Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Off to Mumbai

Tuesday, May 2, 2006

Delhi to Mumbai: Sahara Airlines Flight 105
Departs: 3:55PM IST Arrives: 5:50PM IST
Duration: 1:55 Miles: 708
Total Duration: 18:56 Total Miles: 8984

Traveling domestically in India is sort of descriptive of the Indian people – basically, it is a study of two extremes. Until relatively recently, India was made up of two classes – the small number of “haves”, and an overwhelming number of “have nots”. Interestingly enough, with the emergence of BPO and other outsourcing, the Indian culture has been going through significant changes, with a rather large and affluent middle-class emerging.

Back to the flying – there is the experience at the airports (that’s the have nots), and then on the plane itself (the haves). You see, being on a domestic Indian flight is incredibly comfortable. In fact, there service is similar to ours USED to be before 9/11, actually even better. I’ve come to understand that Indians expect a meal on a flight. You could be flying 35 minutes to a nearby city, but guaranteed, you are going to be served a meal, coffee, candies, and a cold towel. And, you are going to be served this by a rather attractive young attendant who is dressed in a traditional sari wearing a lot of make-up. I think it is the law in India .

It’s a good thing that you are treated well on the plane, because getting there is a nightmare. My flight today was delayed about an hour, and then all of a sudden, it is final call for boarding. I hadn’t even left the waiting area for security, yet. The waiting area is just completely packed with both people and mosquitoes. I’m convinced that I’m one bite away from Malaria or Dengue.

By the way, there are two meal choices in India – veg or non-veg. I always go with the non-veg, I like meat. Today’s meal was, you guessed it, a Subway sandwich. It looked good, but went uneaten. Unfortunately, it had lettuce, tomatoes and cucumber on it. To eat uncooked vegetables in India is to invite disaster. Why? The vegetables are rinsed with water to maintain some semblance of freshness in the heat. I’ve seen it on the streets. The water is reused, and probably would pass for sewage in the States. Needless to say, I’m a little hungry and a little tired, but enjoying my flight – at least until we land at the airport in Mumbai.

One last note regarding Mumbai: I think the population is 16 million, or so – it is a very highly populated city. However, it also houses India’s largest slum. It is an AMAZING site flying into or out of Mumbai. You cannot imagine the poverty and the conditions of the shanty-town surrounding the airport. Flying in is an experience that is never forgotten and it just makes me thankful to have what I have.


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