Sunday, February 9, 2014

The Manchester of India or "It's India, son!"

Normally, the never ending sound of honking would wake me up at night, but after being awake for 36 hours, I fell asleep within 30 seconds from touching the pillow. Waking up at 6:30 am local time (2 am EST), did feel like an alarm in the middle of the night. However, the batteries were recharged and after quickly closing my suitcase, we headed to the train station.

After arriving there, Shruti, who is a very well organized Pyxera employee and still always finds time for a good laugh, started to arrange couriers. We needed them in order to carry our bags to the platform. After bargaining for a period of time, our bags were loaded and we started walking to the track. At this point, I would like to quote one of our taxi drivers, who saw us staring at the street life the day before and said "It's India, son! Everything is possible!" So the first lesson I learned that day was that couriers usually load the bags on their heads (yes, even if they have got rolls). Let me omit the noise and the bustling activity at 7am in the morning - we learned this lesson yesterday.

The train arrived within a few minutes. We prepared to enter the train, when suddenly, the coach started to go back and forth, coming to a stop slowly, like a giant pendulum on tracks. The second lesson learned: Don't rush into the coach just because the train has arrived. It can keep moving before coming to a full stop.

Finally, everything was loaded and the train departed. We have got tickets for Business A/C class (A/C stands for aircon), which appears to be the highest train class in India. It was reasonably clean, not too loud and really had an A/C. Shortly after departure, we were served food. However, it was not just an airplane-style sandwhich breakfast, but rather a longer brunch, with dishes coming one after the other and tea, lassi and yoghurt in between. It was even possible to choose from the menu, and I did. However, I just went for the option that sounded better - and it was delicious! And the end, there was even a feedback form that included room for suggestions - a consulting company has clearly been involved. Third lesson learned - Don't have breakfast prior to taking a Business A/C train.

What appears to be a small breakfast is actually a long brunch
After a 4:30 hour ride, we finally arrived in Ludhiana, "The Manchester of India". There are different versions of how the city got its nickname. The one I am in favor of suggests that it is similar to Manchester at the time of the Industrial Revolution - the city is famous for its woolen industry, bicycle production and other small and medium businesses. Ludhiana is a smaller Indian city with ~3 million habitants and is not Punjab's capital. When we left the train, it was considerably colder and clouds fully covered the sky. We were told that Ludhiana is much calmer than Delhi. This does not, however, apply to the noise - the honking density and sound matches the high standard of the Indian capital.

Shortly after, we have arrived at the hotel which will be our home for the next four weeks. Right after entering the hotel, we were given a really warm welcome to Punjab by the staff. First, I have got an Indian blessing - teeka - which represents a dot between the eyes, a flower garland (mala) as well as a drink. Fourth lesson: I will learn a lot of Hindi / Punjabi words in the next four weeks. Welcome to Ludhiana, mera yar (my friend)!
India 22 CSC team will start working some time, promised!

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