Here I am, back in the subcontinent. And – writing that, I realised for the first time how amusing it is that they call it that. Because – when you visit here, you’re not necessary incontinent – but usually somewhere close.
Anyway – I realised when I visited family, that when people asked me about India – I didn’t have much to say. I’d got so used to some of the weirdness, that I couldn’t think of anything interesting. So – this time, I’m going to try and describe some of the weird and wacky things that go on around here – while I’m still getting reaccustomed to it. Before seeing a family of 5 travelling on a motorbike becomes ho-hum.
So – the trip here was as usual. Get to the airport, eat some horrible airport food (I’m sure airport food is worse than airplane food – and you have to pay for it), buy some duty-free – and get on a plane. Well – in mighty Terminal 5, one of the most modern terminals in the world – get onto a bus, drive across the tarmac, and get onto a plane. Watched some terrible movies, drank some average wine – and only managed to fall asleep during take-off and landing. 7 hours later, or so – get toNew Delhi, and start to remember the oppressive heat, the pseudo-english on all signs and official paperwork, and filing cabinets packed full of paper, falling apart, in the middle of the luggage pick-up hall. People wandering around in uniform – presumably doing their job. Which seems to be wandering around wearing a uniform. All with a kind of “Oh – what was I going to do? Hmmm… maybe wipe down some 10-foot high invisible surface for dust. Now… where did I leave my cloth?”
Got to the hotel, and immediately remembered how mixed one’s feelings are when hotel staff – who haven’t seen you for months, welcome you back with a “Welcome back sir”. It’s nice to be recognised – but then you think about the reason they actually recognise you. You’ve 10% of the year staying in a hotel in an industrial city in India. And about to double that percentage. And that was before I even got to the bar. Before I’d come, my workmates had joked that the bar staff would have a ‘Kruse-beer’ waiting for me when I arrived. I walked in – the barman had just poured what did indeed look to be a ‘Kruse-beer’. It was obvious he’d poured it for somebody else – but when he saw me he really did exclaim out rather loudly “Mr Kruse! Would you like a Mr-Kruse-beer Mr Kruse?”. And handed me the beer. And thence ensued much shaking of hands with all the bar-staff on that night – welcoming me back and asking how long I was here for this time, etc. Its depressingly nice to be appreciated. And – of course, this pattern has continued since I’ve been here, as I continue to see staff for the first time – at the bar, restaurant, exec lounge, drivers, etc. I think I’ve nearly convinced myself I’m some kind of travelling businessman.
And then – then, I came to work. Not quite the same reception here. Well – a pretence of it, but fairly easily seen through. Much like my own statements that it was good to be back, I guess. But – my first day was cheered up a lot when the following happened. I’d spent most of the morning doing absolutely nothing – waiting for the guy to arrive who was bringing me my laptop. Turns out he doesn’t start until noon – so I could have had the sleep-in that I desperately needed. He eventually arrived – and I set myself up in a meeting room which had been turned into a cramped little office with about 8 desktops. A small group of people turn up at the door – and ask me if we’re using the projector. Yep – that one, attached to the ceiling. “No” – I say, because I wasn’t. They look at each other, and nod that it would suffice. I didn’t think too much about it – but assumed they’d come in soon and ask if they could borrow the room. But no – two chaps walk in 10 minutes later – climb on the desk, and start unplugging the cords that go into it. At which point – my interest is definitely piqued. This projector is mounted onto the roof. With a steel bracket. It also has one of those steel cords used to secure laptops, and projectors. And – all the cords are wired into the ceiling. But – they set about their work. They unplug all the cords – assuming, I guess, that they can find replacement cords somewhere else where they want to plug it in. They succeed at unplugging the cords – but then, suddenly, look at the next bridge to cross. Hmmm…. screwed onto a steel bracket which looks to extend well into the ceiling. And a security cable which is designed to stop this very thing happening. But – at least that has a key to open it. So – they do some thinking, and then disappear. One guy returns 20 minutes later with a pair of pliers, and a loose hacksaw blade. And sets about it. At this point, I really was a happy chap again. I sat there working, stifling laughter, watching this guy attack a top-brand laptop security cable with a hacksaw blade. No hacksaw – just the blade. And – full credit to the guy – he stayed there until he did it. I’ve just had to look the product up – and he sawed through a “Super-strong, steel composite cable with carbon tempered steel core” with a hacksaw blade. After that – it was a simple matter to unscrew the project from it’s mounting – and off they go.
But, of course, there is also the irritating stuff to go with the comedy. Walk outside at anytime there are a lot of people leaving work (which seems to be every half-hour) – and the little dirt-road outside is packed full of cars and people-movers – all waiting for people, or full of people and trying to leave – honking their horns at each other. Absolute chaos. But – I’m not sure if making this loud obnoxious noise is actually trying to let one of the 12 cars in front of them know that they’re trying to get through. Because – nearly every truck you see is painted in bright colours – with “Horn Please” painted on the back. Maybe truck-drivers here are just all gay?
Other things are just different. I was here at 3am last night – and discovered that one guy’s job is to walk around the building at 3am – giving out snacks to everybody working at that hour, and getting them to write their name in the accompanying book. I guess this is fair – because the daystaff get free lunch and/or dinner at the cafeteria (which seems to have completely stopped serving food I recognise. I used to be able to at least hope I could recognise some chicken or lamb… not thus far this time). And I don’t know how many security guards the office building employs – but it would easily be enough to stand shoulder-to-shoulder around the external perimeter. And the one time I saw one seem to actually try to secure something – was my first morning. There is a little card reader which you’re supposed to swipe your card past when you enter. And – another one when you leave, for some reason. All this reader seems to do is beep – and flash green if you’re a good guy. It still beeps if you swipe an expired card, or a cellphone, or anything. But – it doesn’t flash green. The guys sitting at this desk can’t actually see the light. But – my first morning – one of the guards was standing up in the passageway. And – he seemed to actually lean around to see what colour the light went for my card. Probably new on the job. In any case – my card was expired, the light didn’t go green, and I walked on in. He’d already gone beyond the call of duty, I guess. Oh – to be fair – there is another of these machines which is treated much more seriously. In the cafeteria – you have to swipe your card before getting your food. And if you don’t have a card – you have to sign the book, and then get your food. There are two stations – with one security guard each – and these guys take their job seriously. Governments of the world – take note… unemployment could be a thing of the past.
And… the hotel. I have a King room this time. Which has an extra metre of space than the Superior. Exactly the same in all other respects. Including as to ‘which way around’ it is. ie: some rooms are mirror images of others. I have had the same orientation every time now. I wonder if it’s in their records – they don’t want to confuse me. And I haev discovered the wonders of a long-handled shoehorn. I never respected shoehorns until last year – when I decided to buy one, with the intention of it being the first of a collection. But it was a short-handled one. Never again. Not after tasting the delights of the long-handle.
There have been a few changes around the hotel since I’ve been away – not sure I agree with them all. I now need to insert my keycard in the lift to get to my floor. They’ve removed the tables and chairs from the grassy plaza – which means no place to sit, but now there is actually healthy grass across the entire thing. The cigar case has been replaced with a champagne case. Mixed feelings about that one. The security guards have been expanding their borders – and now stop cars 50 metres further away from the hotel – to check for bombs and what-not in the boot or engine compartment. And apparently there’s some awful musician who plays in the bar on Fridays&Saturdays.
Unfortunately – neither the movies nor menu have changed.
But – all-in-all, I’m back in India. It’s pretty hot. There’s only one other work guy here at the moment, and I haven’t seen him since my first night. At least I’ve got my work to keep me company – otherwise I’d be one of those sad guys who drinks alone. So – I’m about to have a meeting, and then see if I can sneak off back to the hotel before the restaurant closes.