Sunday, September 29, 2002

India Departs.

Day 3

Sunday, 9/29, 3:30 Chennai Time

Oh my god, what a horrible landing. I have been worried before on planes, but this one nearly had me soil myself. Coming into Chennai, crowded plane full of seriously rude people, the plane flares to land, then skips, and veers, hard, left wheel touches down, right is going up, then right down as left lifts, it rocks madly back and forth from side to side, 3 distinct times, then slides the rear of the plane to the left. I think “this is a really BIG vehicle, not even Nicky Hayden should try backing this one into the corners” then left right oscillation again, then it levels out, both on the ground.

And hard HARD HARD braking. Then, all of a sudden, 90% of the cabin pops up and they start getting things from the overhead bins! The plane is not even landed? I just sat there while the drunk in the seat next to me tried to climb out. “Bubba, sit your ass down NOW! And get it the HELL out of my face” and he did!

Finally we get to the terminal, and I timed it. From the time they announced doors open, till I got off the plane was 27 minutes. I should have jumped and ran while he was setting down. Oh well. Finally get off the plane, walk to the Arrival station, and there is a line like nobody’s business. Pushing, shoving, etc. For a peaceful people, these guys are, well, uhhhhh

All the way through the line, get my papers stamped, and the guy says “go to the office in the corner” that would be the OPPOSITE direction of where everyone else is going. Hmm. What happened to me in the “office in the corner” in Mexico? Yeah, I am not playing this game again. I walk around aimlessly, till I am totally out of earshot of the immigration guy, and turn the opposite way and start asking questions. Another clerk says “your papers are stamped, go the other way” while the initial guy starts pointing to the corner. But I look at him like I am a window licker, and have the second clerk point to the exit, while the first clerk sees this, then I shamble to the exit, it works. Confusion, heat, a line, no time, no desire, and our hero waltzes out, playing the clerks and stamps game like a cheap fiddle.

They scan hand luggage after immigration, I am not sure why, but they chalk a letter “A” on the Circus bag. I do not know what it means, but Keith mentioned not wanting hassles, and to hide the marks. So I find my luggage, Conveyer belt my ass. Sing air has shafted me again, they dump all the luggage into the terminal, in a pile. In a corner. The “Texas/Home” luggage tags stick out enough, I grab the suitcase, then heft the garment bag OVER the circus pack, hiding the “A”. I file past as many people as I can, they are milling about with trolley carts, and finding their stuff, and I find the tiniest, tiredest, youngest looking clerk I can, hand him my papers, and shine the customs line.

Outside I am looking for a driver with a placard with MY name on it, you know, Hollywood Limo style. She should be wearing a black blazer, a small chauffeur’s cap? Right. It is a million degrees, and the most humid without actually raining I believe I have ever seen, outside of Texas. J and there in a sea of Indians, is Keith’s big smiling mug. Was I ever happy to see him.

The Singapore Air flight was just spectacularly horrible, I am tired, sweaty, disorganized, and slightly lost. I am still feeling a little weak, must have been lunch, and there is the man who set me up in the Four Seasons. My new mental “happy place”. YAY Keith!

We got into the car, chatted a little, the driver got us to the Taj okay, I check in, my room is acceptable, clean up a bit, and meet Keith to go to the bar for a drink, and some “finger foods”. We had fish sticks, not the Mrs. Paul’s kind, really yummy ones, and some small, spicey sandwichey snack things, and about 4 drinks of the mixed variety.

I am calm, I am feeling better, we talk about work, I catch him up on what I know and have learned, he catches me up on what is expected here. Oh, I am so excited, here I am in India, drinking gin & tonics, and talking with my boss about managing my new team. There is so much opportunity, this is wonderful. I am floating on cloud 9. There is a duet singing and dancing some cover numbers, I am not thinking they are great singers, but they do have weird accents. There may have been some smack talked, I cannot remember. I am tired, it is bed time,

Up to the room, and I arrange to have the wireless network rented so I can email, catch up some email, type some, research some, then shower and hit the sack like a ton of potatoes. Mashed potatoes. Washed, Mashed, lukewarm potatoes.

Woke up about 8, gosh, I feel miserable. Was it the food, am I sick, nah, it was the gin. I cleaned, showered again, did some business, worked on some plans, caught up, then met Keith for breakfast at the hotel. Yow! This ain’t no continental breakfast, this was the works. I had a masala dosa, some beef tenderloin, some hash browns, eggs are available, fruit, cereals, salads, pasta, oh my! We ate, talked, then decided to head out and survey the local bookshop.

First ride in an AutoRickshaw. Imagine someone taking a Vespa, then putting a front window, surrey top, and dual seat behind the driver. Now make it run poorly. Now give it a horn to be used frequently. Drive like a madman through traffic? Auto-Rickshaw!

Bookshop was cool, rather inexpensive DVDs, I may need to grab some for Sara. Then walked back to the hotel, and got to experience Indian beggars, just like Mexican beggars, children, pointing to the belly, asking for money. Pah! I feel so bad, yet am so cheap. Once you fly some money, you will be swamped, so NO go on You, scram!

Back to the hotel, clean up and wait for the driver, we go out on the town, toured the flower market, and definitely were the only white boys there. Then across to the fruit and then vegetable markets. People here smile a lot, and definitely go nuts for having their photo taken. With the digital camera, I can even show the photo. That’s a big hit.

Then we leave and go to a Jewelry store to look around. The guard in front has an antique side by side shotgun, it looks as if it was left over from the British, from the 1800s. Probably a museum grade firearm too, kept well cleaned. I wonder if it is loaded, or what gauge it is. The Jewelry shop is 5 floors full of gold and shiny bits. Everything has a weight on it, and the price is determined by weight, not craftsmanship. There are some amazing emerald necklaces for about $3k, but I do not know what is what, and am not about to spend a motorcycle’s money on a necklace my sweetie may hate. I will find something later. Now, I am a bit hot and tired.

We leave the jewelers, wander the street a bit, then find the car an head to a temple. Apparently it is closed till 4, but we are standing at the back door. Did I mention we are in our socks? Because it is bad to wear shoes in the temple, and if you leave them, well, okay, so in my socks, I am wandering around a temple in India, on off hours, while some mad guy yells at the guy who appears to be our guide, who yells back, then he shows us some of the gods, it is obvious we are not having the prepackaged tour. Offerings are made, money changes hands to cover, bananas are eaten, and we walk back to our driver.

Did I mention I am in my socks? And a beggar girl is following us, totally uninterested in Keith, asking ME “money, madam, money please madam” Okay, I have long hair. I also have a beard. She must have thought Texas women are hideous ugly, and Keith was not worth asking for money, as he had the bad taste to marry a flat chested ugly woman with a beard. who wander the streets in their socks. And you know what, I think he was just happy because they were not hounding him! J S’okay, I have put up with mobs of Mexican kids. This is easy.

To the car, and I realize we are both sweating profusely. I am very much ready to get back to the hotel and clean up. AHHH, the Taj, with its sweet air conditioned rooms. Aparna called, to see that I was in, yay, she wil be introducing me and touring me so it is great to hear from her. disconnect and A quick shower, and will wait to meet Keith for dinner at 7:30.

More as it develops.

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