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Kamat's Potpourri

Kamat Family Album


Vikas and Kim in India 2004 

Kim in Silk Chudidar

Vikas and I visited India for three weeks in the beginning of the year 2004. We spent most time with Amma (Vikas mom), exchanging views and enjoying her hospitality. We also traveled some in the countryside.

The flight itself was long and boring (it takes about 25 hours of flying time and another 10 hours of layover and connections) and the security checks were endless.

Here are some pictures and some notes.

Visit to Honavar | Visit to Infosys Campus | Visit to Shidlaghatta


Visit to Infosys Campus

Infosys is a hotshot company in India and every head of the state who visits India also visits Infosys, as it is heralded as a symbol of the new emerging India. So we decided to pay a visit.  Apparently, most people arrive at the campus in private jets or air-conditioned limousines, because the way we arrived -- in an auto-rickshaw (three wheeled open taxi), certainly was a regrettable exercise -- traveling through extremely polluted streets.

But inside the campus was a magical "Disney-like" kingdom. Manicured lawns, state-of-the art technology, first-of-its-kind leadership programs, a very highly tuned work-force and disciplines. An Infosys executive gave us a guided tour and patiently answered our questions on software quality, social responsibility of being a wealthy corporation in a third world nation, and threat from Infosys' competitors.


Infosys War Room
Very large scale conferences involving people all over the world can be coordinated from this place.

Immaculately maintained, beautiful campus hides the pollution of Bangalore

The luxury workplace has a swimming pool, gym, libraries, grocery store, and theme restaurants

Visit to Shidlaghatta

Mallikarjuna, one of the admirers of our website, has been insisting that we visit his town Sidlaghatta in a rural area and came all the way to Bangalore to personally drive us there. The following are some pictures of rural folk engaged in basketry, silk-rearing, goat raising, and Kamats enjoying a walk in a mango and guava (a delicious tropical fruit) plantation.

On way to Shidlagatta, we saw goat farmers, lotus ponds, and banyan trees

Most people don't realize the botanical diversity of India
The vegetation is very rich, and agriculture is India's primary profession

Basket weaver's habitat
The weavers have transformed their art of basketry into building homes as well

A Silk Loom
We got a deep tour of problems of India's silk industry

Freshly picked Guava fruit

At the Fruit Farm of Mallikarjuna

Visit to Honavar

We visited the town Vikas grew up (Honavar, a coastal town where the Sharavati river meets the Arabian Sea) on India's west-coast (population 17,000 - where Vikas knows everybody and gets the adulation of a star) and enjoyed the hospitality of Vikas' extended family and friends. The principal of the local school asked Vikas to address the kids and the students enthusiastically asked him many questions, mostly about America.

Vikas' mother has established a trust fund (Kamat Foundation) in Bappa (Vikas' dad)'s memory and wishes to build a library and a Yoga center in Honavar. We did some errands and organization related to Kamat Foundation.

Sunset on the Arabian Sea-coast

I inhetited Vikas' grandma's jewelry!
It was a custom-made traditional Konkani ornament hand-crafted in pure gold. Now I've to grow a hair-bun to wear it!

Muslim Students at a Christian School

We also visited a classroom run by a Christian missionaries (St. Thomas School, see picture below) where all the students were Muslim and even the medium of instruction was Urdu. It was a modern, co-ed school and the students were learning mathematics! Vikas explained to me that in his childhood Muslim girls could get no education, and even the Muslim boys studied only till the 7th grade.

St. Thomas School, Honavar

In front of 112 year old Kamat Shop
Vikas' family has been in cloth business for over hundred years at the same location

Coconut Tree Climber
This tribal man wanted to know how much he could make (he gets paid equivalent of ten cents per tree in Honavar) by climbing coconut trees in America, and was disappointed that there are no coconut trees in Birmingham. 

The Kamat Clan
Vikas' aunts and cousins

On top of Murdeshwar mountain
In the background is Arabian sea.

Even cows go to beach in India !
And probably I was the only one to find it surprising. "The beach belongs to the cows as well" said Vikas.

Mingling with the Scholars

For those who don't know, Vikas' dad was a writer, and a researcher, and a public function was held to honor his memory in Bangalore. About hundred people came, many of whom were scholars, writers, artists, TV anchors, and editors. Many sought my autograph -- as if not to distinguish between Vikas' parents' works and me!

At the book release function of Kamat Memorial Volume

India's Surprising Value System

No matter how much I learn about India, it continues to shock and surprise me.  At the time of Bappa's death, he left some money in a bank with Vikas as the nominee. It took Vikas five different trips to the bank (and ten days) to claim it. They needed evidence that Bappa had actually died, and Vikas was actually Vikas (India does not have an ID system, so two respectable citizens had to swear that Vikas was himself; the bank even had a criteria on who was a respectable citizen!). Further we had to prove that Amma would have no objection to Vikas claiming the money, and that Vikas had no other siblings. Each one of these requirements would come up during a separate visit!

Working in Four Households to Care for Husband and his First Wife

Amma's maid, a refugee from a drought-hit area had an unbelievable story. She is the second wife of her ailing husband (who is still married to the first wife, who is also ailing and living in the village), and works in four houses everyday to send money home. What's shocking was she had no animosity towards husband or his first wife; she was only sad that she was poor. "They'd have done the same for me if I was sick," said she. Amma explained that in some communities it is common to take in a second wife when there is no progeny from the first. I could not tell if this was exploitation or magnanimity in the Indian family structure.

Of course, the most enjoyable part of the trip was the time spent with Amma -- doing yoga with her, shopping with her, enjoying her cooking, and mediating between the mother and son during their arguments.

See Also:

Kamat's Potpourri Kim Kamat's Home Page India Trip 2004