Temple Run

I’m back in India this week, so that I can spend some time with my growing team.  The trip is inevitably hard on me and my family, but at the same time I really enjoy having some time in person with all the amazing people who have joined our organization in the past year or so.  And the weather in Chicago has been brutal, so escaping to 80-degree weather for a couple of weeks is a welcome relief.  For some perspective, here is a view from ZS Associates’ downtown offices on Friday:

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That is Lake Michigan, with the whole shoreline frozen over!  And here is a view out the window while I’m waiting to (hopefully) board my flight from Chicago to London:

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For those of you that don’t know the region, Pune (or Poona, as the locals call it), is near the western coast in the Maharashtra state.  It’s a two-hour flight South from Delhi or a few hours’ drive East from Mumbai:

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Pune is a growing tech hub – much like Bangalore but still on a smaller scale.  It has grown really fast in the past few years, so there is always a ton of construction going on.  It has been a good location for ZS to find (and draw) talent for our Business Technology and Software Development groups as they grow rapidly to meet the demands of our customers.  We’re still in the early days of hiring for User Experience talent, but I hope we’ll have some good success for those roles, too!

One of the highlights of all my trips to India so far was at this time last year, when my colleague Mike and his wife Aparna took me on a tour of some of the temples near Pune.

We started the day visiting the Alandi Temple of Sant Dnyaneshwar http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alandi.  Cultural immersion started immediately, with Mike and Aparna buying offerings, leaving our shoes out front, and trekking through the passageways barefoot.  Photographs inside the temple are prohibited, but here are some Google images to give you a sense of the size and it’s placement along the river.  And here are a few shots that I took along the pedestrian walkways outside the temple:

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Although that temple and the surrounding area was impressive, I think the highlight of the trip for me was a spontaneous stop at the Shri Sai Baba temple near Alandi.  It is a much more modern structure, which is a replica of a Sai Baba temple in Shirdi.  It was active with music and prayers!  They were also providing food that had been blessed for those who were at the temple.  You can read more about other Sai Baba temples in the region if you’re interested.

Here is Mike outside:

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And here is a statue of Sai Baba himself:

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Because of the period in which he lived, there are likenesses (drawings, statues) which don’t exist in other temples – most of the other representations I’ve seen were mythological in some way.

At this point it was hot – more than 90 degrees Fahrenheit! And walking up to / through these temples is a challenge in bare feet is a challenge, let me tell you!  But I pressed on undeterred with my lovely local tour guides!

The next stop was the Chaturshringi temple (Wikipedia entry).   Here is a view to the top.  Check out that climb … and remember, bare feet on concrete, and (unlike Chicago) it was 90+ degrees! The black smudges are from a recent festival, when all the stairs are lit with candles in little clay pots called diya.

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It’s the only temple we visited that is dedicated to a goddess, although there are also a couple of smaller shrines to other gods there as well.

By that time I was pooped!  But honestly I just couldn’t miss the opportunity to see a Hare Krishna temple!  So after a brief pause for food, we visited the Iskon temple (official website).  We had just missed the dancing but we did get to watch a small ceremony before we left:

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All in all it was an amazing run … I was trying to recall everything I learned in undergrad about the religions of India, and Mike and Aparna were great about indulging me, filling in (many) blanks, and overall making a super memorable day!

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