In a city of more than 3 million people it is amazing how many of them you see more than once while going to or coming from work. Considering that there are about 7 different routes that my driver can take depending on traffic plus the fact we don’t always leave at exactly the same time every day. There are two guys, on a scooter, we have seen a number of times when making our way back to the hotel. These two must be building a house or maybe an ark, whatever it is it is big and made of wood. How do know this, because every time we see them the guy on the back is holding on to two 8 foot long planks of wood balanced on the seat between him and the driver. I’m not sure what they are building but it is going to take forever two planks at a time.
I have seen many interesting things transported on scooters, motorbikes and bicycles since coming to India. Here are a few of them:
- A family of 5
- A dog
- A 50 kg sack of rice across the tank and two large boxes resting against the driver’s back
- 3 gas cylinders
- A tree
Today is Friday so the traffic was even heavier than usual and the spaces between vehicles was even less (meaning inches instead of the usual 2 feet or so. This one guy was taking multi-tasking to a new and very dangerous level. He was driving a motorbike and texting in traffic that was so tight I had to breathe in to allow cars to go by! (Gentlemen don’t get too excited about males and their multi-tasking skills as we saw him 5 minutes later looking very disappointed, with his bike lying on the ground.)
Those of you who know me know that I love children, especially babies. I am currently sitting in the lounge waiting for my flight to Mumbai, yes, I know I just did this last week, anyway as I sit here all I can think about is “I hope that new innocent child is not sitting anywhere near me.” I realise how awful that sounds as I understand how difficult it is for parents traveling with a little one. That said I still really don’t want to be in the same cabin with said child and frustrated parents. Why? Because on my return from Mumbai last trip, less than 7 days ago, I was in 1st Class but so was a very unhappy child who was inconsolable for most of the 10 hours we shared a very small space with no means of escape. As the child cried the parents grew more frustrated and at several points angry with the little person who did not ask to be put in this situation.
As this was 1st Class the passengers in the cabin were not overjoyed with the continual serenade of ear piercing protestations. The poor parents were having to bear not only an upset child but the eye rolls and tsk tsk from the passengers. I’m sure you are thinking “you have headphones and ear plugs” ah, this particular infant had an incredible range of screams that could penetrate any sound proofing technology. I’m sure this will be an asset in later life when he or she is auditioning for the a role in the New York or London Opera but at this juncture it served only to remind us all how tired we will be on arrival.
Back to the lounge and my present trip. Crying child and parents oh, or maybe the other way around, have just packed up their belongings for their onward journey and I still have 45 minutes to go. Potential bullet dodged but who knows what awaits me once I board my plane.
Let’s start by saying my return leg from Pune to Mumbai was enlightening. Since I’ve done this trip once already last November I considered myself adjusted to the experience, the noise, the traffic, the exhaust and general stimulation overload. Well I was not even close! Today’s journey from Pune to Mumbai took just about 5 hours, I estimate we sat still for a very large portion of that time. It is not just the volume of cars that make the traffic so horrendous but add to that all of the scooters, motorbikes, tuk-tuks, bicycles and pedestrians all trying to occupy the same space at completely different speeds and directions. Oh, I almost forgot the four legged beasts. Today we had to give way to a small herd of noisey water buffalo and believe me they were no rush. Then we had the bull with horns longer than any I have ever seen. Shortly after we passed that behemoth a couple very naughty goats dashed into the road, all of this and we had not even left Pune.
Once free of the city the trip across the mountains was awesome with Mother Nature making a majestic display of the sunset, with the bright orange sphere slipping behind the mountains. Then before I knew it the noise was back and at levels that amazed me. More cars, two wheel vehicles and people. I think the ethos for driving is…if there is a space fill it. Now mind you the space available does not have to equal the size or mass of what you are trying to cram in to it. It took us another hour and forty-five minutes to travel the last 5 miles. As we crept along or sat stationary I was able to watch Mumbai life outside my window. As the night deepened the streets transformed and came alive with vendors of every description. I saw many single tables with a camp stove and one pot boiling away, callieing themselves a cafe.
The city has a section for everything. Along one stretch you can buy every individual part and component to build your own car from scratch. In another area it was marble wholesalers and then the furniture and mattress companies came next. Each area providing customers with choices that spanned the spectrum.
This country brings out such a combination of feelings and emotions in me; amazement, curiosity, sadness, humility and inspiration. It is a place of stunning beauty but also of appalling living conditions for millions of people. It takes me on a rollercoaster ride every single day. Tomorrow I head home having seen and learned more about India and it’s incredible people. Until next time India goodbye.
The monkey on traffic monitoring duty is just one of the things that have caught my attention so far on my trip to India. Yesterday as we were travelling the 3+ hours from Mumbai to Pune I saw my first free range monkey. There he was sitting in a tree just on the side of the motorway. He was perched up there watching the traffic with close scrutiny. Not sure what action he would take if he spotted an offence. About 10 minutes later I saw a lovely cow sitting in the plush grass of someone’s front garden happily munching the said plush grass.
Today on the my way across the city into the office, I suddenly saw movement out of the corner of my eye, which when I looked properly, turned out to be 4 goats running along the concrete wall which sloped down to the road. These dare devils must have had super glue on their hooves to keep them from tumbling down this incredibly steep bank to the road below.
The trip back to the hotel this evening was equally interesting on the wildlife front. I saw several buffalo (is buffalo the collective noun for buffalo or is it buffali?) Anyway, the point is that we are in the middle of a huge city, not out in some nature reserve somewhere and I am seeing buffalo! Last but not least my day would not be complete without seeing pigs in a playground. Mind you, it did look like an abandoned playground (that was probably down to the pigs not playing nicely) but still we are talking pigs in a playground.
I can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings!
I am travelling to India tonight for work, upon arriving to the airport I find out that I had been upgraded to First Class. In all of my years of traveling I have only flown First Class once and it was a short domestic flight which just meant bigger seats. Never have I enjoyed First Class on a long haul flight so after what can only be described as a tremulous few weeks I welcomed the the upgrade with all of the joy of a kid at Christmas who just got the one gift they were sure Santa would say was one step too far.
I was checked in at the extra special secluded check in desks which led on to the new extra special Security checkpoint. I was then advised by a hush toned lady that I could proceed to the First Class lounge and yet another surprise, my upgrade included a lounge upgrade to the distinguished Concorde Room (which I never knew existed). It was a lovely, dimly lit area with fireplaces and cosy sitting areas. After a light dinner I boarded the plane. For the first time I got to turn left instead of right at the cabin door. I was escorted to my seat in “row 2” which was actually totally on its own with the nearest neighbours shielded from direct sight lines.
I was handed over from my seat escort to Paul the Cabin Manager who informed me I could have whatever I wanted whenever I wanted it. It was lovely to hear but at that very moment the one thing I wanted more than anything else Paul could not provide, that was my lovely wife to share this experience with.
The Business Class services I have been fortunate enough to experience have very good so I could not imagine how much more could be done to enhance the journey. My area could only be d scribed as a mini room instead of the Business Class pod I had in the past. There was seating for two, in case I was expecting a visitor to drop by. I had my own wardrobe, was given pyjamas, a wash bag and noise cancelling headphones. Wow, I was impressed!
It is now time to take off so I will finish my 18 year old whisky and enjoy my flight to the fullest because once I’m off the airplane I will be in the land of over stimulation. Never ending throngs of people,traffic, car horns, vibrant colours, incredible food and light very people. See you on the other side!