Where Am I Now? Great question. I think Mumbai, the Financial Capital of India located on the West Coast on the Arabian Sea. At time of my last post I was in Hyderabad, then we moved on to Bangalore for Wednesday, Pune for Thursday and Mumbai today, Friday.
Where Have I Been? Lots of cooler (think temperature) places. Bangalore and Pune were actually mild in temperature. Low 80s with a breeze. Mumbai…not so much. Back to reality. Hyderabad ended with a quick visit to a vendor. 20 kilometers or roughly 1 hour away. Some light shopping and then off to the airport where we flew to Bangalore – another very new and modern airport. Even quiet. Think college library. Air travel in India is still a bit of a luxury reserved for business people and the wealthy.
It was clear upon driving into Bangalore that we likely weren’t going to be exercising outdoors like we did on the Mindspring Campus in Hyderabad as we were staying right in the middle of the city. When we landed there were snipers on the runway which we found a bit odd (more on this later). We proceeded to dinner at an Afghani Restaurant at the ITC Bangalore with a key sourcing partner. The dinner was fantastic – highlight: head-sized naan (soft great bread).
After a nice dinner we made our way to our hotel The Leela Palace. Once there we hopped out of the car (after the requisite car and security check at the guarded gate – yep standard at almost all hotels) and were greeted by a red carpet. They shouldn’t have. Ok, they didn’t. It was for the British Prime Minister, David Cameron who was visiting and staying at the same hotel. Fun to see him arrive a bit later – much more modest travel entourage than our Commander in Chief.
Wednesday, after a morning jog on the treadmill we headed to the Bangalore location at our vendor Infosys. Ridiculous is the only way to describe the location. That and heavily armed for this day as the British Prime minister was apparently following our itinerary. He arrived on the Infosys campus a few short minutes after we did. Note, the sign makes no mention of HIS arrival and I’m pretty sure he didn’t get flowers…
After work in Bangalore was complete it was back to the library, uh I mean, airport and off to Pune. A short 2 hour stinky airline ride later with much napping (still not sleeping well) and we emerge from an older, not so quiet Pune airport. Much horn honking with stop/go traffic and we arrive at the Westin Pune. This hotel was new and the service showed. Sure, you were still nearly tackled by bellhops trying to take the luggage and after 5 “no, I’m ok without helps” I arrived at the check-in desk. This seems to be standard in India. On one hand you will be run over by people queueing to get on planes, off planes, etc (and queueing is being quite kind) yet on the other hand it is difficult to walk around in hotels, restaurants, etc. without people asking if you need help with anything. A good problem to have I suppose. Pune offered an equally nice day with our vendor partners who were above and beyond hospitable to us.
At the end of our day in Pune we headed off in the monsoons to transit the 120 kilometers to Mumbai. 1.5 hours later we arrived at the outskirts of Mumbai. 4.5 hours later we arrived at the hotel. We managed 20 METERS an hour during one of the 3 hours it took us to cross Mumbai. The traffic is so difficult to describe and do it any form of justice. I do know that if I reached my arm out of the car window (not advised, half of the arm out of the window would be in the car, motorized rickshaw, or bus that was driving next to you. This is the case on all four sides of the car. No joke. We made it 5-6 days without seeing any car accidents – so long as you don’t count the time when our driver on the way to Agra bumped into a moped (details). Well, today we saw 2. One was a wreck involving a chicken truck. Many dead chickens on the road. Many people running off with dead chickens from the road. No other injuries. This nice part about this wreck was it didn’t slow down traffic at all. The other wreck was unspeakable. I will leave it at the fact that it occurred within 1-2 minutes of our arrival and there were visible fatalities. Very sad. Very scary. Very haunting.
Here are some of the thoughts I remember:
- I would pay large sums for a good piece of pizza. Love the indian food but 6 days in a row???
- TOMORROW = HOME! I can’t wait to get back to Cindy and the kids!
- I have had no less than 30 cups of tea on this trip.
- Rasmalai (aka “sugar bombs”) are good but impossible to each a full one. Think wheat donut holes with heavy, heavy, heavy syrup/sugar all over them and inside of them. Stewart would love these. I actually find them TOO SWEET!?!?
- Egg-shaped buildings are cool and fun.
- India fascinates me. True dichotomy at every corner. This country will look nothing like it does 20 years from now. If Infosys has their way it might look like this:
Tomorrow’s Destinations: HOME!!!!