I love India.
Beautiful and intense, ancient and new. The gamut of human experience can be found in the subcontinent with over 1.2 billion people.
My visits to India so far all revolved around mathematical conferences. The first trip there were many years ago, in 2007 just as my first book A Course on the Web Graph was published. This was my farthest and most exotic travel to date. I was at a conference in San Diego before the trip, so ended up flying to San Francisco, then Frankfurt, then Mumbai, then Delhi, then finally to Coimbatore. Thirty hours in the air! I arrived the second day of the conference and was understandably a bit sleepy.
My first memory in India was being warmly greeted by faculty and students at PSG College of Technology in Coimbatore, then whisked off to a nearby temple as part of the conference excursion. I will never forget the long, bouncy ride in the bus up a mountain to the temple, ending at a beautiful Hindu shrine.
My plenary talk went well, and I came back to Coimbatore many times.
After the conference, I visited the Taj Mahal which is a definite bucket list item.
A tip if you visit India in December. Avoid air travel to the north if at all possible. Rajasthan is amazing, but the December fog can severely mess up air travel and even trains.
If you are a newcomer tourist to India, be careful to peel fruit and drink bottled water only. Eat all your food hot and cooked; no salads. The regional flora is different than ours. Enough said. Many Indians are vegetarian, which can frustrate steak lovers (as I was told by a speaker from South Africa). I am vegan, and I recommend lactaid with meals as everything contains dairy.
My last visit I arrived in Chennai to rush hour traffic, which inspired the featured image of this blog. I live in Toronto with sometimes heavy traffic, but Indian traffic can be hardcore. Somehow, it all just works and people get to their destination safely, which a good way to think about India in general.
My talk in Coimbatore in 2011 was introduced by Gyula Katona, which was a real honor. He is a humble man, but a great mathematician with an awesome sense of humor.
This December I speak in both Chennai and Coimbatore in back-to-back conferences. Both cities are in the Tamil Nadu province in the south, where Tamil is widely spoken. Here are two important words you should remember, which is the extent of my Tamil:
Nandri: thank you.
Those two words go a long way with the friendly people of southern India. English is widely spoken, but expect some “no problem” refrains as communication is never perfect.
Looking forward to my trip. Save some idli and sambar for me.