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Visiting India

by C. D.

A death in a family can be a very sad thing.  Unfortunately, during September and October this year (2018) there has been sadness in the family due to five deaths.


From my wife's side, firstly her uncle passed away in Hong Kong, secondly her Aunty passed away in Pune, thirdly her mother passed away in Dubai, fourthly her brother-in-law passed away in Pune and finally my niece's husband passed away in Bangalore.


Death is inevitable, yet the loss of a family member always showers us with emotions.  Some days  we might desperately try to avoid the sadness and anxiety we feel when a loved one dies.  Other days, we feel like life has returned to normal once we get back to our routine work.  It takes time to fully absorb the impact of a loss but you never stop missing your loved one and the pain eases after time and allows you to go along with your life.


Overcome with grief, I and my wife travelled to Dubai and then to Pune to be with the family during the sad occasions.


India is one country, I rarely visit unless it is for a family wedding or if there is a death in the family.  Visiting India after many years this time has been an unforgettable experience.  I and my wife flew into Mumbai.  I immediately noticed a lot of improvements. The airport terminal was new and immigration and custom clearance was smooth unlike in the past when waiting in long queues endlessly in a warm terminal made one feel unwelcome.  On arrival, our hired car chauffeur greeted us so that he could drive us to Pune.  It took roughly 3 hours with a pit stop midway to stretch our legs.  I was amazed how the driver manoeuvred through the traffic of cars and motorcycles avoiding to scratch or smash into them.  I realised if you can drive in India, you can drive anywhere in the world.


Arriving in Pune, we checked into a club/resort hotel and were supposedly allotted the best room close to the pool. Unfortunately, the room was not to our satisfaction.  Air-conditioning did not work, the towels were smelling and thin.  The closet and the hangers were dusty. We were extremely tired after a long journey and couldn't think of complaining on our first night and just dozed off.  Next morning, the first thing I did was, walk up to the reception and requested them to please move us to a better decent room in the main building.  Luckily, they did have one room available which was recently renovated. We thankfully moved in. 


Pune is an old city with little or no proper infrastructure.  The locals get around comfortably without ever complaining.  It is pretty dusty and heavily polluted and most of the locals being immune to it move about comfortably.  Being sensitive, my nose could not withstand the dust and soon I landed with a stuffed nose.


Pune has an amazing weather throughout the year. One can enjoy the cool weather throughout and even the rains are less here than Mumbai’s monsoon. Pune is a peaceful city. If you are a peace loving person and wish to retire, you will like Pune. Mumbai on the other hand, is a crowded city swarming with people all around busy in the hustle and bustle.


After a week’s stay in Pune, we travelled to Mumbai and stayed at a much comfortable hotel for four nights. Everything looks picture-perfect in brochures and websites but it is not so in reality.  Bollywood movies show off the best looking colourful places, venues and movie stars, but when you move around the city, you see the reality of unorganised traffic, dusty roads with potholes, (sometimes real deep) and some young and elderly vendors all around.  Many building facades look run down and lack maintenance.  No one is on time for a meeting due to traffic and it gets worse when it rains.  Mumbai however has taken steps to improve the road infrastructure with new highways and underground metro lines, which is still under construction and meanwhile disrupting traffic more.  Both Pune and Mumbai finally have shopping malls filled with foreign famous brands and the locals don’t particularly have to now travel abroad or request friends or relatives to buy or send them their desired foreign branded merchandises.


When a local train coach, with a seating capacity of not more than 80, is filled with more than 200 people, you know you are totally jammed.  If you think of taking your own car, traffic will blow you, and the repeated horns will drive you crazy! And two things will burn, you and your petrol.  The  roads are so messed up that you don’t drive on the left of the road, you drive on what is left of the road!


I noticed one signboard which stated, "if you can avoid littering in streets in a foreign country, so can you in this city". Cars and pedestrians passed by without giving a hoot about it.


The locals are very friendly and always ready to help or converse.  If you are well versed with knowledge on cricket, Bollywood movies/series, and religion, you can comfortably converse and make friends with anyone you meet. One thing I could never understand is their head gesture. When someone rocks his or her head left to right on their shoulder. I wonder if it is a yes or no. 


Life maybe easy for the corporate class, but ask the working class and one will then know the ‘real’ Mumbai.  Yes, Mumbai is the city of dreams and many people from far away travel to find it and I am sure a few dreams do come true every day.


Being cautious of what to eat, especially the delicious spicy Indian cuisine during my visit, I did loose around 2kg at the end of my trip. Much to my wife’s chagrin, I could easily slide down my trousers without even unzipping. 

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