India again – by myself. I love this country – the colors everywhere, the food, the hospitality, the culture, the people. Yes, there are huge dichotomies that shock me everytime. But I also leave energized and determined to come back and experience more of it.

This time was a bit unique, yes it was for work but I was alone and with no agenda but to work with my team, get some face time and roll up sleeves and work. So, no 5 cities in a week rodeo or a month with a need for bodyguards – plus I had a whole weekend for myself.

Air travel in midst of Covid we got covered, I am an expert in the documentation by now – ready to open a business on it. Hotel right next to the office – brand new – awesome. Walking to the hotel next to it in bathing suit for pool or gym is a little odd but who doesn’t parade themselves in a towel and wet hair in front of a large Gujarati fancy wedding – fitting in is overrated.

Weekends and food is where this trip rocked. My colleagues and friends Hima, Diva and Abhay took it upon themselves to show me local India and they sure did. On Saturday, up early (6 am for a visitor, utterly impressed and grateful) and getting out of Bangalore through Hassan City to Halebeedu temple which was mesmorizing – amazing detailed carvings that started in 1100+ and are still not finished – truly incredible piece of work which our guide explained with animated stories that made me realize, yet again, how little I know about the Hindu religion and overall history. On the way back, as when I was in China or in Thailand, I had a few girls and families asked to take picture with me which is always a little intimidating – what, besides me being white is worth taking a picture? Particularly when I am hot and sweating buckets. But I smiled on click – for kids, for cousins, grandma and overall extended family, probably unrelated strangers too.

On the way back we stopped in this small town, in a resort. Yes, it felt like we were in the middle of pretty rural India so resort was not what I was thinking – street cart, maybe (we did stop on the way to get some fresh coconut water and awesome breakfast) – but this place – Hoysala Village was a big surprising oasis in the midst of desert.

The food was when things got really interesting – leaf instead of plates, hands instead of utensils, small portions served by walking waiters all the time, trying different things – amazing – and the atmosphere was like a botanical garden – I was definitely a bit more comfortable eating with my hands than before – hand washing was very manual with gentleman standing in a corner with a large bowl of water that he would pour on  your hands (so hygienic yes, and efficient on water consumption). Rooms are also not cheap here but they are like a villa so beautiful place for some out of town weekend. We even caught a serious Indian storm on the way back and my awe with Diva’s driving took it up a notch – there was literally nothing to see and it felt like the traffic actually accelerated vs. slowed down.

Rest of the trip? Shopping and more food – I really felt like I ate all the time – and everything was fabulous – I hardly ever had dinner between all the breakfasts and lunches. The Westin restaurant with some smoky ice cream, the pure Go Native farm to table vegan restaurant with the most creative and never heard of food, the Kesariya Rajasthani restaurant, it just kept rolling. Couldn’t leave India without my favorite henna art and since I was running out of free time, Hima had this young lady come to my hotel where she whipped up this amazing design in literally 20 mins, in hotel lobby!

There was one other experience that was rather unique for this trip. I wanted to see some local non profit and learn something or help. Preserving the weaving trade and art was it – we visited Vimor foundation which is a small museum of some amazing sarees with stories and most importantly preservation of the weaving trade and capability by teaching and enabling the rural weavers on this profession. Pavithra Muddaya who manages this foundation is truly one impressive lady – dedicated to preserving this cultural gem that her mother started. Let me tell you, weaving is not easy and detailed weaving that actually has a pattern is a lot of math! Very impressed with anyone who can manage their hands, eyesight and patience to do this. I can’t find any pictures as they all disappeared from What’s app!

What else to add? I had time to go to gym and was the only person there so got private instructor – ouch – again. I almost stayed another week b/c a few of my colleagues tested positive day before I left and the airline required negative test (I didn’t). I did some awesome market shopping at arts festival – and that’s it !!

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