An update from Elizabeth, MBA and Master’s of Arts Management ’12, who traveled to India with the Cox Global Leadership Program:
Our classmate Vittal’s parents live here in Bangalore and offered early on to host us for dinner. Just as we finalized details before we left, some of the staff mentioned a concern about us being too tired; they wanted to be sure that we could commit to going on the first or second night we arrived, and not bail and inconvenience our hosts. So I put it to the group. And the response was unanimous! Everyone wanted to meet Vittal’s parents. We arranged to go Monday evening, after we’d arrived, slept, done some sightseeing and showered.
Of course, our delay at Heathrow put a kink in the plans. The Shettys were really watching out for us – by the time I called Monday morning from Mumbai to say we would not arrive in time for dinner, they already knew; they had called the hotel to check on our arrival. In fact, we’d been given and passed on the wrong hotel address, which they had realized when the hotel didn’t have my name, and they’d figured out at which hotel we were really staying. So we rescheduled for Tuesday night.
After our two company visits, most people wanted a shower and a quick power nap before dinner. My roommate Rebekah was going in search of a SIM card to power international phone cards, and Eric was playing bodyguard – meaning mostly that he’d cross the street first and she’d use him as a blocker. I decided to tag along to look for postcards to send to students from the class of ’13.
We took off down the road, against traffic. Sort of. It’s often hard to tell which direction traffic should be going. We found the McDonald’s not far from our hotel! People tell us to try the McDonald’s in India just for the unique menu, but we weren’t quite ready. Then we saw Big Bazaar, which is a familiar name to us – we’ve researched Big Bazaar, and the company is a competitor of Bharti Walmart, which we’ll visit soon. So we ducked into the store to look around. It goes from Tom Thumb on Ground Level (groceries) to Super Target on the next level at the front (clothes in a grocery store) to IKEA (lightweight easy-to-assemble furniture) in the back of the store. We didn’t find anything to buy, but now we’ve done some extra research for the visit.
We finally found the phone place, but they didn’t have what Rebekah needed. They made a call and told us to go to a temple nearby and in the store across the street we should ask for Mina. But we had to get back, so we skipped it.
Back at the hotel, we hopped in our bus and headed to the Shettys. Only the bus driver knew the address, and our usual guides weren’t with us, so we were winging it big time. The driver got quite lost, and was on the phone a number of times, and we arrived pretty late. But we hardly noticed, because Erika grabbed the tour guide’s mike, convinced the driver to turn it on, and thanks to an amplified iPad (a merger between Eric’s iPad, Stephanie’s speakers, and Ashley’s iPhone) we had karaoke on the bus. After a Mariah power ballad from our emcee, we launched into a number of duets and sing-alongs.
At the Shettys, we were served so much food we could hardly walk when we left. It was unbelievable, and ALL HOMEMADE. For 14 people! First we were offered drinks, then a series of appetizers ranging from paneer to prawns, to some amazing dumpling-like thing, to a chicken bite with dipping sauce that caused me to blurt out, “What is the name of this? I want to order it at every restaurant, forever.”
We chatted with Vittal’s parents, and elicited a few fun stories of his childhood – and then the jackpot came out: Vittal’s baby pictures!! We thumbed through a ton of albums (side note: Indian housewarming parties put any American housewarming to shame) and giggled and took pictures of the pictures. We also learned more about Mr. Shetty’s car business and his coffee plantation, and discovered he was the president (right now a steward) of the Turf Club, which is the horse racing club. We’d had lunch just that day in a restaurant overlooking the track. Apparently this Saturday is the first big weekend of racing, and he invited us to be his guests, but of course, we’re off to Delhi Thursday.
We had an incredible time at the Shetty’s – it’s such a unique opportunity, not only to be traveling in a new country but to be hosted in someone’s home. I think it made us all feel cozy and welcomed, to have a home-cooked meal, even if it’s not our usual cuisine. We got a tour of the house, and even met Bandit, Vittal’s dog. He’s a rambunctious charmer – and definitely more well-fed than the stray dogs we see everywhere!
After a while we had the main meal, a buffet of idli, dhosas, sauces, and various vegetarian and non-vegetarian (ie: meat-filled) dishes. Delicious. I couldn’t tell you exactly what I ate, but I loved it all. Then, DESSERT. I’d worried that I wouldn’t be able to eat much in India, since I live off chocolate and fast food most of the time, but Vittal had assured me that there is great chocolate in India. And there is. We had an almond-flavored pudding and a marble pudding: chocolate vanilla ice cream pudding goodness. Apparently it’s Vittal’s favorite. His taste is impeccable. I think some of us had 3 servings. By which I mean, I know I did, and wasn’t paying attention to anyone else.
Finally, we had to get ourselves and our patient bus driver back to the hotel. We took a group photo, gave the Shettys an SMU Cox coaster and a Texas tote bag, and then piled into our bus, waving goodbye as we rounded the corner. After a bit of continued dance party, most of us sank into food comas and then stumbled to bed. Big day tomorrow, though we’re not sure exactly what we’re doing – we just know that it’s a service project arranged through Seva Yatra with Amba CEEIC. Another adventure!