30th June 2010 – It’s my last day of the project with the client in Reading and I have no idea what’s next in life. Leaving drinks with the project team went well and possibly will not be the last leaving drinks as I have worked with the client on and off a few times up to now. I am guessing that I will be back with the client after my travel in the Himalayas. The market is not good but I have been a slave to work and badly need a break. I have booked everything for the travel at the last minute and have no clue what’s awaiting me. When I say everything, it means just the basic bookings on travel and accommodation for the first few days. I like surprises and adventure.
My thoughts span about how I ended up with the travel idea to go to the Himalayas while having my frappe at London Heathrow Terminal 4 lounge. Below are three photos that have inspired me for a very long time and I had always thought the photos had been digitally touched and I wanted to see the landscape first hand myself. The waveless calm of the Himalayan lake, the barren sun showered shady line of sandy mountains and a small patch of vegetation under its foot and the Buddhist monastery sitting on top of a hill and behind its backyard is the snow clad Himalayan giant mountains. Hence the trip. My expectation is low but the drive is high.
I have received friends and family from Terminal 4 but never had an idea of what the the departure lounge would be like. In reality, it’s small and there aren’t many shops to pass the time. I am quite disappointed. An elderly Indian lady approaches me to help her to get to the gate for her flight and apparently she is boarding the same flight as me. I suggested that she could sit next to me as I am on the same flight and the gate is going to open in 30 minutes. But she is restless and I believe she doesn’t trust me. I take a call on my mobile and when I look back, she is not in around. I find out that BAA has changed the boarding GATE at the last minute to one which is further away and I have to rush. The Indian elderly lady is sharp and that reminds me that no one trusts others in India.
During the flight the seat next to me is empty for a very long time and I secretly desire for it to be empty for the entire journey so that I can stretch my legs during the long flight. Unfortunately my expectation is short lived. It’s a young Indian girl who boarded at the very last minute before departure. The crew is not happy with her as she delayed the take off. One thing i learnt during my journey and flight training is that the crew is at most efficiency and speed during boarding than at any other time as there is strict time lines attached. If failed, they will be penalised and the airlines might have to pay a huge sum of fine, calculated per minute, to BAA for the delay. In JFK, the flight will be immediately put into the last in the queue of flights waiting to depart apart from being fined. In Heathrow, its just a fine but possibly somewhere in the queue but not in the last.
The Indian girl’s name is “Deepta Arora” and she is en-route to Bangalore transiting at New Delhi. It’s her first return journey after having been in London for a year. She is a typical Indian IT industry wiz kid doing a job what she was told to do by her manager andmore occupied in flight routines like watching the entire movie library (for the sake its available for free), phoning/txting during take off & landing ( raising eyebrows from cabin crew and fellow passengers),counting Religious ceremonial beads during take off and at times during flight, trying to eat everything that’s been served even not like it, taking photos of the flight’s interior, etc. She is on her first stage of foreign visit and guessed it based on the way she narrated about her last minute shopping routine to buy things to give it to her relatives/family/friends, phoning every day to her parents without fail, working very long hours as directed by her Indian company (Cognizant), waiting for a year to get her company sponsor the trip for free, doesn’t have a clue what’s next in her life but living on the fly and leaving every decision to her parents, etc. But she is very close to her next stag in her personal life which is an arranged marriage and I don’t think she is prepared for it even though her parents have made the move.
It’s a 11 hour non stop flight and arrival to Delhi is not pleasant. I had a bad night sleep in the flight as the leg space is not as expected even though I booked an aisle seat. Delhi is not what i expected on first look but probably because I am transit & stayed close to airport. Hotel Eurostar is budget hotel but had basic things for foreign travelers like clean dry towels, toilet tissues, common Internet access and pickup/drop from Airport. This arrangement fit me perfectly. Since I lost sleep during flight, I slept like a log as soon as I got into the room. I woke up around 4 pm and headed to street shops to get altitude medicine, toiletries, Gortex layered glove (bit upset as I forget to buy it in UK) & to do currency exchange. I was able to locate a local bank to do foreign exchange and got a better rate than Thomas cook. My first haggling went well. Then interestingly a sand storm struck on the high street and it’s first time I am being in one after years. The storm was later subdued by light rain. I was scared as this is a disastrous call for getting sick based on my past experience with the weather system in India. In many cases, this flip in temperature and wind leads to cold and fever. I decided not to experiment with Indian food in India now. That remained me of Dan’s comment during last year’s Mumbai trip that I became softie on spicy food when compared to my western peers. He is true and i never like spice when i was child and was force fed to like it. Now is the payback time.
I went to a local pharmacy for getting ‘Valium’ for a friend of mine in UK and the pharmacist is not happy by the way he mumbled. Initially he refused but then gave a strip and refused to give me receipt. I thought it’s the same case in every pharmacy as they will be blamed if someone buys sleeping pills and then commits suicide in India. I can’t find another pharmacy nearby and it’s time for shops to close. I plan to buy the rest on my return trip from Himalayas even though I don’t have a slightest clue where I am going to stay in New Delhi. I came back to the hotel and browsed internet for mails. Nothing important except my share account is going down slope due to worrying new from Chinese markets & FTSE index is equivalent to that of September 2009. Hope it doesn’t reach that of December 2009 when the market totally tanked. Time to retire to bed and look forward to the next day when the actual travel is going to start.