Getting to India

From February to nearly the end of March, I flew down to India. My wife had flow ahead of me and I was meeting her down there. We had decided not to make any specific travel plans and just to see how things went. During the middle ages, the word travels was another form of travails. We became familiar with this connection.

Travel from Canada to India went smoothly, apart from the last minute rushing. I had dropped Munchie off with my parents in Calgary, but had to spend an extra night in Calgary. The drive to Calgary had not been bad, except near Carstairs, the wind started to shift the car sideways. I did not think this was possible with a Camry, but apparently this is so.
I stopped in at Mountain Equipment Co-op to pick up some lightweight, fast drying clothing for the trip. I was hesitant because the pants the salesman had suggested were made from nylon. The last time I used nylon pants in hot weather, it was like tying garbage bags to your arms and legs, the kind high schools wrestlers wear to sweat out the excess water. Surprisingly the rad and river pants were cool, and dried quickly.

After I left MEC, large snowflakes were not so gently falling. The road that had been mostly black before had a thick covering of snow. I slid twice into two different intersections while the ABS was firing away frantically. It was highly disturbing to have no control of a two ton vehicle as it took you into the path of on-coming traffic.
The news reported that the roads around Calgary were bad, but Edmonton was even worse. So much for the light flurries that were predicted. It did not take much convincing for my parents to keep me home. Of course my mind drifted to all the things I had left to do – clean the house, oh yeah and finish packing.

The drive back to Edmonton was better than I thought, but as I approached Leduc, I slowed to a solid 60 and viewed the semi, trucks and cars that had not fare so well the night before.
It was a frantic day and a half of cleaning and packing. I tried bundle packing. This is an interesting and ancient way of getting as many clothes into as tight as space as possible. It worked well. I managed to get most of my clothes into my carry-on luggage. The only downside was that I could not get something at the centre of the bundle without unpacking.

At the airport I played around with the automatic check in which automatically did not recognized my number, or ticket, but a little official help got me through. Nice to know that technology is working so smoothly and efficiently.

The Air Canada flight flew directly from Edmonton to London. Nothing was too memorable about it. I spent 10 hours with my brother-in-law, Ravi and his family, unfortunately I spent most of it sleeping. But I had an excellent breakfast and dinner, thanks to Joan, and even said a few words to my nephew before heading off to India.

I flew via Dubai to Bangalore with Emirates. I was impressed with the airlines. The planes are clean and new, uniforms colorful and interesting, and most of the stewarding staff seem polite and helpful,young…women. I suppose this is discriminatory hiring, but the staff seem a great deal more enthused about their job than the Air Canada staff(or perhaps less tired). I had a choice of movies to watch – still not movies on demand like Singapore Airlines or Malaysian airlines, but they told me it is coming.

I thought about taking photos while flying over the Gulf. But given the times, I decide that taking photos of ships and port areas may not be the wisest thing to do. Dubai was nothing but sand, scrubby brush and block apartments. The mosques stood out for because of the repeating geometric designs and they were the only signs of green in the brown sands. Bright blue swimming pools in the desert sand spoke a great deal about the wealth of the place.

Dubai airport was huge, and tall enough to fit living palm trees inside the building. The whole airport was a testament to steel, glass and curving architecture. The main commercial area was noisy and busy – a huge mall devoted to duty free merchandise – perfumes, cameras, pens, and Gold. The prices were unreal — really unreal. I could not imagine paying $500 for a pen.
There were people everywhere – sleeping in chairs and, the floors. Whole extended families would be sleeping on sheets or mattress on the floor. We saw this on the way back as well. I am not sure how Dubai airport regulates its flights but it seems that there are a lot of long layovers and not enough space to accommodate people who did not have the money to fly business class or better.

The flight to India was short – four or five hours. I met an English opthamologist who was traveling for a family event at Bangalore. He spotted that I had mistakenly put London instead of Dubai as the embarkation point. I crossed it out and wrote the correct city. But, he insisted that I get a new card — there was no sense in getting tangled in Indian bureaucracy.
Passing immigration and collecting my baggage in Bangalore went smoothly. They used to scan the luggage before you left the airport, but that little non-sequitur was absent on this trip. I viewed the exit with nervousness because crowds of taxi drivers and people wanting to handle your baggage would swarm as soon as you left the airport sanctuary .

I had decided for this trip to simply accept things as they are and not wish they were any different. Not a particularly original thought as Buddha had had a similar insight, but it brought a certain sense of peace.
Nothing happened when I stepped out of the airport. There was a huge crowd of people quietly watching the emerging stream, but no swarming. I found the driver who had my name written down and spent the next five hours sleeping while he drove to Puttaparthi.

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