Arun was at the station waiting for us. We hadn't been able to contact him to tell him we had made it on the train, but he operated on "no news is good news" and met the train from Gaya. After hugs all round, I commented on the fact that this was the first time, in all the years we have to come to India, that we have arrived in Patna first. We have usually flown into Mumbai or Delhi and it would sometimes be weeks before we reached Patna. Neena was waiting at home for us, and as usual, her wonderful smile greeted us as we stepped into the family home.
We were last here in April 2007 so everything was familiar and we settled in quickly. The weather is so much cooler than we have been experiencing for the last several weeks so we had to pull out our socks and sweaters. Since our arrival, cups of piping hot tea and coffee have kept us warm and Neena's wonderful home cooking has kept us well fed. For the first several days, all we did was drink tea, eat and sleep. It seems to be something we do whenever we come to Patna, maybe it's the good vibes of home that makes us so relaxed and sleepy. The quiet time has given me a chance to finally get over my bad cold and for my ankle to heal itself.
After several days of lazing around, we decided to take a day trip to Nalanda. The ruins of an ancient university built in B.C. something to behold. Scholars from all over the world came there to study. However, we woke to pouring rain, something quite unusual in the dry winter months and our plans had to be put on hold. It rained throughout the day and we stayed huddled under warm blankets alternately reading books, drinking tea and dozing.
We will try and make the trip in the coming days before we leave for Delhi on January 31st. In the meantime, India's Republic Day on Jan 26th created a little diversion for us. This day is set as a national holiday to commemorate the installment of India's first constitution in 1950. There are huge celebrations and a large parade in Delhi but even Patna had planned activities for its citizens. We decided to stay at home and watch the parade on television, but the school children next door provided a small diversion with an assembly on the school grounds. Later in the morning, we climbed the seven flights from the Kapoor's apartment to the roof terrace for a flag raising ceremony organized by the building's management committee. The committee members seemed to be the only people in attendance but several young children joined them and happily waived flags before singing the Indian national anthem. When this was done, the flag was unfurled and the marigolds that were folded inside drifted down to the street thirteen stories below. As a final gesture, one of the committee members distributed sweets to all the attendees. Now I knew for sure why the children were eager to join in.