Bollywood does Planes, Trains, and Automobiles – Part 6

I am shopping around for a publisher to this novel about my travel experience to and from India. It really is an incredible story. How I managed to not end my life during this escapade is beyond me. Start reading from the beginning at Part 1.

Chapter 5 left off with me finally touching down and getting off the plane in Pune, India. I mentioned just how small the Pune airport is. As soon as you walk out the front door, there is only one door, you are surrounded by drivers all holding their signs. There’s easily over 100 of them and trying to find your sign isn’t an easy task. I don’t see any signs with my name or company logo. Great. I eventually see an NVIDIA sign with my name on it and meet my driver Ayyaz. As we leave the airport, the poverty is right in your face. It’s heart-breaking to see people and their families living on the side of the roads in little tin shacks. It’s one thing to see this in National Geographic, quite another to be driving through it first-hand.

Driving in India is a brand new experience. It’s now clear to me why a driver has been assigned to me instead of my renting a car and driving myself. The concept of lanes, and direction don’t exist here. It’s a free-for-all. It’s chaos. Yet somehow, they make it work.

This isn't rush hour, it's every hour. Notice that there are no traffic lights or stop signs.

The horn in North America is used as a warning, or an alert. In India, they use it to let other drivers know where they are. On our 20 minute trip from the airport to the office, Ayyaz used his horn more times then I have ever used a horn in my entire life. Not 5 seconds goes by without him tapping on the horn, either passing another vehicle, when another vehicle merges onto our road. Note I didn’t say merge into our lane. Remember, those don’t exist here. We all share a common piece of pavement or dirt.

I arrive at the office and meet a bunch of people. I’m tired, unshaven, stinky, and barely functional. I call it a day and leave around 4pm. Ayyaz is waiting for me as I leave the building. Off to the hotel. I check into the Quality Inn Centurion. Much nicer than the hole I stayed at in Delhi. No visible holes in any walls and the marble floors provide me with comfort. I enter my room, crawl right into bed and sleep for 14 hours straight.

One little tidbit I’ve been holding back from through this epic tale, is that neither my cell phone or Blackberry are working outside of the USA. They are picking up the local carriers, I just can’t receive or make any outgoing calls. Cingular, my cell phone carrier, tells me that I was suppose to call before leaving the US so they could activate my International capabilities. They flip some magical switch, tell me to remove the battery and SIM card, put them back in and I should be good to go. All very intuitive … not. My Blackberry starts working after a similar procedure. Oh, yeah. The Internet connection in my room doesn’t work and the hotel is completely booked so I can’t change rooms. I’m really not digging India. Not at all.

The actual visit is very productive and I’m really happy with my new team. They’re a good bunch. I tell them that I am taking them out for lunch every day at places they recommend. I’m buying. I love Indian food and they took me to some great places. “Veg, or no Veg?” is how every discussion starts off when deciding where to eat. Vegetarian only, or places that also serve meat. You won’t find a Morton’s Steak House here, but there’s lot’s of chicken and lamb. Plenty of Asian restaurants too. I know not to drink any water other than bottled water, which they must bring un-opened to your table. The food was fantastic

Wednesday morning I wake up in my hotel room and go the bathroom to brush my teeth. I flip on the tap to rinse my brush. Nothing happens. Just this gurgling sound. A very unpleasant gurgling sound. 5 seconds later this brown sludge comes spewing out. Nothing brown from a tap can be good for you. I think to myself, I’ve been…

  • Rinsing my toothbrush all week from this sink
  • Rinsing my mouth with the water from this tap after brushing my teeth
  • Rinsing my retainer in this sink

I think this is where I got sick. All day Wednesday, and for the following two weeks, I couldn’t stray further than a 30 second sprint from a restroom. My stomach felt like I swallowed military-grade plutonium, or that I had a bleeding ulcer. I can’t wait to go home.

Oh, no. There it is again. That sounds like something Terry really wants. I will be punished for this again. Read about my flight back to the States starting in Part 7.

About the author

Terry Blanchard

I'm the Vice President of Engineering at Readdle, ex-Apple, design evangelist, drummer, and gadget junkie extraordinaire.

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