My first impressions of India were experienced from the backseat of a cab, leaving Mumbai airport just before dawn. The air thick and humid, tangible but not pressing. Warm but not hot.
The street scenery had the stereotypical Indian feel: charming small shops, colorful signs, surfaces uneven and chipped, stains and rust. Auto rickshaws scooting around on streets riddled with potholes caused by the last monsoon. People walking, bicycling and sitting around. Some sleeping, on cardboard or in the back of trucks. Street dogs trotting along the street, avoiding traffic and scavenging piles of trash that they come across.
The city was bustling even though the day hadn’t even started. Traffic was a bit chaotic, with no clear lanes, few traffic lights and, as a result of that, a lot of honking. But it’s not the pissed off kind of honking that we have in Scandinavia; this is more of a prompt but non-offensive way to let the others know you’re about to pass. Several honks later we were crossing the Vashi bridge, over to Navi-Mumbai.
Sidd got off in Navi-Mumbai since he had some business to take care of regarding the office relocation to Pune. The driver, Adinath, would take me to the apartment block in Pune, in exchange for the remaining 350 rupees. Sajjad was already there so getting into the apartment wouldn’t be an issue. So we continued towards Pune. The sun higher now, illuminating our surroundings. Slowly the complex cityscape of Mumbai switched to lush green hills and winding roads. Tired from the day so far, I dozed off a couple of times. Some moments later we arrived at the apartment block. After some asking around I got to building J, and up on the 11th floor the door of apartment J1103 was ajar.
Inside I was greeted by Sajjad, who was cleaning the place up a bit. Nice fellow, we chatted for a bit before I got to my room and started unpacking.
The apartment is nice and spacious, but with the exception of the bed that Sidd so nicely had arranged for me there was no furniture whatsoever. It’s a project we’ll have to do step by step.
After Sajjad left for the office I took a little powernap. An hour later, feeling just a bit more human, I got up, took a shower and headed out. Finding the office was easy, a 15 minute walk from the apartment. With Sidd’s warning – about drivers not stopping for pedestrians – in mind I crossed a few roads and eventually got to the Prabhavee Tech Park, where our office is located on the fourth floor.
It’s a tidy space with AC and a partial view over Baner road. Unlimited water and coffee supplies. After work we headed to the D-Mart where we shopped a lot of basic supplies and stuff. Now the surfaces in our flat are a bit more cleaner and, hey, I have curtains!
After dinner at a small local restaurant – shahi paneer with some jeera rice – it was time for me to finally call it a day. With the exception of a few hours sleep I had been up since Tuesday morning, 8 o’clock. My lights went out on Wednesday at 21:00, Finnish time. Quite a first day.
The day before departure I made sure to get window seats for both the flight to Istanbul and the connecting flight to Mumbai. But things don’t always go as planned, which the ladies who had tickets for seats in row 29 found out when they discovered the plane only had 28. And sure enough I ran into some unexpected changes as well; within a couple of minutes after takeoff a flight attendant approached me and asked if I’d be willing to switch places with an older gentleman who wasn’t feeling well. He currently had the middle seat somewhere towards the front, and felt that he’d feel better with a window seat, well behind the wing. Confused about how adding another person between yourself and the toilet in the case that you aren’t feeling well would aid him, I still agreed to do this. It’s a short flight after all, it’s not a big deal even though I love staring at the clouds. Curiously the attendant didn’t ask the two ladies whose company I left it it’s ok for them to have a sick man seated next to them.
As thanks I got noisecancelling on-flight headphones, some snacks and an extra small bottle of white wine. Coupled with the wine Turkish Airlines so liberally hands out at meals resulted in me becoming a bit tipsy and made my journey pleasantly relaxed, listening to the soundtrack and musing away.
Apparently Istanbul is huge. Ridiculously so. During the last several minutes of our decent we flew over km after km of tightly packed housing on rolling hills. It was low profile, but spread out over an enormous area. Well inside the terminal I hunted down a neat bar with charging stations, plugged in everything pluggable and wrote some stuff while enjoying a nice cold beer, trying to hold on to that tipsy feeling.
The flight to Mumbai in the 747 was surprisingly pleasant. I had a window seat (and got to keep it for the entire flight this time) and there were a lot of empty seats in that area of the plane, so the ambience was mellow. Watched some movies and tried to get some rest. The six hours went by quite fast and before I knew it we were on approach to Mumbai.
Somewhere in the darkness a thunderstorm was lighting up half the horizon, lightning bolts connecting layers of clouds in moments of eerie beauty. Below us the dark cover was ruptured at places, revealing glimpses of cityscapes lit by streetlights. We descended through the clouds and came in over Navi-Mumbai and the bay, touching down at 4:30 local time after a total transit time of 13 hours.
Waiting for the baggage is always a moment of suspense; you fear that it might be lost and while everyone else seems to get their bags you start listing all the items you need to shop in the coming days. However, after a lenghty wait, I got my walk-in closet without trouble. After immigrations and a couple of stamps in my passport I am greeted by Sid at the arrivals area. I am also welcomed by a pleasantly warm air, a humid 27 degrees despite the early hour. The feeling, moisture and scent of the air is not unlike the one you might experience inside the botanical gardens in Helsinki. Actually it is very much like it, as is the air on Mauritius and in southern Thailand.
Our driver, Adinath, drives up, we load my luggage, marked with a orange “Heavy”-notice (remember the subwoofer I packed along?), and head onwards.