Are We Going to Agra?
After a late ending to the dinner at the Leela Palace, my companions and Mr. M decided that the following morning he would meet us at the Halcyon and we would all go to …. somewhere.
I kept asking if we were going to Agra because I knew that the Taj Mahal is there and I figured that we were going on a sightseeing expedition.
You can easily tell from what I was asking that I had no idea about the geography of India and not a clue as to where I was or where the Taj was. Actually, Agra is about 1,925 km from Bengaluru and, by car, only takes 32 hours.
So, when I was told, not Agra, I asked again, “where?” And, I was told. The name was one of those long multi-syllabic Indian names that are difficult to understand and easy to forget.
At approximately 5 AM, the ever present Raj appeared with the Innova and Mr. M.
We trooped down from our hotel room to meet them at the front entrance. I asked my friend who had been to India many times why Mr. M was dressed head to toe in what appeared to be a bed sheet.
Where was the expensive business suit, I wondered. I thought that perhaps he got up late and just wrapped himself in this “thing” until he had more ample time to get properly dressed.
You can see that I had no idea about India and its customs and mores. This is the bad part about being an American in India. Unfortunately, too many people who come to India are just as ignorant as I was.
Little did I know
that within a day
I, also, would have
my own bed sheet to wear.
We all climbed into the Innova with Mr. M making the much appreciated suggestion that I sit up front since I was so tall. I really appreciated that.
Of course, I asked several more times for the name of the place we were going to and I was told. I have to admit that I asked my American traveling companions out of earshot of Mr. M because I did not want him to think that I was so stupid that I could not remember the name of the place.
The ride was mostly uneventful with the main attraction being the ongoing conversations in the car. I discovered that Raj spoke English very well and I spent a lot of time talking with him.
Mr. M and my companions talked about business some more until they, too, fell silent. It was then that Mr. M asked me a number of questions about why I was in India, how I learned Hindi (I didn’t think “there are three red fish” really constituted a knowledge of Hindi, but, I’ll take a complement whenever I can), what were my hobbies, etc.
I explained about my business, developing websites, my company Accolade Group of Vermont, LLC, and that I used to be a teacher. Mr. M was interested in everything and I was happy to answer his questions.
It was in this way that he and I spent much time in conversation. 6 hours of conversation, since that was the time it took us to go from Bengaluru to wherever we were going.
I didn’t dare ask him again.t
You should understand that Andhra Pradesh also encompassed Telangana when I was first in India and the entirety was known as Andhra Pradesh, AP.
Subsequently, June 2, 2014, there was a split and the state of Telangana was formed with Hyderabad as its capitol. Before the split, Hyderabad was the capitol of all AP.
Now, there is much discussion about where the capital of AP will be and none is shown on this map.
As we traveled, we left the state of Karnataka, where Bengaluru is located as the state capitol, and entered the state of Andhra Pradesh where Hyderabad is the capital city. (See my note on the right explaining the state of AP and TS.)
A short while after we entered Andhra Pradesh, we arrived at Anantapur. Or, as is said in India, “We reached (to) Anantapur.” Here, we left the main road and entered the city.
(You can see where Anantapur is on the map of our road trip on the right.)
Again, I was clueless as to why we were doing this. I quickly found out.
Raj pulled up to an imposing compound surrounded by an equally imposing gate. As soon as we arrived at the gate, it was immediately opened and the two gate keepers stood at attention and saluting in the direction of our car.
OK, no matter who you are, you have to admit that this is a somewhat intimidating turn of events as the car entered the compound and you stare at the saluting gatekeepers through the window.
After a short drive, the car came to a stop in front of an equally imposing structure that appeared to be some kind of a factory.
Arranged in front of the factory was a phalanx of men who also had acquired the habit of greeting people with a rigid back and formal salute.
As we got out of the car, I wondered where we were and what was going to happen next. And, more importantly, what was expected of me. Is this how everything is done in Anantapur -salutes and and people greeting you while standing at attention?
Mr. M began to walk toward the main entrance of the building and was followed by a scattered group of men.
This is when I came to understand the term “posse” as when someone says, “So-and-so, a famous actor, and his posse arrived at the restaurant.” Indeed, this was as close to a similar situation that I could imagine.
Mr. M entered the main door and proceeded to go to the second floor, or, as is said in India, the first floor. What Americans call the first floor is referred to as “the ground floor” and floor counting begins with the floor above that.
As we walked, doors were amazingly opened for Mr. M and his posse – now including me and my fellow travelers – to walk through. By this time, I was becoming accustomed to being saluted and wondered if I could somehow export this treatment to my travels in the USA.
We entered a large, rectangular room with a table fit with place settings worthy of a five-star hotel. After sitting, people immediately began serving breakfast.
“Sir, would you like coffee? Sir, would you like toast?” There is little use telling people not to say “sir” as this is a form of respect which most people are unwilling to part with.
The “sir” really becomes funny when you are addressed as “Oliver Sir.” It is only after you know people for a while that they will listen when you ask them to “just call me Oliver.”
After breakfast, Mr. M arranged with the Anantapur plant manager to give us a tour of the facilities. Mr. M remained on the first floor (that’s the second floor to many of you) while we went to the ground floor (ah, the first floor).
We were led through a labyrinth of machines performing the most fascinating and intricate maneuvers as they twisted and curled strands of wire into little springs and big springs, flat springs and round springs. The machines and the work they performed were fascinating.
We were at M. G. Metallic Springs, Pvt. Ltd. which was a company owned by Mr. M and his family. The Anantapur branch of the spring factory makes springs for all kinds of purposes including most automotive springs. As it was explained to me, the factory where we met Mr. M in Bengaluru is the headquarters for a network of similar spring factories turning out springs two or three work-shifts per day.
As I came to learn later, this was not even the tip of the iceberg.
Having eaten and toured the factory, we returned to the car with posse in tow to continue our journey to…where?