Day 1 – Arrival into Mumbai
The ‘Puter Hub is tasked with keeping a journal on our trip to India for his class so I’ve recycled some of his entries with commentary of my own. Enjoy.
R: Lets begin at the beginning.
E: What is this the Sound of Music?
R: As Pat McMullen (our fearless leader) famously quotes “talking about a 15 hour flight and experiencing one are two different things.” My wife, Evelyn, will be my partner in travel through this adventure and has been quite nervous about this first part of the trip, but both of us are eager and excited about this trip.
E: Nervous is an understatement. My palms could have helped the water shortage in Nashville.
R: As we settled in for our traditional preflight cocktail at Chili’s in the Charlotte Airport, we check the status again of our flight. It was, as the gate agent said, delayed 1.5 hours because of wind in Newark. The stress of the Mumbai flight weighed heavily, but now do we need to worry about even making it? The Charlotte-Newark flight was riddled with turbulence and jerks, one of those flights where the cabin claps upon touch down.
E: I saw my life flash before my eyes when trying to land in Newark.
R: Nevertheless, we arrived in plenty of time to meet the Mumbai flight. Our first experience with the Indian culture was the boarding process. Like Mumbai, it was chaos with most of the more than 300 passengers encroaching eagerly on the gate agents as methodically called out the boarding rows. The flight is long and burdensome. After taking off at almost 9:00pm, once reached cruising altitude the captain requested everyone to close their shades because daylight would be arriving soon. Whahh? However, a modern in-seat on-demand entertainment system with more than 100 movies coupled with a well-known sleep aid and ample beverages made the flight very tolerable.
E: I made it to second base by an Indian man trying to board the plane. Yikes.
R: Landing at 10:30 pm local time a day later, despite your body saying it’s only been 15 hours, does play havoc at first. My wife’s mood, as well as mine, was immediately lifted to have that odyssey behind us. We begrudgingly acquired our bags, sailed through customs and held on for our first bus trip through Mumbai at close to midnight.
E: I kissed the Indian ground upon arrival. A few people warned me that once you walk out of the airport in Mumbai, you’ll want to run back on the plane and jet out of there as quickly as possible. That really wasn’t the case. I felt like a celebrity and all the Indian cabbies, bus drivers and auto rickshaw drivers were holding my name on pretty little sign. They were even barricaded like the paparazzi on the Red Carpet. Welcome, Evelyn.
R: Even at midnight on a Sunday Mumbai’s streets are still filled with cars and streets lined with people. The well air conditioned bus entered Mumbai traffic like start of the amazing race. Having experienced similar driving conditions in Greece and Caribbean, the aggressiveness and furious nature of the traffic was on a whole other level. I would later come to realize this was a leisurely Sunday drive compared to later in the week. We arrived at the amazing and opulent Taj Mahal Palace and Hotel, a true oasis for us for the next four days. We are delighted with our accommodations.
E: I immediately noticed several people sleeping on the streets. While I expected this, in the U.S. the homeless people typically tuck themselves under bridges and bus stops. In India, they literally line the streets with mats – children, women, men, and babies. It is a difficult scene to process.