Viswa Subbaraman

Opera and Orchestra Conductor

Filtering by Tag: Chennai

Viswa- Asia Tour 2012 (Part 5 Finale)

One further snake anecdote from my last blog:This trip has me thinking about family. I can't believe I forgot this story when taking about Sankari. It was, in fact, the firs place I ever saw a live cobra in the wild, but it was also the place where I saw a live cobra in a house. This was when my grandmother was still alive (my father's mother). My grandmother and her sister-in-law (my grand aunt?) were cooking in the kitchen. We were in the living room reading or something. In India - especially at that time but even now - doors were kept wide open to allow for air circulation in the heat. Suddenly we saw this black streak go across the floor and head to the kitchen. Evidently it was a cobra that went into the kitchen and did a figure 8 around my grand aunt's legs and disappeared into the pots and pans. My grandmother walked out of the kitchen as if she were announcing it was dinner time. She looks at us and says (completely dead-panned), "there is a snake in the kitchen." I would have been screaming and running around as if I were a character in Airplane!.

The past 2 days in Madras were relatively uneventful. I got to spend some time with my grandparents (the big reason for my trip to India), one of my aunts, and some of my cousins. There was a rather funny incident on the way to the airport, however. I had arranged a taxi to the airport and was waiting at my grandparents' place with my cousin and her husband. We suddenly get a phone call 10 minutes before I was to be picked up. The taxi driver was calling to ask how to find our neighborhood! It doesn't give you much confidence when the taxi driver doesn't know how to find the place to even pick you up! He swore he knew the way to the airport, and luckily he did know his way to the airport, but while on the way there, he ended up getting in an argument with a driver of a truck that was passing us. They literally were yelling at each other through open windows and threatened to pull over, so they could start fighting. Ummmm… really? He then pulled into a gas station - I swear I thought I'd never make my flight.

I flew into Singapore and jumped into a taxi to meet Darrell Ang for dinner. I've known Darrell for years, and he is an incredibly talented conductor. It is funny that 2 years ago, I basically did the same trip and had Christmas dinner with the Angs. I think they are beginning to think I only drop in for dinner at the holidays. It was then a 24 hour flight via Moscow back to Houston. It was great to be home and to see the cats. They haven't left my side since I got home!

Viswa - Asia Tour 2012 (Part 3)

So, I was supposed to land in Chennai (Madras) at 0:30AM. Unfortunately, the flight left Bangkok almost an hour late, so we didn't land in Chennai until 1:30AM. As I said in my previous blog, I wasn't 100% sure they would let me back in India. There had been a law ok the books (until 2 weeks before I arrived that said you had to have 2 months between visits). I knew the law had been repealed, but I didn't know of the people at immigration knew it was repealed. It is India, after all. Unfortunately with the delay, 3 flights all landed at the same time, so the line in immigration was a mess. I do have to admit, however, that the airport renovations are looking nicer. I just wish they had used the opportunity to reorganize a bit. Maybe that's still in the cards? I finally made the front of the line. The guy looked at me and asked if I spoke Tamil? I said yes. He stamped my passport and said, "not bad." He let me right through. Then came baggage claim. I can never get used to the sheer difference in personal space in India - there is none. Plus people just push their way to the front even if you're standing there. Maybe it's my Duke background, but there should be something to beating the other person to the spot. By the time I got my bags and made it to my aunt's place, it was 3 AM.

It was an interesting taxi ride at 2AM. Madras has changed. Overall the roads seem cleaner and there are some nicer buildings. It is nice to see the move in the right direction. Of course that does not do much for the incredible amount of poverty in this country. (Mumbai is perhaps a more glaring example where you see Aston Martin dealerships juxtaposed against some of the largest slums in the world.)

There is still a long way to go, but it is nice to see some improvements on the horizon. It's always amazing to me that Madras seems like a brand new city each time I come back. There's a sad side to that as well. Some of the beautiful houses in Abhiramapuram are gone in favor of huge apartment complexes. It feels more and more like a "big city". Much of that Indian-ness is falling by the wayside. The temples are suddenly crowded by buildings and people, etc.. But, that is often the price of progress. Man, I sound old.