Saturday, January 08, 2011

First Day in India

After another night with only a few minutes of sleep we had arrived in Ahmadabad around 3:00 am. In the baggage claim we were for a long time looking for our luggage, and we were afraid it might have gone lost in Dubai. But after a while everybody of us had their luggage, and so we headed through the customs control. The flight attendants of our flight to Ahmadabad had not given any of the passengers an immigration form, so there was a rush to get these forms. Quite a chaotic queue formed at the immigration desk, with people getting to the front to bring back these forms to the waiting passengers. In principle the queue was supposed to be meandering in an S shape, separated by barries. But some people decided to shortcut the queue by going straight instead of following the S-shape, by removing the barriers. Some heated "discussions" started then... We finally made it through the immigration, and then went outside, where our driver greeted us. It was 4:30am.

A crew of 3 people had come to pick us up. They had been here since 1:30 am, due to a misunderstanding of the time communication. When loading the luggage into that Toyota van, it became apparent that there would not be enough space for the four of us to squeeze onto that one backbench - so someone would have to go into the luggage compartment. Gina and Deborah volunteered because they were smaller than Brian and myself. So our three drivers rearranged the luggage and put some onto the roof, where it was affixed with a very thin looking piece of string... it was not really our intention to treat the ladies that way, but that is how it turned out to be: their luggage on the roof, and they into the trunk. The car had seatbelts in the rear seat, but when I tried to put it on, there was only one half of the seatbelt - the parts where to stick it in could not be found anywhere. Fortunately everything went well, and almost two hours later we arrived safely at the university guesthouse in Vallabh Vidyanagar. During the ride Brian and myself noted that the road near the airport had been improved significantly - much fewer potholes. We drove around Ahmadabad on a kind of ring road where the early morning traffic began. The temperature was relatively fresh, and we saw many people outside with scarfs around their face. In combination of those scarfs with some automated guns which a few of the guards at the toll stations were wearing, it looked as if that toll booth had been hijacked by a local warlord... in many places a few people stood together in a group around a small fire, to warm themselves.

After arriving at the guest house we moved into our rooms and had a few hours of rest before we headed at noon to the university to meet our hosts Sunil Shah, Dr Jadeja, and Surendra. We received a heartfelt welcome. Turns out that my Twittering (tweeting?) and facebooking had kept everybody here well aware of our travel obstacles, and they had felt very well informed and up to date. Sunil as the ICT expert suggested to me that I should get a Tata Docomo 3G USB stick for a fast mobile internet connection, and so we headed off on his motorcycle. I felt a bit unsafe, but Sunil was driving very cautiously through the Indian road traffic with its 3-wheel motor rikschahs, motorcycles, cars, tractors, pedestrians, cows, and the occasional camel. The question of wearing a helmet never came up... what is a helmet anyway?

Got my USB stick, drove back to the university, but it did not work... some driver problem. Must be because I had other Huawei drivers installed from another earlier device... and the software did not appear to handle this case very gratiously. So we went back again to the Docomo store to get some help. However, the IT guys there were not very well versed in computer installation questions and just were able to offer some generic help. What I needed was an explicit Huawei driver which I could install separately. After a few hours tinkering with the registry and reinstalling the device several times I finally got it to work- and the afternoon was over.

Back at our guesthouse the electicity went off for 1/2 hour, leaving us in complete darkness, except for the bluish glow of my laptop display running on batteries. But a few minutes later the house attendant came with a candle for everyone.

Kiran, Falguni and Mitali who had visited us in Yorkshire in summer 2009 came to the guest house to welcome us, Then we headed to the restaurant "Colour Flavours" where we were treated to an excellent meal by Falguni. As usual, I had something sizzling - I like it when the food makes a noise.

On the way there were many stalls on the road selling kites. Dr Jadeja explained that this is for the upcoming kite festival, and Sunil invited us to experience that festival in his home on Friday.

Back in the guest house I tried the internet stick, but the performance was very spotty. Often no web site could be reached. Only a few times I was able to see my emails, reply, and send out a tweet.

No comments: