Let me preface this post with a comment – it may seem as if I’m being negative, but I don’t intend it as such. This is more a commentary on culture shock than to moan about how I do or do not like something. India is a massive place and I’ve only seen such a tiny amount. Further, being such a huge place there are many people with many personalities. Where one may be pushy there is just as likely one that is not.
I’m in India now. It took 12 hours in the air, plus a 3 hour layover to get to Mumbai. The airport is always a jarring experience here. The breezeway from the plane is humid and smells slightly of mildew. The carpet is aging. Immigration is just like immigration anywhere else – stone faced people just staring at documents. It’s the baggage claim that really tells you that you’ve arrived – at least it does for me.
People crowd against the belt with little concern for anyone’s personal space. Carts are pressed into tight spaces next to legs and ankles. It becomes nearly impossible to actually extract a bag from the carousel. It is all to representative of every queue to come from this point forward. At least in the parts of the country I’ve seen. I even had people jump queue in the departing security line!
My luggage was some of the pieces out so I didn’t have to deal with people in my way. I did worry a bit that I wouldn’t get luggage… and I’ve some that before. (Thanks TSA for that experience in New Zealand!)
Once it finally arrived it was out the door to the courtyard where all the drivers gather. In order to help control touts for dishonest taxis they have blocked off an area right outside the arrivals area. All the hotel drivers, etc are waiting at the rail with signs for their passengers. I locate my name in the sea of signs and we are off. Of course within mere steps of the exit and my driver carrying my bag, I am approached by an all too friendly gentleman. I respond to him, as I’ve forgotten that being polite makes you a dupe, but I turn down his offer to carrying bag. My driver shares some stream words but he persists in walking with us, even trying again to strike up conversation with me. We break free as we enter the parking lot. I figure he would have sought a nice fee for carrying my dress shirts 100 yards. Such a nice guy!
Into the SUV and we are off. The infrastructure is a bit rough – pot holes and some of the strangest placed speed bumps (or speed breakers as they ate called) make for a less than easy ride. All the same, after a few phone calls and some emails, I’m lightly sleeping. I wake occasionally to try and see if I recognize anything, but I don’t. I sleep through the mountain climb where you generally find lots of broken down trucks. Traffic seemed to be very light.
Eventually we arrive in town. Things are very quiet here. After 2 hours we finally arrive at the hotel. Here it’s 130am but everyone is immensely friendly. This is the top end of Asian hospitality. I get into my room, my luggage is a few minutes behind and finally I’m settled somewhere!