I’m totally jet lagged, starting to get a mild headache. Jer (hubby dearest) is happily snoring. Side track: Why can’t women sleep more or as soon as we hit the bed – so not fair!
Time to revive the blog.
Admittedly I packed for the worst and expect(ed) the worst for this trip. Spent pretty much a whole year thinking about all that could go wrong and what I’m going to do about it. Carefully packing the mini pharmacy in my suitcase. How do I enjoy what is good and not be overwhelmed by the bad? That’s all I worried about..who’s kidding who. I’m still worried about that. I am about to spend a whopping six weeks in India, Bhutan and Bangladesh.
We were warmly greeted (not) by Air Canada three hours before the flight and without going into a rant about it, let me simply say Air Canada needs to hire some six sigma folks to really look at their process… seriously. We made it to our gate just in time to admire – Pearson Airport looks stunning with the renos. I’m impressed. Then came the first delight. In one of those moments of what could go wrong, I made the decision to call Air Canada and upgrade to a “bulkhead seat” for two people – best $180 bucks we ever spent. We had more legroom than first class…lol.
Frankfurt Airport, where we had our 3 hour layover, was boring. Sorry. But the cheesy pretzel and veg baguette sandwich was amazing. Lufthansa’s service was admiringly localized – served Indian Food, watched Indian movies, heard announcements in Hindi, sipped masala tea…. Three movies later we arrived in Delhi at 2am. Customs was fairly easy, baggage claim took 2 hours.
The first calming experience right off the airport was seeing vending machines with big bold Pepsi on them. They were everywhere 🙂 Yes, I can drink water here! Had some issues with money though because the smallest change I could find in that part of the airport was 100 rupees and the vending machine accepted 1,5, or 10 rupees.
Two phone calls and 28 rupees later we were greeted by our hotel’s driver. Although it took me 24 hours to appreciate it, from that moment on, we have been treated like royalty. Hospitality in the places in Delhi I’ve been to so far is bar none. Thanks to SPG points, our 5 day stay is free and we were upgraded right away to Premium rooms, waived early check in fees, etc. The food is amazing! We had lunch, worked out, checked out the beautiful hotel grounds and decided to go out in a shopping adventure to Connaught Place. Connaught Place is something else. Supposedly it spans 3 kms, from one outer circle to the other with everything from KFC, Dunkin Donuts, Starbucks to global desi and Marks & Spencer and Khanna Fabrics.
I forgot my camera at the hotel. Sorry no photos this time.
Speaking of localization, my Ivey classmates will appreciate this.. Four Points Sheraton, which is really a category 1 hotel in Delhi is better than the Westin in NY or the Sheraton in Times Square. Hotels in India will surprise you. In this case positively. The grounds are immaculate and if you just looked inside the hotel, you could be anywhere in the world. Outside the gated fences of course reality hits. There’s a mini shack with a few families and goats right outside one of the walls. While Lufthansa tried to give the “India” feel, Sheraton tried for the “home” feel..in the West, that is, while offering flavours of India. I can’t help but think of classes and cases…everywhere I go. Oh dear!
I will be writing pages if I described every experience…not good for me or you. Instead, I’ll summarize my first impressions simply. The whole experience is overwhelming. I can’t decide if I paid the right prices for things: 500ml Sprite @ airport cost Rs 500, 4 X 1-litre Aquafina water @ airport cost Rs 160, 1 Aquafina @ the hotel costs Rs 160, I tipped the airport pickup driver Rs 0, room service guy Rs 20, waiters at lunch Rs 450. Clearly need to figure out the tip part. I can’t decide what to purchase when the store owners just start displaying all kinds of gorgeous fabrics. The driving is chaotic. Not sure why they have lanes… AND of course we’re careful about every little thing.
Somewhere in all this madness, a treasure chest of memories is opening up. The food …the familiarity of just how much tastier food is here, memories of my family trip to Kolkata, or the shopping trips with my mom to the markets, the rich colours, my knack for picking out these amazing clothes from piles and piles of inventory, the afternoons with my grandmother watching old Bengali movies, “boi” she called them (Bengali for Books), the gem that were Satyajit Ray’s books …it’s slowly coming back. Memories I neatly tucked away …and this aching for the potential that is in countries like Bangladesh and in India. So much the world is missing out on,
Planning to brave Chandni Chawk tomorrow. Wish me luck!