary attention to my condition. Dhanashree'sfiancee was very attentive to me, and was no doubt acomforting presence to Dhanashree. She had handled apotentially embarrassing situation very well.
On the way back, we passed by the "Hanging Gardens ofBombay." They are on top of Malabar Hill and are properlyknown as the Pherozeshah Mehta Gardens. This name comes fromthe fact that they are built on top of a series of reservoirsthat supply water to Bombay. The formally laid out gardenshave a notable collection of hedges shaped like animals, butwe did not take the time to see them. We did see, however,some fine views over the city. Frank took a few photos.
We were back at the APTECH offices by 4:30pm. One questionwas outstanding; would I be well enough to fly to New Delhithat evening, or should I spend the night in Bombay and takea morning flight? The most practical idea seemed to be tohave me rest for a couple of hours and see how I felt then.So while Frank met with Ganesh, Uma, and Deepika Sharma, astrong minded technical manager, Dhanashree and I headed tothe Centaur Hotel near the airports. After some Indian-stylebargaining regarding my unusual request for a ninety minuteroom stay, I registered and was asleep by 6:00pm. At 7:00pmUma phoned and asked whether I felt like I could travel. Isaid "yes," although I still felt quite weak. I did not wantto make a big thing out of being ill, and wanted to start theNew Delhi phase of the trip without bringing attention to mystate of health. The one hour of sleep had cost about $80.00,but I was revived enough to travel.
When I arrived in the lobby, I could not find anyone. Afterabout fifteen minutes of wondering where everyone was, Umashowed up; Ganesh and Uma had been in the hotel book storepurchasing gifts for Frank and me. They had gotten usbeautiful illustrations of classical Indian art, including acalendar that depicted scenes from Hindu mythology. Thisfurther gesture of hospitality would be repeated in each ofthe cities we visited.
We then headed for the domestic airport, Santa Cruz, to makean 8:15pm flight to New Delhi. We flew Indian Airlines, notto be confused with Air India, for all our domestic flights.Our flight to New Delhi went uneventfully. Of course, we didnot have to deal with immigration or customs. We were greetedby a young APTECH employee, Prakash. After introductions, wewere taken to the Maurya Sheraton Hotel. This proved to bethe most luxurious hotel we would stay at in India. We werechecked in by 11:00pm and soon in our rooms.
After the introductions, A.V.G. outlined our New Delhiitinerary. The information systems managers' presentationand buffet lunch would be held this morning at the hotel.Some sightseeing of New Delhi would follow in the afternoon.Tomorrow would be devoted entirely to a trip to Agra and theTaj Mahal. The student presentation was set for late Mondaymorning, while our flight to Bangalore was at 4:05pm.
We arrived at the room for the information systems managers'presentation at about 9:30am. About forty guests would soonbe gathered for our talk. Frank and I followed the sameformat as Bombay. The presentation went pretty much asplanned, except for the fact that our timing was somewhatoff. Frank told me later that I had taken nearly fiftyminutes instead of the twenty that had been allotted. Theresult was that the whole program was pushed back over halfan hour. Frank also ran over a bit.
When we opened things up for questions, we found the NewDelhi group much more willing to enter into open discussionswith us than the Bombay group. Mr. Sunderaraman, the NewDelhi APTECH Centre Manager, provided the concluding remarks.After listening to him speak, I had new respect for Ganesh'sbusiness sense and marketing abilities. Unlike Ganesh, Mr.Sunderaraman did not take advantage of any of our comments on information technology trends to promote the Centre forBusiness Transformation and its consulting services. He didnot seem to have as clear a grasp on the contributions thatinformation technology could have on an organization, andwhat organizations needed to do to position themselves totake advantage of its potential.
During the buffet lunch, we were introduced to Arun Gupta, aSenior Manager with responsibilities for establishing APTECHtraining center franchises in the North India zone. Arunwould be our guide to Agra the next day. We also had anumber of interesting conversations with people who hadattended the presentation. They represented a wide range oforganizations, including software exporters, governmentcontractors, banks, and independent consultants. Many werequite knowledgeable on a range of computer related subjects.
Once the guests had left, A.V.G introduced Frank and me toRajiiv, another Apple Industries employee. Rajiiv had a carand driver waiting to take us on a tour of New Delhi. Rajiivwas very amusing, quite talkative, and seemed to enjoy hisrole as tour guide.
Our first stop was to be the famous Bahai House of Worship.I had heard of this and, in fact, had seen it on videotapejust prior to leaving for India, but had no idea that wewould get to see it in person.
On the way there, it became clear that New Delhi was muchdifferent from Bombay. The streets were much wider and lesscongested, the buildings larger and more stately, and thepace of life was generally more relaxed. New Delhi seemed tolack the energy of Bombay. The thought occurred to me thatBombay is like New York City, while New Delhi is more likeWashington, D.C.
The Bahai House of Worship is rather new by Indian standards,having been completed in 1980. It is built to look like ninepetals of a lotus blossom floating on the surface of a pondsurrounded by spacious, well kept gardens. The shape of thepetals reminded me a bit of the architecture of the famousopera house in Sydney, Australia, although it is myunderstanding that the petal-like shapes of the opera houserepresent the billowy sails of a ship. The structure is veryserene in mood. Even though it is quite large in size, itwas not at all intimidating. As we got near, we were askedto remove our shoes and not take photographs. All faiths arefree to visit the temple and pray or meditate silentlyaccording to their own religion. The land on which thetemple is located is slightly elevated, permitting us to seethe New Delhi skyline to the north. One could clearly see alarge outdoor stadium, where Michael Jackson was soon toperform during his Asia tour.
While there we saw many groups of school children, dressed inrather plain uniforms. Rajiiv told us that the purpose ofthe uniforms was not to enforce regimentation or conformity,but instead served to nullify the great economic disparitiesthat often existed between the families of the children. Thewearing of expensive jewelry in school also is prohibited forthe same reason. The children were very well behaved andseemed to reflect a cooperative spirit. It was common, forexample, to see boys holding hands.
We next visited the Qutb-Minar complex. The buildings in thecomplex, located about ten miles south of New Delhi, datefrom the onset of Muslim rule in India. The Qutb-Minaritself is a soaring tower of victory which was started in1193, immediately after the defeat of the last Hindu kingdomin Delhi. It is seventy three meters high and tapers from afifteen meter diameter base to just two and one half metersat the top. The tower has five distinct stories, each markedby a projecting balcony. There are several other impressivebuildings in the complex, including the first mosque to bebuilt in India, the "Might of Islam" mosque.
On the way to our next point, we stopped along the side of aquiet tree-lined street. This turned out to be theassassination site of Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi,who had been gunned down by members of her own security forcein 1984. It was after 5:00pm and the site was now closed forthe day. We looked over the fence at two stoney-facedsoldiers bearing automatic weapons.
Frank and I were perfectly content to leave things as theywere. Then Rajiiv began to speak to the soldiers in Hindi.About five minutes later, after much animated conversation,the fence gate was suddenly opened, and we found ourselvesbeing given a private tour of the grounds. We were not sureexactly what Rajiiv had said, but it must have been prettypersuasive. As we left about fifteen minutes later, thesoldiers were all smiles and handshakes. This was only one ofmany episodes we experienced that demonstrates thesuperiority of visiting a new land as the guest of a nativeover sightseeing on one's own.
The final stop of the day was at India Gate. India Gate is a42 meter high stone arch of triumph which stands at theeastern end of the Raj Path on the edge of a public park. Itis a war memorial that bears the names of 90,000 Indian Armysoldiers who died in War World I and other campaigns duringthe British era. One does not read much about World War IIndian casualties in Western history texts.
We arrived back at the hotel at about 7:30pm. After thankingRajiiv for the wonderful tour, we found ourselves on our own.This would prove to be the only evening in all our India staywhen we were not taken out to dinner by one of our hosts. Imust admit that it came as a welcome change. Frank and Iconcluded the day with a pleasant buffet dinner at the hotel.
Arun told us that there had been a fire in his residentialcompound the night before that had resulted in the loss ofelectric power to his apartment. He had been up much of thenight dealing with the consequences of this situation, andwas very tired. He asked if it would be okay if he took a napon the way. We assured him that we did not mind. Privately wesensed that Arun would have preferred to do something elsewith his Sunday than be a tour guide. We later learned thattoday also was India Independence Day, which was a furtherreason why one might wish to be home with one's family.
The 210 kilometers journey by taxi to Agra was estimated totake about four hours, including a breakfast break that wasplanned for about 8:30am. I was expecting a rough trip overunpaved roads through much of the village areas. This,however, was not the case. We had paved roads all the wayand experienced minimal traffic delays. The fact that it wasSunday and Independence Day probably had something to do withthe relatively light traffic conditions. It took us abouthalf an hour to get out of the greater Delhi area into thevillages and countryside. We went through a check point aswe passed out of the Delhi region into the State of UttarPradesh where Agra and the Taj Mahal are located.
At about 8:30am, we pulled into a roadside rest stop forbreakfast as planned. As we got out of the car, I noticed anelephant and camel with their owners near the restaurant.While Arun made his way to the rest room, I headed in thedirection of the animals which seemed to offer good subjectsfor some photos. I could see saddles on the animals, andpresumed that they could be rented for short "kiddy" rides.
After taking a photo of the elephant and then the camel,I suddenly found myself besieged by the owner of the elephantwho demanded payment for the service of providing hiselephant as a subject for my photo. He said "Give money!Give money!" in his best English. Realizing that I had notasked permission to take a photo, I felt obligated to pay himsomething. I handed over twenty five rupees (about eightyfive cents U.S.), and was about to make a quick retreat whenthe other owner thrust out his hand and said "Me camel man.Give money!" Now I was a bit flustered. I had no other smallbills, and began to explain that the two of them should splitthe twenty five rupees.
Frank was observing all this from a safe distance, and was nodoubt interested in seeing how I would extricate myself fromthis situation. Just as I was concluding that my "share thetwenty five rupees" argument was not getting through, Arunarrived on the scene. I explained what had happened anddefended myself by pointing out that no prior agreement ofpayment had been made. After a few words in Hindi from Arun,it was all over and we headed for breakfast. I can justimagine what he must have been thinking: "I leave theseAmericans unattended for thirty seconds, and they manage toget themselves into trouble." I had to laugh at myself.Happily, the photos came out just fine.
As we continued our trip, I begin to concentrate more on thesights along the roadside. There was constant activity, butno one seems to be in a hurry. The village women could beseen gracefully carrying baskets on their heads or tendingafter the children, while men might be found cultivating afield with an ox, bicycling goods to market, or manning aroadside stand. "Sacred" cattle, who seemed to belong to bothno one and everyone at the same time, roamed freely along theroads interfering with traffic as they pleased. "Ah, this isthe real India I remember from National Geographic", Ithought to myself. Of course, it wasn't any more real thandowntown Bombay. From time to time we would enter a town andstop briefly at an intersection. This provided a opportunityto observe a little more carefully the roadside activities,and to take an occasional photo.
At about 10:00am, we began to approach the outskirts of Agra.Although it is world famous as the site of the Taj Mahal andother tourist attractions such as the Agra Fort, Agra isobviously an important city in its own right, having apopulation of about one million people. The general conditionof the city, however, did not compare with a Bombay or Delhi.It seemed poorer and less sophisticated, and did not have awell developed inner city with large office buildings such asthose that could be found in the other major Indian cities wevisited. Once in the city, we stopped at a small, notparticularly appetizing restaurant, for a bathroom break.While there, Arun made a phone call. This was the first cluethat our trip would involve more than just sightseeing.
After departing the restaurant, we drove to another part ofthe city and pulled up in front of a corner building. Thisturned out to be a small hotel. There Arun met and introducedus to two young men, one from Delhi and the other a native ofAgra. I have forgotten their names. We were escorted to asecond floor hotel room, and seated around a table. Sodasand hot tea were served. We chatted informally, describingthe purpose of tour trip to India and the wonderful time wewere having. I looked longingly at the bed in the sparselyappointed room; it had been a long ride and I had not fullyrecovered from my illness. A nap seemed like an excellentidea, but was out of the question given the circumstances.Frank and I had assumed that the two men were friends ofArun, but were to learn that Arun was trying to establish anAPTECH computer training center franchise in Agra. The twoyoung men, particularly the one from Agra, were hoping toconvince Arun that they would make good franchisees. Thisbegan what turned out to be a fascinating look into thedynamics of Indian-style business negotiations. We were gladthat Arun had a second, more practical, reason for being awayfrom his family on a holiday.
The next stop was the Taj Mahal itself. I was surprised tofind it located right in the city. All the pictures I hadseen in the past gave no hint of its urban surroundings.Before going through the entrance gate, we had to parry ahoard of peddlers selling postcards and other souvenir items.The entrance gate led into a courtyard and eventually anotherentrance way. At this second entrance, everyone was requestedto remove their shoes and people were individually searchedfor weapons or other potentially destructive devices.
And now suddenly, there it was in all its magnificence! Manyworld famous attractions turn out to be a disappointment whenyou finally get a chance to see them, but this is not thecase with the Taj Mahal. There it stood in the distance withits long, narrow reflection pool in the foreground lined withneatly trimmed shrubs. A reddish sandstone pathway on eitherside of the reflection pool led to the Taj Mahal itself. Asusual, photographs were not permitted beyond a certain point.I kidded everyone by saying that my family would not allow meback into my house if I did not return with a photo of mestanding in front of the Taj Mahal. Frank and I exchangedtaking photos of each other in the obligatory pose using theother person's camera before proceeding any further.
The two young men, who had joined us in our sightseeing,provided some commentary about the Taj Mahal as we walkedleisurely along the pathway. They said that the MoghulEmperor Shah Jahan had the architect's hands cut off so thathe would not be able to design another structure to rival theTaj Mahal. So much for rewarding a job well done!
As magnificent as the Taj Mahal is from afar, it is even morewondrous in its interior details. Semiprecious stones areinlaid into the marble in beautiful patterns with superbcraftsmanship in a process known as "pietra dura." Walkingoutside the mausoleum to the rear reveals that the Taj Mahallooks down onto the Yamuma River. The river bed was quitewide, but the river itself was not. Apparently, the summermonsoon season had not produced the expected rainfall.Altogether, we spent about an hour at the Taj Mahal.
Just as we exited the Taj Mahal, I noticed a modest sandstonebuilding from which hung a sign that read "Dept. of Telecom."This encroachment of Twentieth Century technology seemedcuriously out of place next to such an historic site, andadded to the feeling of apparent contradiction that Indiapresents its visitors.
After leaving the Taj Mahal, we stopped at two or threebuildings that the young men thought might be suitable sitesfor an APTECH computer training center. Arun seemed rathernoncommittal, and tended to let the two men do the talking.These stops gave us a chance to observe the daily commerce ofthe city. It made no difference that it was Independence Dayand a Sunday; the city was full of activity. On severaloccasions, we noticed that other computer training centerswere already in business. I am sure that this fact was notlost on Arun as he evaluated the potential businessopportunities for an APTECH center in Agra.
We then went for lunch at the Taj Hotel. This was a firstrate accommodation with a fine restaurant. It made me feel alittle better about Agra as a city. After ordering and makingsome polite comments about the food and surroundings, thefranchise negotiations began in earnest. They seemed to havea predictable rhythm. It was clear that Arun had the powerposition and wanted to keep it that way. The man from Agradid the talking. He would explain some aspects of hisbusiness plan and claim that the potential market forcomputer training in Agra was very high. He promised to dothis and that, and whatever would be required to succeed.Arun would not reply, but was clearly paying attention. Thenthe table would fall silent for a few minutes as we continuedto enjoy our meal. After a while, the young man would offersome additional points to strengthen his case. Occasionally,Arun would ask a short, pointed question. This continued forseveral rounds with no closure in sight. It seemed the longerArun said nothing, the more concessions he was receiving.Interestingly, money did not come up in the conversation.The impression I got was that it was taken for granted thatif the franchise had a good location, was well equipped andstaffed, and properly managed, the money would take care ofitself. Frank and I had the good sense to watch and listen,but say nothing.
At the end of the meal, the man from Agra offered to pay, butArun would hear nothing of it. I interpreted this to meanthat he had made no decision regarding the franchise and didnot want to place himself in a position of indebtedness. Itseems that the one who pays has the initiative in thenegotiations. Arun did, however, accept the young man'sinvitation to make a brief visit to his home. So this wasour next stop.
When we arrived, the young man's mother was there to welcomeus with the traditional "praying hands" greeting. We wereinvited into a room that seemed to function both as a livingroom and a bedroom. The five of us sat on two couches thatfaced one another. There was a low table in the center, asmall black-and-white television mounted on the wall, anelevated wall fan, and a mattress which covered one end ofthe floor. This apparently was someone's bed. The room wasplainly decorated and not too well lit. The young man'smother served sodas and cookies, but did not remain. Westayed about half an hour talking informally and enjoying ourdrinks. There was no further discussion of business.
It was now approaching 5:00pm and too late to see the AgraFort complex and several other well known attractions. Wedid stop, however, at the Dayal Bagh, a white marble templeof the Radah Soami Hindu sect located in the northernoutskirts of the city. It has beenunder construction for nearly ninety years, and is notexpected to be completed until well into the next century.The story we were told is that the family that has theconstruction contract is in no hurry to finish; whenfinished, they will be out of work. The pietra dura inlaidmarblework also can be found here.
Well over half of our time in Agra had been devoted to Arun'sbusiness activities and not traditional sightseeing. YetFrank and I both agreed that observing how business istransacted and being invited to a typical Indian home wereexperiences that a foreign traveler would not encounter oncein a hundred group tours.
We left Agra for the return trip to New Delhi at 6:00pm. Asbefore, we stopped midway through the trip at a roadsiderestaurant to have a light evening meal. Fortunately, therewere no elephants or camels in sight!
Dusk turned into night as we made our way down the road. Evenso, the activity along the side of the road did not seem tolet up. Besides evening social gatherings and IndependenceDay festivities, we saw many people driving ox carts tomarket, street vendors tending their stands, and other signsof commercial life. We arrived back at the hotel at about10:00pm. It had been over eight hours of riding under lessthen desirable conditions for the day. I was glad to havegone, but would think twice over an offer to go again.
While in the taxi, I asked how to say "welcome" or "good day"in Hindi. If it was not too difficult to learn how topronounce, I thought it might make a nice way to open ourpart of the student presentation. A.V.G. said "nah-mah-stay."So Frank and I spent the remainder of the drive to theauditorium trying to memorize this simple greeting. I stilldo not know its literal translation.
The Institute is a conventional neo-classic turn-of-the-century structure that seats about 700 people in itsauditorium, which includes orchestra and balcony sections.There is an elevated stage and a wide curtain that was drawnto form a background. Pinned to the curtain were two largebanners; one said "World Trends in Information Technology"and the other directly below it read "Dr. Frank LoSacco andDr. Stuart Varden, Pace University." They were at leasttwenty feet across.
The next forty five minutes were spent trying to work out thelogistics of the audiovisual equipment and the staging of thepresentation. Frank was happy to discover a portable "pinon" microphone that would permit him the freedom of movementthat he wanted. He also requested that the lights be kept onso that he could see the audience. He felt this would betterenable him to communicate with the students.
I became concerned when the slide projector did not work. Myentire part of the presentation was based on the photo essayon slides of Pace University that I had compiled. Withoutthat, I had nothing to do. Eventually, a replacement unitarrived. This unit, however, was mangling the edges of theslides. The assistant who was struggling to get the projectorto work had to resort to mending the cardboard slide holderswith scotch tape. This kind of last minute scrambling aroundwas rather disquieting. Nevertheless, our spirits were goodas we saw the capacity crowd file into the auditorium.
Just before we were to begin, I learned from A.V.G. that thestudents had been deliberately told that the presentationwould start at 10:00am, while the intended start time was11:00am. This was to ensure that no one would be late. Itwas now 11:15am and I begin to sense that the students weregetting restless, and with good cause I might add.
As in Bombay, we were presented with flowers and gifts aspart of a formal welcoming ceremony. It was now quite warmand Frank and I were both perspiring. As soon as theintroduction had been completed, we removed our jackets,which drew a chuckle from some of the audience.
Frank began with the "nah-mah-stay" greeting we had beenpracticing, which seemed to please the students. Then, asFrank began to speak, a glaring spotlight suddenly was turnedon and directed toward the stage so that our remarks could bevideotaped. The net result was that we lost all sight of theaudience. Frank hated it. As he was giving his overview ofinformation technology trends, it was obvious that he did nothave the feeling of connection with the audience that hewanted. After a while, I sensed the students getting morerestless. The "trends" were nice, but they had come to hearabout the APTECH/Pace University program and the opportunityto study in the United States. Although it was without doubta success, Frank and I both felt this presentation was theleast satisfying of all the ones we had given.
After the presentation, we went to lunch at an interestingrestaurant, called the "Metro," near the APTECH office. Thevarious sections of the interior were designed like diningcars of a train, although the restaurant was not an Americanstyle diner. While there, the restaurant lost power for afew seconds on two separate occasions. I couldn't help butthink of all the computer systems that had probably crashedthroughout the city. This emphasized the importance ofhaving reliable infrastructures to support a moderntechnological information society. It was clear that Indiastill has a lot of problems to overcome before it can shedits "third world country" label.
We then paid a visit to the APTECH office. There followedthe now usual greetings, introductions, tour of the facility,and finally informal conversation in A.V.G.'s office. Afterabout an hour, it was time to head for the airport for a4:10pm flight to Bangalore, the next stop on our journey.
Bangalore is nearly 1,500 miles directly south of New Delhi,and is the capital and largest city (population about fourmillion) in the State of Karnataka. Karnataka is consideredto be in South India, and the State language is Kanada. Ourwell practiced "nah-mah-stay" probably would not go over aswell here as it had in New Delhi. We had been told thatBangalore is blessed with a very agreeable climate, which maybe due to its elevation of about 3,000 feet above sea level.
We arrived in Bangalore at about 7:30pm. While I was waitingfor our luggage at baggage claim (Frank had gone to the restroom), I was approached by a well dressed man who turned outto be a representative of the Oberoi, a modern Western styleluxury hotel and conference center. I told him that my hotelaccommodations already had been arranged by a host company.He thanked me for my time, we exchanged business cards, and Ithought nothing more of it. Weeks after my return to theUnited States, I received a letter from the Oberoi BangaloreSales Manager thanking me for sharing my time to speak to oneof his "Airport Representatives." A hotel brochure wasenclosed. This was another example of the differences inbusiness practices between India and the United States.
Once we got our luggage and entered the airport lobby area,we caught sight of our friend Timmy, who was enthusiasticallywaving at us. He seemed genuinely pleased to see us. He wasjoined by R. Venkatasubramanian. Mr. Venkatasubramanian, whois known an "Venkat" or "Venky", is the APTECH RegionalManager covering Bangalore. It was now dark outside, but Icould already tell that indeed the climate in Bangalore wasgoing to be much more to my liking than New Delhi.
Venkat helped me with my luggage to the taxi. While headingthrough the parking lot, two little tykes, no more than eightyears old, grabbed at my suitcase to help carry it to thetaxi. Neither one could lift it by himself, so they formed atwo person "luggage porter" team, and managed to carry itabout a hundred feet. I had to admire the enterprise of thesetwo little fellows. Venkat gave them a couple of coins, andthey happily went on their way.
We checked into the Taj Residency Bangalore Hotel, and thenwere invited to dinner at the Coconut Grove Restaurant.Joining us were two APTECH Senior Business Managers, Mr. K.Umashankar and Mr. S. Muralidaran, known as "Shankar" and"Muralie", respectively. It was a lovely evening, and therewas a good feeling of comradeship as the six of us enjoyedsome South Indian delights and Kingfisher, the most popularIndian beer. I suspect that Timmy had paved the way byputting in a good word for Frank and me with our newBangalore friends.
After the greetings, we toured the center and saw someclasses in progress. Although the classrooms were cramped,the computer labs equipped with out-of-date machines, theinstructor areas small, and the library holdings meager,everyone was working hard and seemed cheerful. While nearlyall students were adults in their twenties and thirties, onethirteen year old was pointed out to us with some pride. Heseems to hold the status of APTECH's local "wunderkind,"since he exhibits an unusual talent for computers at such ayoung age.
At about 1:00pm we went to lunch at a place called "Koshy's."Koshy's was described to us as a British-style club. It wason the second floor and toward the rear of the building.There were no windows and it was dimly lit. It had kind of aback room, private feeling to it. I saw no women at all, butthis may have been a coincidence. Nevertheless, it added tothe men's club ambience of the place. There was nothingBritish about the food, however.
After lunch, we went to Sir Puttannachetty Town Hall toconduct the student presentation. Again, much time was spentironing out the logistics of the audio visual equipment andstaging of the presentation. We again were honored in abrief ceremony of greeting, including more gifts. This time,however, Timmy had thoughtfully arranged that we be"decorated" with a garland made of dried sandalwood shavingsthat would not wilt in a few hours and have to be discarded.Both Frank and I managed to return home with these garlandsintact and have kept them as a momento of this fine day inBangalore.
There were about 700 in attendance, and all went smoothly asbefore. After the presentation, one student asked for myautograph, perhaps to flatter me. He succeeded. This wasthe first and probably the last of such notoriety that I amlikely to enjoy in my life.
We returned to the hotel to prepare for the informationsystems managers presentation that was scheduled for 7:00pm.The format for the evening was the same as other managerpresentations. It too went well, and was followed by abuffet supper. The evening concluded at about 10:30pm.
As we traveled through Bangalore in the usual taxi on our wayto Mysore, I concluded what I had already suspected;Bangalore would be my favorite city in India. I was impressedby the pleasant climate and clearer air, the more "Western"appearance of the city, the less obvious poverty, the city'svitality, and the informality of the people. To continuethe analogy to U.S. cities, I would say that if Bombay islike New York City and New Delhi like Washington, D.C., thenBangalore is like Atlanta. Indian friends and students inthe U.S. had referred to Bangalore as the "silicon valley" ofIndia, and I was beginning to see why. Bangalore is known asthe country's leading center for software export businesses.A software exporter is simply a software development companythat produces computer applications and software systems atlow Indian labor cost for export to overseas markets, mainlythe U.S. and Western Europe. Many U.S. "Fortune 500" firmshave set up business operations in Bangalore.About two-thirds into the trip, Timmy told the driver to pullover to the side of the road. The area was quite rural withcoconut palm trees and thatched huts everywhere. We foundourselves next to a stand of some sort. Timmy invited us outof the taxi. There was a pretty young woman with long nearlyblack hair tied in a ponytail behind the stand. Timmy said afew words to her, whereupon she produced a two foot longmachete and began to dramatically but skillfully remove theouter covering of a coconut. With one final decisive stroke,she severed the top end of the coconut producing a hole. Shethen inserted a straw into the hole and handed the coconut toTimmy. This was a roadside coconut milk stand, and she wasmost likely the daughter of a local coconut tree farmer. Thesame skillful knife-wielding was repeated for the rest of us.
The drink was cool and refreshing, but somewhat bittertasting. This was not the sweetened coconut drink common toTimes Square fruit juice stands that I had loved so as achild. I had to force it down and did not finish it, figuringthat no one would know the difference. I assured everyonethat I had enjoyed it immensely. Then Timmy handed his nowempty coconut back to the young woman, who split the coconutdown the middle with one stroke of her machete and thenfashioned a make-shift "scooper" from part of the coconutshell. She then handed this back to Timmy who used thescooper to dredge out the coconut's pulpy meat. When my turncame, my deception was revealed as my unfinished coconut milkspilled all over the stand.
Before we left, I asked Timmy to tell the young woman that Ithought she was pretty and would like to have her permissionto take her photograph. Timmy assured me it would be fine,but I insisted that he convey my message. At first she wasembarrassed and blushed. Then she gathered herself togetherin an informal posing posture, which I took as a sign that myrequest had been granted. The resulting photo turned out tobe one of the best I took in India.
As we continued our trip, we made two more stops beforereaching Mysore. The first was a vacation site that atypical middle class south Indian family might patronize. Itis in Sriranga Pattanam, former capital of what waspreviously known as the District of Mysore. There was alarge two-story white house surrounded by smaller bungalows,many decorated with beautiful flowers. It must have beenoff-season as no one was in sight. The vacation site waslocated somewhat off the main road along the rapidly flowingCauvery River. Timmy directed us toward the river where heintroduced us to what he termed as "nature's comfortstation." After the long drive and the coconut drink, we allwillingly made our "contributions" to the flowing river.
A bit later, we stopped at the Mayura Highway Restaurant fora bite to eat. It was not very noteworthy, except for thefact that it featured a local specialty that reminded me of apotato pancake, only more spicy. It is called a "idlis" andis served with a coconut based gravey called chutney. Timmyassured us that this region of India was the only place inthe world where this particular dish could be found. Idoubted this, but just his assertion of local uniquenessadded to its taste.
And now we approached the city. Our first stop was to dropTimmy off at his aunt's house to pay a visit. Perhaps thisexplained why Jay had joined us for the day; Jay was tohandle the sightseeing duties which he enjoyed, while Timmypaid a social call on a family member which he in turnenjoyed. This subtlety of the day's arrangements completelyalluded me at the time, but upon reflection it makes sense tome now.
From the earnestness of his comments, it was clear that Jaywas very proud of the rich cultural and religious heritagethat he would be sharing with us this day. Thus, I promisedmyself to make a special effort to be particularly attentiveand appreciative. This turned out to be very easy. As theday unfolded, we would be treated to many memorable sights.
We began the day's sighting in Mysore by driving up to thetop of Chamundi Hill, some 1062 meters above sea level. Thetrip provided an excellent view of the city below. At aboutthree-quarters of the way up, we stopped to see the enormousblack stone Naudi or "Shiva's bull." It had been carved outof solid rock which, at five meters high, is one of thelargest in India. It's always garlandedwith flowers and is constantly visited by pilgrims giving"prasad" (an offering of food) to the priest in attendancethere. In reality, the "food offering" translates into adonation of a few ruppies. Frank participated in a briefoffering ritual, while I was content to admire (andphotograph) the bull from afar. Around the base of the bull,we saw several monkeys, apparently wild, who seemed to bewaiting for handouts of food. Later in the morning, as wedescended the hill, we would see crossing the road a wildmongoose, the fabled "Riki Tiki Tavi" of Rudyard Kipling'sThe Jungle Book that I had loved so as a child.
At the top of the hill is the temple to Sri Chamundeswari, ahuge structure with a seven story 40-meter-high "gopuram" orsoaring pyramidal gateway tower of a Dravidian temple. Itwas positioned so as to be visible from the city below. Iwas to learn later that the word "Dravidian" refers to amember of one of the aboriginal races of India, pushed southby the Indo-Europeans and now mixed with them. The goddessChamundi was the family deity of the maharajas whose Palacewe would visit later. Just outside the temple stands a verymenacing and yet splendid statue of the demon Mahishasura.According to legend, Mahishasura, who had been victimizingthe local population, was defeated in battle by Chamundi.The sculptor clearly understood the principle that the morethreatening the demon, the more powerful the deity must bewho defeats him. He was a terrifying sight! As weapproached the temple, I recognized from my India guide bookthe elephant-headed figure carved in relief as the deityGanesh. Ganesh is thought to bring good luck and is oftenworshipped before beginning a new project. This display ofrandom knowledge about the Hindu religion impressed andpleased Jay, and we got on well after that.
We then picked up Timmy at his aunt's home and went to lunchat the King's Court Hotel, one of the best in Mysore. Bynow, I had learned what my system could and could not handlein the way of food. I had settled into the habit of orderingeither a mild "alu", a potato dish, or vegetable "biriyani",a rice dish. The familiar curry power and mango chutneycommon to American supermarkets are no where to be found inIndia based on my experience. After lunch, we briefly visitedan APTECH center. Timmy remained at the center as wecontinued our sightseeing.
The next stop was the Palace of the Maharajas of Mysore.Besides being a famous tourist sight, it is also an object ofgreat local pride. We were told that the maharajas and theirarmies were never defeated by the British. Instead, anaccommodation had been reached whereby the British agreed tohonor the local authority of the maharajas as long as themaharajas made certain concessions to colonial British rule.
My reaction to the palace itself, built in 1907, was amixture of awe and indifference. Its sheer size andostentatious presence was difficult to relate to, and seemsuncharacteristic of the gracious, humble Indian spirit that Iwas learning to admire. But, of course, a civilization andculture as rich as India's is bound to have many faces.
I found the most interesting part of the palace to be anenormous mural that covered the four walls of a very largeroom. The mural depicts a ceremonial procession down a mainstreet in which both British and the maharaja's militaryguards and assorted dignitaries appear in full regalia.Richly adorned elephants, colorfully dressed officials andtheir retainers, cavalry, and the gaudy and flower-ladenimages of deities make their way through the streets to thesound of brass bands and the smell of incense. It gives aninteresting glimpse into the sharing of British and localrule during twentieth century southern India prior toindependence. I was surprises to learn that the lastmaharaja's son still lives in a section of the palace.
After leaving the palace, Jay took us to see St. Philomena'sCathedral, a Christian church of neo-Gothic design. I wasimpressed with the way the Christian and Hindu religionsseemed to complement one another. It is not commonly knownthat some parts of India have large concentrations ofChristians. I had read that one fourth of the neighboringstate of Kerala is Christian.
It was after 5:00pm now. We returned to the APTECH center topick up Timmy. Our final visit before returning to Bangalorewas to the famous ornamental Brindavan Gardens that are laidout below the Krishnarajasagar Dam across the Cauvery Riversome nineteen kilometers away. The gardens are famous fortheir evening colored light show, but we were disappointed asthe gardens were undergoing renovations. It was now 6:30pm.
The return trip to Bangalore was a real adventure in driving.We made the hectic non-stop trip in three hours, much of itin the dark. This might be a good time to comment on driving,Indian style. Driving is on the left side of the road as inEngland, but there is not that much concern about staying inone's proper lane. The roads are generally quite crowdedwith an assortment of vehicles from bicycles to large trucksdarting in and out of traffic with seemingly constant use ofthe horn. Honking one's horn, however, is not an indicationof frustration, anger, or an admonishment of other drivers.Instead, it is simply a way of informing nearby drivers whereyou are. Blinking one's headlights is routinely used toindicate one's intention to pass. Drivers don't seem to usethe rear view or side mirrors much. There are almost no roadsigns, no posted speed limits, no police patrol cars, and noone uses seat belts. Yet everything seems to work. I would,however, not like to be in an accident in India. I could seeno system by which police or other authorities could benotified to dispatch assistance. Fortunately, we had no suchproblems.
After our return, Timmy, Shankar and Muralie invited Frankand me to join them for an "night out." I was feeling tiredand declined, but Frank accepted. Frank later related that ithad been a memorable evening. Shankar and Muralie providedmany insights into Indian family life, religious beliefs andpractices, and other observations about Indian culture. Fromhis description, one had the sense that true cross-culturalcommunication had taken place, and that a valued and longlasting bond had been forged.
We first went to a large clothing store called Big Kidskempon M.G. (Mahatma Gandhi) Road. It advertised itself as "theworld's greatest shopping experience." At first, it seemedlike a typical Western department store, but we were soonapproached by a "hostess" who served us hot tea and asked towhat department of the store could she direct us. When Isaid I was looking for blouses for my daughters, we were ledto the appropriate area where clerks were soon inquiringabout my needs and making suggestions. One outfit afteranother was brought out. A few feet away there was a"runway" with live models showing off the latest in women'swear. After a while, I was a bit overwhelmed. All I wantedwas a blouse, not a floor show! Eventually I got a silkblouse-skirt combination for my older daughter, Stephanie.
We then went to the Cauvery Arts and Crafts Emporium, whichhad a huge range of superb handcrafted tables, carvings,jewelry, ceramics, carpets and incense. The carvings weremostly sandalwood, which is native to the region. Jackieexplained that when sandalwood is ground very finely, itmakes a very good facial power. It is commonly used by southIndian women, and is considered good for the skin. Whilethere, Jackie tipped us off that we were to receive giftslater in the day that she had personally purchased atCauvery's Emporium. We promised to look surprised when thetime came. We returned to the APTECH center a little before1:00pm, and went to lunch at the Mermaid Restaurant. Aspredicted, Timmy, Shankar and Muralie presented us withgifts.
The time was now approaching for our 4:05pm flight to Madras.We said our "good-byes" and headed for the airport. Thiswould be the last we would see of Timmy. He would not betraveling to Madras with us as he needed to be in Hyderabadthe next day. I would miss his cheerful, informal manner.
The flight took only forty minutes. As we approached Madras,we could see the Bay of Bengal and Madras's famous coastalbeach area. Madras, located about 300 kilometers directlyeast of Bangalore, is India's fourth largest city with apopulation of over five million. It is in the State of TamilNadu and the State language is Tamil. The people of TamilNadu pride themselves on being the most "truly" Indianpopulation in India, since they were least influenced by theAryan invasions from the north that began in about 1500 BC.They are zealous guardians of Tamil culture which they regardas inherently superior to the hybrid cultures of central andnorth India. The meat-eating Aryan tradition was neverestablished here. As a result, Tamil Nadu is probably themost "vegetarian" state in India.
The mood of Madras itself is a relaxed one, considering itssize. Although the surrounding areas are rich in culturaland religious points of interest, Madras is relatively bland.From the point of view of the visitor, it is primarily agovernmental site, a place where business is conducted, and aconnection point for long-distance travel. The city has longbeen important as a center for textile manufacturing, but hasseen an industrial expansion in recent years, including car-assembly plants, railway coach and truck works, engineeringplants, cigarette factories, film studios, and educationalinstitutes. The center of the city has wide streets and agood public transportation system. Carrying on the analogyto U.S. cities, I would say that Madras could be comparedwith Los Angeles.
We were greeted at the airport by Mr. R. Krishnan, APTECHRegional Manager, and a colleague whose name I do not recall.We checked into the Chola Sheraton Hotel, another first classaccommodation. From there we went to dinner at the ParkSheraton. This featured a musical group that offered a"light classical" repertoire. In the background stood a lifesized figure of the six armed dancing Nataraja, a Hindu dietyassociated with dance and music. We commented on its finedesign and fascinating pose.
Krishnan proved to be the most well educated, introspectiveand eclectic of the people we met in India. His interestsranged from religion and mythology to theoretical physics.He did not strike me as a business man, but is apparentlyquite successful and well regarded within APTECH. I do notrecall any "practical" discussion regarding tomorrow'spresentations or the itinerary of our stay in Madras.Instead, we had quite an interesting conversation,particularly about differences between Indian and Westernvalues and attitudes toward life. He was interested in ouropinions of what we thought about India, and seemed pleasedat our tolerant and accepting attitude toward Indian ways.He shared with us some candid opinions on why India was notprogressing as a nation as well as he felt it could. It wasno surprise, then, that the evening concluded with a visit toone of the city's better bookshops. We returned to the hotelat about 9:30pm.
While speaking, I noticed in the back of the room a Westernlooking man who was listening intently. We later learnedthat he was a representative of the U.S. Embassy in Madras.We did not get a chance to speak with him as he had to returnto his office, but we were glad that he had been there to seethat we and Pace University were indeed real. We were hopefulthat this might make it easier for APTECH students to get astudent visa to come to the U.S.
Immediately after the conclusion of the presentation, we wereasked to meet a group of four or five people who wanted tospeak to us. They turned out to be journalists, and we soonfound ourselves in the midst of a press conference of sorts.We answered their questions for about fifteen minutes beforejoining the luncheon buffet that had gotten underway. Iunderstand that some of our comments appeared in localnewspapers and periodicals, but I have yet to see any.
After the buffet, we went to the main APTECH center and wentthrough the now usual introductions and tour of the facility.Then we were invited to Krishnan's office to have some tea.While there, Frank and I both were presented with miniaturecopies of the six armed dancing Nataraja that we had admiredso the evening before. This was indeed a handsome gift.
The next stop was the Russian Center and the studentpresentation. It was a short walk from the hotel. TheRussian Center has been a focus point of Indo-Russiancultural exchange programs for some time. Our presentationwas held in a conventional auditorium and went from 4:00pm to6:00pm. About 450 students attended and our presentation waswell received. Other than that, I cannot remember anythingparticularly noteworthy about it. Once it was concluded, Ifelt a great sense of relief; we had made our eighth and lastformal presentation, and had been highly successful inrepresented Pace University and the United States. Now wecould relax a little.
That evening Krishnan and his colleague took us out to dinnerat a "dosa" restaurant, which specializes in south Indiancuisine. It is not the hot or pungent style of food that wehad had so far. While eating, I observed something about thebody language of many Indians that I had not noticed before.It seems that a sign of affirmation of what someone is sayingis expressed by a kind of "wobbling" of the head. This couldeasily be misinterpreted by a Westerner who is used to an upand down movement to mean "approval" and a side-to-sidemovement to mean "disapproval." A wobbling movement -- notclearly up and down or side-to-side -- would likely convey anuncertain or ambiguous message to the average westerner.
Before concluding this journal, I must comment on my travelcompanion, Frank. We have been friends and collaborators onjoint projects for many years, but I think the true test of arelationship comes when two people must work and be togethercontinuously over an extended period. It is easy, even forgood friends, to "get on each other's nerves" over relativelyminor things. I have experienced this in the past.
In the case of Frank, however, I cannot imagine a morecongenial and delightful travel partner. Throughout ourtravels, he was thoughtful, supportive, flexible, humorous,resourceful, and attentive to the needs of the situation. Inshort, he was a pleasure to be with, and I would not hesitateto have him as a travel companion in the future.