Sunday, October 17, 2010

Traffic and being impounded

I forgot how terrible the traffic is to get out of the aiport. I think it took 15-20 minutes just to get onto the main road. There's a lot of construction in the area, which makes things worse. While the ever-present dust was expected, the persistent horn honking was also lost to memory. Something to get used to since everyone uses their horn. Lucikly, the hotel driver wasn't one of them. The driver taking us to work and on our weekend excursions also isn't a heavy horn user. But he is a pretty aggressive driver, which comes after 14 years of driving I guess.

The traffic going to a shopping mall on Saturday was quite heavy, but it allowed us to have a glimpse of the city. We've been impounded in our walled apartment/hotel complex that such a venture out is welcomed. Our compound has one entry/exit point, which is a number of security guards are stationed. They use a mirror to look under every car. The hood and trunk is opened for inspection, along with the doors of the car so that a dog can sniff the interior. If everything is OK, a round concrete post is lowered so that we can pass. I appreciate the security, but I dislike being imprisoned. I miss having an apartment and being able to walk to restaurants, shops and buy fresh produce from the local vendors.

After just one dinner in the hotel, I've been ensuring our schedules are arranged so that we can dine outside. It's a bit tough when most restaurants don't serve dinner until 7 or 7:30. We've decided we would rather work late during the week and get a late start on the weekends to be able to remain outside the walls a little longer and experience life as it should be lived.

Sunday Times of India, October 17

I don't think I've ever seen an article like this in a newspaper. How interesting. I guess it's not typical otherwise it wouldn't have been newsworthy.

Seen on page 16 of the front section of the Sunday Times:

Guj man seeks hubby for his 50-year-old live-in partner
Ahmedabad: Ramnik Parikh, 65, is a busy man these days. He is looking for a husband for his live-in partner of two years - 50-year-old Sunanda. Just this week he brought Sunanda from Nadiad, some 60km away, on his motorcycle to meet three prospective grooms.

"Sunanda is very warm and loving. She and I are having compatibility issues because of difference in our educational backgrounds", Ramnik told the prospective grooms, all in their 60s. He will return with Sunanda to the Veena Mulya Amulya Sewa (VMAS) marriage bureau in two days to meet more prospective grooms.

At a matchmaking fair for divorcees in Ahmedabad early this month, Sunanda said she had divorced early in life in Bangalore. In 2008, she was approached by Ramnik's sister after Ramnik found her address from an all-India marriage meet for seniors. Sunanda liked Ramnik and they sighed a Maitri Karaar', a sanctioned live-in relationship in Gujarat. However, their relationship is on the rocks.

"I am highly educated, while she is just Class VIII pass. It has become a mental mismatch," said Ramnik. Sunanda claims Ramnik is under his daughter's influence.

Wheelchair through the airport!

I arrived Wednesday evening after a terrific direct flight from Newark, NJ (love the near-flat beds in business class and the shelves in front of each seat, which was perfect for propping up my foot) and was whisked through the Mumbai airport by a hard-working wheelchair attendant. The flight attendants on the airplane convinced me to travel by wheelchair after they saw me hopping out of the bathroom (at one point in the trip, my foot hurt and I wasn't able to put any weight on it). As one of the flight attendants put it, "It would take you 6 months to walk through the aiport." She wasn't joking. It's long and there are a number of small inclines and declines (which are problematic when your foot isn't flexing properly).

This guy pushed me while also wheeling my 4-wheeled carry-on bag and was huffing and puffing up the slight inclines. I offered to hold on to the carry-on bag myself, but he declined. As we waited for an elevator to descend to immigration, he did put the bag between my knees and that worked out well.

Immigration was a breeze when you're in the handicap line! My attendant took my passport and entry form to the immigration officer and came back immediately to whisk me to baggage claim. No questions asked! It was also comfortable sitting in a wheelchair at baggage claim since it seemed to take forever for the bags to appear.

After my bag finally arrived, we headed to customs (by this point, I'm holding the handle of my 4-wheeled suitcase is in front of me as he continued to push...what a sight it must've been!). I was greatful I didn't have to lift my bags onto the x-ray machine since my hard-working attendant took care of that as well. Just before we left customs, he asked for the customs form and his tip. I gladly gave him a nominal tip and fretted that I should've given him more.

He continued pushing me to the car waiting for me in the parking garage. The car driver was carting the luggage so the load did lighten up a little. Luckily, it wasn't a hot evening and once he deposited me into the Mercedes Benz, he was off.

I'm glad I listened to the flight attendants. If not, I probably would've still been limping through the airport by the time I arrived at the hotel! Thanks Continental!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Nearly 6 months since last entry?

Can't believe it's been that long since I last traveled internationally. Don't get me wrong, there has been plenty of travel in these past 6 months, but they've all been to domestic locations - Midland, Michigan; Philadelphia; Honolulu; Vermont; and 2 weeks of touring farm country in Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana.

I long to not understand a word people around me are saying. Or to order from a non-English menu. And soak up the sights, sounds and smells of unfamiliar places.

If all goes well, I'll be back on the road on Tuesday. I was supposed to depart on Friday but a nasty cat bite turned into an infection, which has kept me in bed for nearly a week. The swelling is slowly going down. I can put more weight on my foot and walk very slowly. I'm doing everything in my power to get better quickly so that being on an airplane for 18 hours will be possible with some comfort.

If all goes well, Tuesday will have me on the plane to Mumbai. It's been 2 years since I was last there. Two years since the terrorist attack. I look forward to seeing how the city has recovered and being able to soak up the sights, sounds and smells of a familiar place.

Let's keep our fingers crossed that all goes well!