India – Day 1 (Arrival)

January 15th, 2006

On the latest edition of ABC’s ‘The Bachelor’, the eponymous Bachelor kept thanking all the American women for travelling “halfway around the world” to meet him in Paris. Uh, no dude. That’s not even a quarter of the way. If you want to see what halfway is like, try India.

But if you’re going to be travelling halfway around the world in coach class, British Airways is probably about the best choice to do it with. Adjustable headrests that you can lean your head against while sleeping is about all it takes.

Vibrant bouganvilla!After a somewhat late arrival, followed by quite some time waiting for two pieces of luggage that never appeared, followed by a two-hour drive from Mumbai with a stop in the middle at a roadside diner, it was nearly dawn when we were welcomed to the Saxena house.

A pleasant early morning stroll to see the neighborhood with Mr. Saxena was a good way to keep us awake. Then some breakfast, and time spent out on the back porch. Weather is perfect; the temperatures allow all the doors to remain open, and moving from inside to outside is almost unnoticed.

Then it was time for some shopping. We drove in towards the center of Pune, and after taking a walk through Swati’s old college, we went to a Western clothing store to find a suit for Dennis. Then it was on to an Indian clothing store. Dennis got decked out in the full regalia for the wedding ceremony. Tony couldn’t pass up a turban-styled hat, which somehow makes him look a bit more like a Russian than an Indian. And I got a 3-piece suit, Indian style. Overall it was quite an impressive show of shopping fortitude by five guys (and Swati) who were working on hardly any sleep.

Between the two stores, we had our first auto-rickshaw ride. That’s one of those three-wheeled, open-sided, lawn-mower engine powered vehicles that are ubitquitious on all city streets. The ride (with 3 of us inside) cost about 30 cents; in the US they could set up the same situtation (roads, insane traffic, noise) call it an amusement park thrill ride, and easily charge $20 for it. It’s quite a rush, and in the non-thrill ride version, is actually really good at getting you from place to place.

We had lunch at Pizza Hut, and on the way back to the house were involved in a minor fender-bender. I figured that was going a little farther than necessary to show us the true Indian experience, but appreciated the opportunity anyhow!

While Dennis and Tony wussed out and fell asleep, Arjan and I accompanied Swati and her mother back into Pune where they went looking for wedding dress. As we were driving back, we nearly ran into a giant elephant crossing the street in front of us. Then a minute later, we saw someone riding a horse down the street, and a minute after that, a couple of camels. And no, I don’t think the circus was in town.

Finally, a dinner with everyone at the Pune Club wound down the very long day(s). Arjan had been awake for at least 36 hours at that point, and I had gotten probably 10 hours of sleep in the previous 72 hours. The good news is after that effort, we were left with very little jet lag.

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