Thursday, 28 February 2013

of Tirupathi and Bangalore

We are back from a short but eventful and hectic trip to India. It was just a visit to spend time with my husband's and my family. I was in Bangalore the whole time but managed to squeeze a trip to Tirupathi in Andhra Pradesh.

Trip to Tirupathi was an experience in itself. Tirupathi is a very famous and one of the richest pilgrimages of India. It is also one of the most visited temples. Devotees throng to the temple from every corner of India and Indians staying abroad. We decided to pay respects to Lord Venkateshwara this time. I had an experience of the temple and its crowd once before this. I knew what to expect. The queues to see the god even after buying a hefty priced ticket is a minimum 4 hours wait. The free entry wait time is easily 8-10 hours.All this for a blink-and-miss split second slot to see the lord!

I was amazed at the efficiency of the system in place to control the crowd. Waiting people were broken into different queues to avoid stampede but mainly to control the flow of people to the main temple. There were people who used the waiting areas as toilets (highly insenitive bunch). In spite of that and huge crowd round the clock, cleanliness in temple premises and waiting area was very impressive. Even though there was no personal boundary while in the queue and you were walking sticking to the person in front of you and behind, no one misbehaves. Majority of the crowd waits patiently for their turn resigned to the fact that there was no use pulling/pushing.

On the other end, Informants and monitors of queue were impatient and non-courteous. Corruption such as bribing is heavily practiced. One can't find a single item for fixed price on the Tirumala hills, not even hotel accomodation or sweet laddu offering to God. Even priests ask for money in return for extra prasad.

Temples are supposed to be peaceful places to pray and meditate. One can't even see the main idol for more than a second, then why go there to pray? One can't sit in temple premises for more than a minute, what purpose does this serve? Does one go there to find out why so many people throng to the temple? I didn't understand. If you go there to use the temple premises as urinals, bribe to get an extra laddu or get pushed by one of the temple guard like a cow in a herd, what is the point?

To my dismay, I realized that I have lost the street-smartness required to manoeuvre on Indian roads - be it crossing a busy road skillfully, bargaining with street vendors or communicating with auto wallahs.

There was this one incident that leaves me puzzled even now. I went to a roadside vendor selling few books. I picked up a couple of them and asked for the price. The guy behaved creepy. He looked at me intently quoting 2-3 prices and eventually settled to 140Rs for 2 books. I asked him if he can give me the books for 100Rs. And that's all I spoke. Before I opened my mouth again, the guy was shouting at the top of his voice - " What are you talking? Dont you have any shame? What do you think of these books? These are original books. You are asking for such a low price!" I tried to diffuse the situation "Ok, tell me for how do much you want to sell?". There was no stopping the guy, he was still shouting at the top of his voice that I was a shameless lady who wants to buy things at cheap prices! So I dropped the books and being ill-tempered, I talked back to him "Don't you think I know how original the books are?" "Then why are you buying here?" came the answer. I left that place silently with the guy still shouting and throwing curses at me. Was I over-reacting? Was it normal for him to get defensive thinking that I was going to bargain real hard? Or should I have paid 140Rs silently and gotten the book even after he harassed me like that?

A couple of more days on Indian streets and I would have gotten back to the game(of shouting in frustration and hurling curses to bounce off the ones coming my way), but my skills were rusted and I needed help to get out of a situation.

On a general note, Bangaloreans were very hopeful and happy about the Infrastructure development in Bangalore. People were hopeful about Namma Metro project and development of few new roads and fly overs. Also on the other end, I heard comments about people worrying about slowing economy and IT companies moving away from Bangalore because of lack of infrastructure, population and government policies.

Whatever is the infrastructure, pollution or population, Bangalore has never failed to impress me. Be it in 2004 when I first resided in Bangalore as an intern drawing no salary or now, as an NRI. It remains Namma Bengaluru - the IT capital, the city of opportunities, the city of mouth watering food, the city where my dear ones reside, the city where my heart lies.


  1. Home is where the heart is :)

    1. Very true Arpitha!! My heart lies in Bangalore.

  2. Visiting Tirupathi is one of the most divine experience one can have. Don't let the bookseller bother you.... ultimately he is the looser as he lost a sale

    1. I knew it had to be devotion, but had second thoughts after looking at the people there (the kind who uses premises as toilets).
      You are totally true about book seller .. One hyper fellow he is!