Visiting India. Part 1: Getting there

My journey to India began on May 16. I was invited to speak at the Great Indian Developers Summit and gladly accepted the invitation. First, it’s good for PR (hey, you never know). Second, even though I’m always surrounded by Indian colleagues, I’ve never been to this country and was curious to know what’s going on at the source of the IT world force. The first two day of this trip is my vacation, and after that – business as usual.

In the evening of May 16 I was going to boarding the Air India flight JFK-London-New Delhi. My Indian colleagues did not approve my choice of the airline, but so far I had great experience with this carrier.

But first things first. After hearing the horror stories of Westerners returning from this country that in the best case scenario I “ll get severe diarrhea, one of my friends who just came back from there gave me an advice, “You need to take one or two shots of vodka every morning. This will disinfect your organism for a day”. I decided to change the time of this medicine consumption to the evening hours and purchased a one liter bottle of Absolute duty free store at JFK. To make sure that I won’t finish this bottle while air born, they sealed the bottle in a special bag.

At the JFK airport, I also purchased a couple of electric adapters. They have three very large round pins – three times larger than in Europe. The pack reads: “For South Africa and India”. When I arrived to the hotel, I found out that they are too big. My European adaptor worked fine.

It was a large Boeing 777 with large screen monitors for every passenger, good (for airplanes) food and young flight attendants (Delta, shame on you) wearing sari opening belly dancer’s bellies. The animated instructions on the plane safety and facilities were very detailed. After years of traveling, I thought I knew everything about oxygen masks and life saving vest. But this time I was immersed into details using the toilets. The green sign on the door means Vacant, while the red is for Occupied. They’ve demonstrated how to flush the toilet and what exactly should and should not be placed there to keep it functional. It was suggested that after using the sink passengers should take a paper towel and wipe the sink. Sorry, but I’m not that courteous.

The movie selection is very decent – a dozen of English movies. Indian movies are in abundance too. Thirty years ago, watching an Indian movie was quite an experience. The plots were pretty much the same – he’s a young factory worker from a poor family, she’s from a rich family, they love each other but her mean parents would never let them get married. All movie goers were in tears. Things are very different now – I skimmed through a couple of Hindi movies. Here’s a couple of quotes from “Life in Metro”.

A young woman browses the Internet site trying to find a boyfriend. She talks to herself, “I’m hitting 30, single and still virgin”.

A guy works in a call center . These are his thoughts: “I have to listen to the abuses of 15000 Americans for 15000 rupees…”

I guess, they’ll find each other and will live happily ever after by the end of the movie.

New life, new plots, no Raj Kapoor.

The best part was that on the way to London the plane was 20% full and I got to sleep on three seats having plenty of pillows and blankets – the poor mens’ first class. The food was a lot better than on any American airlines.

My laptop with 1.5hr battery would not keep me busy for such a long flight, and I purchased a Sony e-reader with a screen that is as good to your eyes as paper, loaded it with books and, when not sleeping, I was reading a book by a keyboard player of a popular in the past Russian rock-band “Time Machine”. The author decided to take out dirty laundry revealing how the band lived while being famous.

In London, we had to leave the plane for an hour. My bag with Absolute was taken away from me again in fear that I “ll drink it all up in the Heathrow airport, and returned to me when I boarded the plane again. London-Delhi the plane is only literally empty and I “ll make myself comfortable right after finishing writing this blog. Too good to be true!

In about an hour before landing, the pilot started announcement, “I don’t want to be a bearer of bad news…” , and after 20(!) second pause he continued, “There is storm in Delhi and the 90 mph wind, and we are not sure if we’d be able to land there. We’ll keep circling in the area in hope that the storm will end. Please fasten your seat belts and bear with us. Thank you for choosing Air India”.

After that announcement we kept entering turbulence areas that felt like a roller coaster at THE Disney World. With all my flight history, the next 90 minutes were the worst one in my life. Every time when this huge plane was diving in yet another black hole, I was reevaluating my life, “If only we safely make it to the ground…” It’s a grim reminder of how fragile we are.

It was very quiet in the plane. Only one old lady kept returning the food she consumed during the last month with easily recognizable sounds.

Oh well, since you are reading this blog, you could have guessed by now, “We made it!” The travel agent who met me said that he did not recall such a storm ever – this was an echo of the last week’s earthquake in China.

It feels so good riding in a new Toyota van on the ground! Bus stops are full of people sleeping right on the ground. It’s like a Manhattan homeless times five without any belongings. But let’s stay positive. Tomorrow morning I’ll spend four hours in the van riding to Taj Mahal.

Till next blog…

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