Saturday, June 2, 2012

Mumbai to Anand

So I finally get to Mumbai after my all to brief layover in London, and have to wait for a bus for 45 minutes after waiting in several lines hoping I'm in the right one. I think it's cool that the customs agent recognizes my last name as and Indian surname and asks me about it. No one in America does, but here I'll see family businesses that say "Grover Auto Mufflers" so I know it must be semi-common. Without sharing a language, I seem to befriend and sit next to an elderly woman who is also headed to Ahmedabad and is worried she is in the right place.

The bus turns out to take us to another terminal, which is one big room with a few shops that are closed. Did I mention it is after midnight and my flight to Ahmedabad leaves at 6am and I'm exhausted? So I have to wait overnight in this room with uncomfortable chairs, but fortunately there is a snack bar. I learn a few things going through customs:

1. Your original boarding pass issued from your first flight is not good there. You need to exchange it for an Indian boarding pass at the flight counters before passing through the final security check for the waiting room.

2. They like to stamp stuff in India.... a lot! So when they repeatedly offer luggage tags for each and every item you have as carry on take the hint and attach it. They use these to stamp that something has passed through okay. Expect more than one person to stamp and screen you at every point in the airport along your trip to Anand.

3. I don't have my saree folded quite to their liking. I am good at folding Punjabi style, but this is my first time folding Gujarati style with the pallau in front. Females are examined by other females and go into a separate line. My security agent speaks broken English and is having a good time asking me about my visit, and is very charmed by my saree and how much I like to wear them. In the space of a few minutes I have three female security agents gathered around me re-dressing and folding and pinning my saree. It was hilarious and they are having a grand time. 

When I finally am released into the waiting area I realize something. I am the only white person aside from one guy. The problem is that there is a room of 100 men staring at me boldly. Really staring. Not even trying to hide it. I don't know if it is that some folks seem to think I look like this one Bollywood star or it's the saree or what, but if you've never had a hundred men stare at you at once it is truly disconcerting. I will encounter a lot of staring on my trip, but this was the most bothersome. i walk around a lot to ease my nerves and when the shops finally open I check them out.  It is all touristy stuff I've seen before and I'm here to make babies, not shop. I make this odd vow that I'll shop when I come back to pick up my baby, but have this strange feeling that I'll jinx myself if I shop like I'm not coming back in 9 months. I'm not here to be a tourist this time.  I do take a picture of the Playskool Saudi Arabian Melody. Woo hoo for multiculturalism, but she can't be all that much fun to play with because the whole point of Barbies is to dress them up in cute clothes.

Saudi Arabian Melody
I finally get on the long awaited bus that takes you directly to the plane on the tarmac to fly to Ahmedabad.  Unfortunately I realize I've left my packet with all my printed out info as well as pics of us for our surrogate in the waiting area! It even has bank transfer codes on some of the emails. I am proud to say that someone turned it into the security agents, who look through it and call the hotel listed in the papers to let them know they have it. I tried to send my husband to pick it up but by the time he is in Mumbai it has been over a week and they disposed of it at the ticket counter. Fortunately I have one photo elsewhere for our surrogate.

After a short flight to Ahmedabad I watch the sun rise over India with excitement. I notice on the flight that of all the music and Bollywood songs they could select from, they have "When a Man Loves a Woman" muzak  playing overhead. Wierd. We touch down at the cutest airport I've ever seen in Ahmedabad.  I find it hilarious that we get on a bus that drives us a whopping 25 yards to the entrance to the airport. I could have walked there in less time. I get my baggage, and the driver Indrajeet that Dr. Hitesh (Dr. Patel's husband who takes care of the business end of things) had arranged is waiting for me with a sign. I've always wanted to have someone greet me at the airport with my name on a sign!

As I drive through the streets of India right into oncoming traffic for the hour or so drive to Anand, all the memories rush back and it finally hits me that I really am back in India.  Some pics are from Anand, but a few are actually in Delhi at the tail end of our trip when I got touristy for a day and shot a few photos of the local flavor to show what it is like and what you'll see. They look the same, but Anand is much smaller and less developed, and you see more trash and burning in the streets and things are more run down.

Pimped out auto-rickshaw (Tuk-tuk)

Shops along street (this was actually Delhi)

Fascinating how much they fit on carts here!

Exported Rejected Doormats. Poor doormats.


Camels are common in Gujarat. And they're big!


Lots of men did double takes on their motorcycles at the white woman in a saree. Two almost had was funny!

Cows Cows Everywhere!

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