I am sitting on the ground of the Delhi Airport, plugged to the only available power outlet in the whole Departure Area. And it’s time to look back at another eventful, exotic trip – a trip to incredible India.
Arriving in India is always overwhelming. Flights from Europe arrive around midnight. And I mean ALL flights from Europe. So, you get here after quite a long trip and you suddenly find yourself in the middle of a huge crowd. Everyone is trying to get through the passport control as quickly as possible.
An hour later – I finally had made it through the control – I tried to find the person with a sign that carried my name. I found the sign. Then the man holding it called someone from the hotel. He brought me to a coordinator who then brought me to his boss. The boss finally called the taxi driver. Welcome to India!
At about 2:30 am I arrived at my hotel. But I couldn’t sleep. On long flights during daytime, I usually take a 4 hour nap. That works when you go to Malaysia or China. But it doesn’t when you go to India. As a result of the time difference, I slept from 7 PM to 11 PM, local time. Sleeping afterwards was impossible.
Anyway, I knew the next day would be special because we would visit the Taj Mahal!!
Believe it or not, this was only the second time I made room for some sightseeing (the previous occasion was Dubai last year)! As you know I’m ALWAYS travelling. If I would add a couple of days of sightseeing to every business trip my family would not be happy. By the time I got home, my wife and kids would probably have changed the locks and/or moved out.
To get to the Taj Mahal, we spent 4 hours in the worst traffic I’ve ever experienced. On my previous blog I described the Moscow traffic as the worst in the world. But that was before having crossed Delhi 4 to 5 times in one week. Traffic is everywhere, not giving an inch to anybody. Bicycles, cars , tractors, horse carriages, street cows (yes, in Europe we have street dogs, in India they have street cows), ambulances: Combine it all with a cloud of dust, garbage absolutely everywhere and the sound of horns and you get the perfect Indian traffic cocktail.
But the chaos was more than worth it. The Taj Mahal is one of those places that look exactly as it’s supposed to look. Trust me, the pictures you may have seen are not photoshoped. The building is simply majestic, serene and an island of beauty in a place of chaos.
We took pictures from every possible angle, including of course Lady Di’s bench. Then we went back to the jungle of asphalt.
On the second day we took a 3.5 hours drive from Delhi to the plant (perfect for a anti-jetlag power nap). We got some work done and at night the colleagues organized a dinner for us in a local guest house.
Between beers we started talking about local habits, marriage and other topics. I was very surprised by some of the customs of the Indian culture.
One of the locals from IT, who was definitely younger than me, told me that his parents had arranged his wedding when he was 22. Two months later they got married and did NOT meet each other before the wedding. Other colleagues mentioned that this is, indeed, the usual practice. For me it is difficult to imagine living in an arranged marriage, but you have to respect cultural differences!
Canteen and work
Talking about differences: The next day, the canteen served particularly good food because of the Karva Chauth festival.
Wikipedia defines the Karva Chauth festival like this: “Married women fast from sunrise to moonrise for the safety and longevity of their husbands.” This means that women stay at home fasting while their husbands can eat whatever they like. Certainly an unfamiliar custom.
The next two days where spent entirely on work. But today we finished just on time to do a bit of sightseeing in Delhi. We visited the Lotus Temple, India Gate (for the Belgian readers, this is the Indian version of Menin Gate from Ieper, built in memory of the Indian casualties in Flanders Fields) and Gandhi memorial. These are some of those few green places around here.
On the way to the airport I remembered or rather “was remembered” by Chew that Delhi is probably the only airport in the world where you cannot enter the terminal without a printed copy of your ticket! So, I called the travel agent in Belgium to have them send me the PDF via email. I printed my ticket at the hotel and afterwards we could got to the airport.
A taxi-drive later, we arrived at the airport. Chew could get in immediately. But, as my flight was still hours away, I was sent to a waiting area. When I got there, I asked a security guard
whether I could enter the terminal. He agreed and so now I’m here, writing this blog.
What I think about India? Well, it’s a country of such extremes that you either love it or hate it. Personally, I still have to digest all the impressions and experiences of the last few days.