[photo: Sara Swaty Roger holding an icon of Saraswati, 2009]
©2012 Bruce M. Roger
“Prepare for landing at Mumbai International Airport.” Our daughter Sara, who was now awake and jubilant, gave me a high-five, “We did it!” Sara, who was named for the Indian goddess of music and education, Saraswati, had grown up reading the mythic tales of India, and practicing Iyengar yoga with us at home. We were not surprised when she asked us in 2009 if she could study at the University of Hyderabad for a semester. First, however, Sara and I planned to spend time visiting the cave temple sites of Ajanta and Ellora, and then two weeks in Pune, while I attended class at the Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute.
Our immediate task was to find a taxi to Pune, a three and a half hour ride. A passenger shared the name of a taxi service as we exited the airport. Amongst the hundreds of people trying to get the attention of passengers streaming by, I saw a tout with the taxi sign and negotiated a price. All of this was on the fly: I’d never taken a taxi before, only had a vague idea of the price, and was trying to explain to Sara how to do it at the same time. Fortunately, she picked up on everything.
It was much faster and easier — if not cheaper — than fourteen years before. The taxi was air-conditioned, unlike the bus; the road had expanded from two lanes to an expressway; people had upgraded from two-wheelers to cars. And since everyone used cell phones — there were 525 million of them in 2009, owned by 44% of the population — we had our host explain to the taxi driver how to find the apartment.
After settling down in our apartment in Pune, Sara was ready to venture out on her own. She had seen me negotiate rikshaw prices and explain destinations by landmark. I walked her down to the rikshaw stand at the end of the block. She explained in pigeon English that she wanted to go to the museum. The rickshaw-wallah set the meter. And off she went.