Monday 7 – Friday 11 August 2017
A week of working.
And sitting in endless traffic. I thought I had seen traffic before. That was nothing. Traffic here is horrendous. There are typically 3 lanes painted on most roads (per side). But will be at least 5/6/7 lanes of traffic sitting across those 3 lanes. Gap between cars sitting in two lanes? No longer, a car will move between to drive down the middle of the painted markers. Scooters everywhere. A surprising lack of cows, but the occasional one here and there. It typically took an hour, or more, to reach the office which was just 9km away. And I had a driver for the week, who I just called up whenever I wanted to go somewhere. Very strange.
Every time you drive into the area of either an office block, or a five star hotel, you are stopped by security. There are usually 3 of them. One will have a mirror at the front. To look underneath the car. Another will check who is inside. And the third will check the boot. So many security checks everywhere.
I went to two different offices, both in office complexes. And you could literally have been anywhere in the world. Glass buildings. Fountains. Plants. Very generic.
Monday morning I went to 6am yoga. It was totally weird. Incredibly ‘spiritual’ and not much moving around. It reminded me of being unable to meditate when I was in a Japanese monastery. I didn’t go back. And instead went to the incredible gym every morning instead.
Breakfast. I ate outside everyday. A huge selection of food. But I always had something Indian – a random selection of idly, vada, dosa, paratha, pav bhaji, sambar and chutneys. Plus fruit. Always something different each day. So good.
Lunch. Always fun. Everyone takes a lunch break. Absolutely no one desk lunches. (I can’t remember the last time I didn’t eat lunch at my desk). There is a canteen selling ‘boxed’ lunch. I found out that that means a tray with indents, and you get a random selection of stuff. Rice, various curries, vegetables, rogue and rice pudding. Slightly different varieties depending which stall you go to. But all delicious. And ranging in price from £1.50-£2.50. There is also a dominos and subway if you don’t like Indian food – but who would eat that?! Every day I had Indian food and whoever I was eating with that day was shocked that I eat the local food. I thought it was normal to eat local food when you’re away. But apparently most westerners won’t because they think it is too spicy and if they do they get sick.
Evenings. Monday evening I went for an Indian massage. Admitidly I didn’t go far, just to the spa in the hotel. Tuesday evening I went shopping at the mall next door, accidentally buying too many scarfs and a throw.
Wedding. On Wednesday evening, one of the girls I’ve worked with for the past four years was holding her wedding reception. She was kind enough to invite me along! I had bought a saree in England from Amazon (of course – Amazon sells everything!). But had failed on a top, it just came as an un-sewn piece of material. Luckily I had found one on Saturday at the shops. I you-tubed how to put a saree on. Tried and wasn’t too successful, it was a bit loose but worked. One of the girls in the office dressed me! I also had a bindi, lots of bangles and an Indian style necklace. I looked the part.
The wedding was being held in the south-west part of the city, in an area full of Kalyana Mantapa (wedding halls). It took an hour and a half to drive from the office, which is in the eastern part of the city. And lucky they put their names outside of the building – there were lots of weddings happening this evening in buildings all next to each other!
I arrived about 8pm. The whole building is lit up with coloured lights and covered in flowers. Everyone is dressed in their best saree. I though I fitted in well. I really didn’t. Everyone was staring at me. Lots of people asked where I was from. And a few asked for photos. Token white person.
One of the bride’s friends looked after me for the evening. Telling me what to do, which was handy as I had no clue. The bride and groom were having photos taken, then they headed to the front of the hall – where there was a brightly lit stage, again completely covered in flowers. They were being followed by a full film crew (the video was being live streamed onto TVs at the sides of the hall). Once up on the stage, they stood there the whole evening (apparently until around midnight), as people lined up to present their gifts and have a photo taken with the couple.
I was still causing a bit of commotion. The bride’s mother asked me to go into a room with her, she put some tikka on my head and gave me a small gift (cute storage pots), random but kind of her!
After doing the loop on the stage, you head downstairs. Here is food. Snacks outside – spicy Rice Krispies and different chaats. And inside, rows of people eating off their banana leaves.
We took up places where we were directed to – they were lining everyone up in an organised way. First you wipe your banana leaf with a cloth, then a series of men come along plopping different food onto your leaf. Incredibly organised. And the food was amazing. Different curries, roti, dosa, chutney. It looked a mess, but was so delicious. Apparently caste has a large impact on the type of food served at a wedding, this girl is Bhramin (the highest caste) so they have a lot of traditions to follow.
It was so fun. By the time I got back to the hotel it was just after 10pm. I asked the doorman if he could take a photo of me (I hadn’t had one in my saree!) and he had a great time directing me to all different areas of the huge lobby.
Thursday evening I took my team out for dinner. They chose the place. A restaurant nearby to the office. It was cool – so much food selection. And all really delicious. Surprisingly fun!
Friday evening – sad to be leaving the office already. But I left at 5pm for the journey back to the airport. We sat in standstill traffic for well over an hour. By 6pm we had hardly moved. I was starting to panic. My flight was at 8.30pm.
But we made it. I couldn’t find the bag storage area (there is one according to the website), but no one could tell me where it was. So I had to check my whole luggage to bring with me. Tad annoying.
Stopped at security because I had an umbrella in my bag. Except I didn’t have an umbrella. Nor a power pack which they also accused me of having. Totally confusing.
Some quick samosas for dinner. And onto the plane. Off to Mumbai.