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Garlands at a local market near Chennai.

NOTE: Life imitating fiction! When I set my novel-in-progress in Mahabalipuram, Tamil Nadu, India, I never imagined that I would be able go there. The dream became a reality. In a recent journey to southern India, I found myself on the Bay of Bengal’s shore looking at the spot where my protagonist Arundati is discovered by Richard, the character who would become her adoptive father. Following is the first installment of my “travelblog.”

Indian Sojourn – Week One

Dec. 13, 2013- Sitting in the Delhi Airport, I feel totally prepared for whatever lies ahead.
The part of India I most want to see – Mahabalipuram – will be the first site we visit, so I’m particularly excited about this. A fairly grueling journey so far, beginning with a 3 p.m. check-in at La Quinta in Albuquerque. Tried in vain to sleep but the illusion that I’d take a “power nap” quickly vanished. At 9 p.m., left for the airport and the overnight trip to JFK airport in New York. Arrived after a few hours at 6 a.m. (4 my body’s time) and joined some other lobby dwellers, growing very cold and uncomfortable. Finally at 1 a.m. met up with Marilyn and Jim from Monterey, identifiable by their Overseas Adventure Travel (OAT) jackets, and we went to our waiting gate. All of Friday was spent in travel…another blurry stop in Delhi, just waiting, finally boarding a second Air India flight to Chennai.

Nice group of fellow travelers. Marilyn and Jim, Mae Nan, Veena, Daphne, David and Jeri, Rebecca and Bob, Irma and Jim, Dalida and Mario. Easy to be with, somewhat of a relief. I wasn’t the only solo adventurer! Fortunately, Charles our trip leader has an apprentice guide, James, who is also quite good to talk with.
The pre-trip (to Sri Lanka) folks joined in and we comprised 16. Some down time in our hotel rooms. Spent time getting chargers to work (they did!) and using my Steripen, a device that electronically purified water for tooth brushing. Small victories, but they mean a lot on this on this first solo journey to the other side of the world.

Chennai is considered the musical and cultural capital of southern India.

Chennai is considered the musical and cultural capital of southern India.

Gathered in the lounge for a briefing in the Chennai Park Hotel, a former movie studio. Chennai is the center of Tamil film industry. A. H. Rahman, creator of Slumdog Millionaire, calls Chennai home. Garish, flamboyant and brainy-looking movie posters adorned the walls. Everything all marble, mirrors, glass, and gleaming. One weird thing happened. I didn’t realize that one has to leave the room key in a slot to keep the lights on, so I thought I’d lost my OAT bag (couldn’t see anything). I had to fetch Charles, who told me how to keep the lights on and find my bag, which – thank goodness, was right on top of the dresser. After this rocky beginning, slept very well (thanks to melatonin I borrowed from Marilyn). Foolish of me not to bring any – this will be the last time for such an omission. Fortunately, I didn’t rake myself over the coals about this.

Look for “An Adoptee in India” continued in future posts!

Mahabalipuram: Hanging out with Nandi, the bull of Lord Shiva

Mahabalipuram: Hanging out with Nandi, the bull of Lord Shiva