Saturday, June 11, 2016

India - first impressions

I am back in India after 4 years. I did not know what to expect. I was definitely prepared to be rudely shocked. I was also prepared to be pleasantly surprised. It was definitely going to be interesting. 

Across the Asian sub continent we have a lot of shared ethics and practices. That is why when we landed in the Abu Dhabi airport, I could smell home. And one practice that is common is washing up after finishing our business in the toilet. In all the Indian homes I have been to in the UK I have seen some arrangement or other for washing up. The ring of toilet roll is there but also along with it is a bucket and mug or wet wipes.  In the Abu Dhabi airport I heard a lady in the adjoining restroom comment ' Thank God there is a health faucet here' I could not resist a smile. I came out of the toilet and noticed that the ladies who were thanking the health faucet seemed pretty westernised and well  travelled. There are some things which are quintessentially Indian and I reckon this is one of them.

When we reached the Indira Gandhi International Airport, we went to the help desk to enquire about where we needed to go since we were a mixture of nationalities. My mother had warned that the last time she had travelled she needed to fill in a lot of elaborate documentation. In the flight we were not given any documents to fill for  my elder daughter's  and my Indian passports. We were doubtful that the air hostess might have missed giving us some forms. We asked the help desk person if we needed to fill any forms. He just directed us to the Special Assistance desks. The Immigration Officer handled our case pretty quickly and effectively. We had anticipated some trouble or red tape but our port of entry check was seamless. In fact the Indian passports were  welcomed with no fuss at all; really felt like I was being given a warm homecoming. It wasn't so the last time we had landed in Chennai. We had to wade through quite a bit of beauracracy. I could feel the good work being done by the current administration. The song 'dil kya kare jab kisi se' from the movie Julie rifted. Golden oldies. I was home where some things didn't change.

Our flight landed in Delhi at 0300 but our next flight to BBSR was scheduled at 1100. Since we had a very long wait I had booked a room in the airport hotel. The check in to the hotel was rigged with security checks. We had  3 security checks, where we had to show our passports and tickets and even go through a full scan of our luggage. We had to move a couple of floors but it took us 1 hour with all the security checks. We were helped a lot by the hotel staff. Mummy tipped him Rs. 300/-. Once the check in was done the front desk staff asked if we needed Internet. Of course we did!  This was another fact which we do easily took for granted in the UK. In most hotels WiFi is free and of pretty good speed. Here it was a password protected network. But it was enough to WhatsApp family of our safe landing in India. We slept like logs in the room. With burning eyes we woke 1.5 hours before our next check in. The hotel staff helped us with the check in for the flight again. He established contact with some ground staff. They had costs on which explicitly stated 'No tips'. But mummy offered them Rs 500/- as tips. It drove home another major facet of India. This is something conspicuous by its absence in the UK. And here within the first 5 hours of landing my mother had tipped Rs 800/-.  

I am very glad to be home. I had anticipated the weather, the infrastructure, the way of life to be very jarring. But I did not feel any awkwardness. After all dil hai Hindustani. 

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