Monday, July 25, 2005

Travelogue II (First Impressions)

I think I am not yet finished with my Delhi post. After everything was in place by 22nd, I thought of making a trip to my Mausi's place in Behrod, around 130 Km from Delhi, midway on Delhi-Jaipur highway. So, on 23rd morning, around 6 O' clock, I left to Dhaula Kuan from Noida, and caught a comfortable 2/2. (2/2 buses are a luxury in Jharkhand and Bihar considering the heavy rush and abundance of 3/2 seaters). It was nice to find a scarce headcount, both in that DTC I had boarded and in this Haryana State Transport bus.

After spending around 8 hours in home, both Mausiji and Mausaji came to drop me all the way to Indira Gandhi International airport. There was a traffic jam near Gurgaon and the bus took a different way through the Gurgaon city - I was lucky to get the city view and kept on getting amused by the skyscrapers.

We reached the airport around one and a half hours before the scheduled departure and I was sad to know that visitors were not allowed anywhere inside the security area - I had to go inside all alone and they didn't even get a chance to actually see me off. Unknown of the formalities and wandering inside to get an idea of what all is to be done to fetch a boarding pass, I was wondering how bewildered and dumb must I be looking to others! Its always strange, you can easily identify a 'fresher' in any domain by his activities; not always because he does things incorrectly, but just because he asks for it first and then does that with extra care.

Finally, after much embarrassment, I got a boarding pass, and I decided to make a call back home. By this time, I had started feeling a bit nostalgic and, though, its not the best thing to be done at such times, I made a call atleast to inform everybody that I am ready to depart.

The aircraft finally took off, and I found myself cramped in a small chair with seatbelt tied around and some strange sort of pressure inside my ears. The seats were 2-4-2 in one row and I was in the worst of them, the middle one in the 4 series. Stretching my legs was difficult and sleeping impossible. I remembered all rosy paintings of air-travel which are pasted in your mind throughout your growing-up stages in school life, and wondered how amongst many worthless things taught in school life, such falsified images of comforts-which-money-can-buy are firmly erected inside your mind. I was hungry, but something inside my stomach kept prompting me, fill with anything and I am ready to throw it out! The artificial environment was worse and I was wondering whether I would actually survive for entire 10 hours in that condition. A newly wed Indian girl was sitting besides me and just to feel a bit better, I initiated a conversation.

She was going to US via Paris and was travelling with her father-in-law. For the first time, I tasted some French food and this girl helped me out in identifying the vegetarian items. It was strange, and I couldn't eat anything except some French bread and butter, settling everything in place with some orange juice.

The ordeal finally ended and we landed in Paris. The pilot announced the outside temperature to be 17 degrees. I disembarked at terminal 2A and couldn't find that girl anymore. A bus took the passengers of connecting flights to terminal 2C and in the entire way, I kept getting mused at the mesh of concrete flyovers passing one on top of another like the ones in science fiction movies. I had about 2 hours before my next flight to Prague and I roamed around in the cold terminal clicking a few snaps with my camera. The second flight was a bit comfortable with 3-3 seats in a row and I had got a window seat. The food again was strange and I managed again with good old bread-butter.

Coming out of the Prague airport, I felt for the first time, that I was out in broad daylight at some place which is far away from India. The taxi which took me from the airport to the conference venue in Celakovice was a Volkswagon, and the entire 40 minutes drive, I kept looking outside with that childlike innocence of videsh yatra. Being fascinated by the cruising speeds of 160 Kmph, I was wondering what would happen if a pothole appears in the way! The car accelerated and deccelerated most swiftly than ever imagined, and I was preparing a nice lecture in my mind about the Indian economy vs. the West in my mind which I can give to my friends upon returning back - which was never delivered in full, except a few comparisons now and then.

"Where's everybody?" is what any Indian would immediately ask while looking around at this place. Habituated of a country (somebody told me that the entire Europe lives in India!) with heads all around, it seemed strange. The taxi promptly stopped at every red signal - I don't know for whom, there was nobody around - and re-accelerated to its full pace. A few bikes passed-by from behind, with a 'relative velocity' same as the normal speed of cars in India, and I quickly added a figure of around 60 Kmph with our meter reading of 150 to get a rough idea of the speed with which those guys were cruising!

Its afternoon here, and I am heavily jet-lagged. This hotel is comfortable, and truthfully, the most comfortable place I have ever been to. I have decided to take a nice nap before I check out what's all there in-and-around.

P.S. The toilet is difficult to use, it has only papers!!

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