Where Am I Now? Right now about 2k (a little over a mile) from this place. In a hotel named The ITC Mughal. It smells like incense.
Where Have I Been? 2 days ago I was in Charlotte. Then Newark. Then I boarded a plane and flew for 13.5 hours (or 7784 miles) and arrived a full day later (nearly 24 hours later) in New Dehli. Once in New Dehli my work compadres and I headed to our hotel (the Imperial) via driver and security escort. The security escort lasted until we reached the driver’s car at the airport parking lot where the driver politely requested he find his own way. Something about no space which is ironic given how many people I have seen in cars since that time. The Imperial was, well, imperial. 15-20 foot ceilings in the rooms, gardens, many restaurants, more incense, flowers everywhere and light switches so complicated that I gave up trying to figure out and slept with the lights on.
This morning I awoke about 3 hours after going to bed, had a bread breakfast (more on this in a later post) and jumped in our chartered car for the 4-5 (more like 6) hour drive to Agra. What I saw on this drive is utterly indescribable. Here are some of the thoughts I remember:
- Cars follow few laws – best I can tell the law is don’t hit anything and don’t drive on the wrong side of the road without beeping frequently.
- Cars are full. Seriously full. 5 on a motorcycle leaves room for at least one more.
- Horns aren’t optional but rather encouraged. They state: “I am driving on a road with you and I might either a) pass you, b) gently nudge you, c) remind you I am approaching, turning, stopping or requesting you stop. Honestly, the trucks have “Please Honk” painted on the back.
- Oddly, with all of this honking there is nearly zero road rage.
- Poverty sounds too nice, too easy and too much like a temporary state to be what I saw today.
- Don’t take pictures of any animals on a leash. This will require payment. Payment is not optional. Monkey owners seem particularly serious about this unwritten rule.
- Camel cart drivers (yes, drivers of carts pulled by camels) still get distracted while driving and talking on the cell phones.
- Rags to wipe the sweat are less optional than shoes. It seems to be a best practice to hold these rags with your mouth.
- People in India are far more flexible than Americans. Full squatting is common for eating, washing, repairing, restrooming and many other uses.
- Elephants, monkeys and camels are not just zoo animals. They are forms of income and transport.
The 13.5 hour plane ride honestly “flew” by. 4 movies (Date Night – funny; Bounty Hunter – not very funny; She’s Out of my League – cute and funny; Ghostwriter – decent despite it’s sleazy director), some light reading, some moderately tasteless and rubbery food (although the ice cream sundaes were a nice touch) and some sleep in a nearly fully reclining chair/footrest combo didn’t hurt to pass the time.
Last tidbit before hitting the hay. Rupees. 500 Rupees = about 10 dollars. After 2 unsuccessful attempts to get ATMs to dispense money we successfully got to an ATM that would give us some cash. In a fatigued stupor we agree 400 Rupees sounded like plenty of cash. Upon arrival at the hotel we quickly realized that we had collectively taken out about the equivalent of $24 dollars. Best to learn this stuff ahead of entering a new country. Needless to say I am the proud holder of 5000 rupees (sounds dreamier than it is) and a wallet that is suddenly too small to be useful.
Tomorrow’s Destinations: New Dehli and then Hyderabad.