Back To Inja

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.

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