April's Notes From The Road: South India Wrap-Up (2008)

I am glad to deem South India a successful trip from beginning to end. Back in cool San Francisco now, it is hard to believe that only days ago I was in the sub-tropics, bouncing along dust-ridden tracks to crumbling temples, learning about what myriad microfinance organizations are pursuing throughout the country, and eating burfi (the best Indian sweet in existence – condensed milk cooked with sugar until it hardens into fudge-like form) to my heart’s delight.

From Mysore it was a 40+ hour marathon return journey home, via Bangalore, Chennai, Singapore and Korea (transit stop). Basically the reverse routing on the way back as I had on the way over, with the addition of an internal flight from Bangalore (where men and women are required to go through security checks separately). Also at the Bangalore airport I was delighted (and not just a little surprised) to see Clay Shirky’s new book Here Comes Everybody front-and-center on the shelves of the airport bookstore. It made me think about his recent appearance on Jerry’s weekly Yi-Tan call, and the fact that only the night before Jonathan Zittrain had talked about his own new book, The Future of the Internet – And How to Stop It. Great ideas and people, all the way around.

As I typically do for longer trips, the final log is a list of favorites… favorite experiences, memories, places visited, people met, things eaten and essentially “snapshots” of my time. So in no particular order, here is my shortlist of South India favorites:

  • The IDLO participants from so many Asian countries, and how each one of them brought a unique perspective and personality to the course
  • Meeting Unitus colleagues in Bangalore and learning more about on-the-ground activities and operations in India
  • Classic Ambassador taxicabs
  • Chennai’s tiny Nehru Park at night, with kids playing and women strolling around, the mirrors on their saris flickering in the dark
  • Families on mopeds (Jerry has begun a fun Flickr photo collection that documents these)
  • Walking a long Pondicherry’s promenade and neighboring environs early in the morning as children are preparing to go to school
  • Getting jasmine put in my hair at Mysore’s colorful Devaraja Market
  • Being flocked by (literally more than 10) groups of complete strangers in Bangalore’s Lalbagh Gardens who were keen simply to have their picture taken with me – I guess there is still some novelty to fair skin and freckles
  • Watching endless numbers of older women in saris and sneakers take their daily walk in Bangalore’s ubiquitous small parks
  • Riding a horse on Chennai’s Marina Beach at sunset
  • Observing Mysore Palace illuminated with 96,000 lights at night
  • And of course, eating burfi in its many forms (pista with pistachio, kaju with cashew, kesri with saffron, pak made with gram flour and almonds, and some of which are topped with edible silver leaf called varak)!

In the near future my trip photographs will be uploaded to Flickr and a link will be posted here to find them.

TraveloguesApril Rinne