This is the second part of the three-part series on my first visit to India to attend WordCamp Pune representing Jetpack. In the previous post in this series, I’ve gone over the traveling part of going to India from Bangladesh with a short layover in Sri Lanka. You can read it here if you’re interested in having a proof of how much I love traveling through airports. πŸ™‚

In today’s post, I’ll be talking about some of the things that stood out to me during my short stay in India. India is a neighbor to Bangladesh and a lot of things are pretty similar. One might say, you don’t experience that much of a difference in terms of scenery and views if you’re coming from Bangladesh.

But it’s still another country and some experiences were to be had. I’ve had them. I’ve listed some 7 things that stood out to me and I’m going to briefly touch on them in this post.

autos in india

Mumbai Airport

First things first, the international airport in Mumbai, known as Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport (Did I spell that right? I’m intentionally not looking it up and trying to write from the memory.), is one of the coolest airports I’ve ever been. It’s not just huge in size, it’s beautiful, it’s lovely, and it really makes you feel that you’ve just arrived at the LA of India where big budget movies are made.

mumbai airport departure
This is the international departure area of Mumbai airport shot as we were leaving Mumbai.

I truly wish I’d taken more photos inside the airport. From the moment I stepped off the airplane into the airport until I actually got down to the street, I didn’t feel like I was in India. Yes, I’d never been to India before. But the airport gave me an impression that I hadn’t expected to have.

I’ve heard that the airport in Delhi is also cool. But I don’t have a first-hand experience with that. So I’ll just say this: If you’re planning to go to India, you probably want to land in Mumbai. πŸ˜€

Uber is a Life Saver

Don’t get me wrong. For citizens, the autos (what we call CNGs over here) are probably life savers. But when someone lands from another country who doesn’t speak Hindi, the auto drivers generally tend to ask for an unfair amount of fare. It’s the same in Bangladesh. And I assume it’s no different in India. Without knowing what the actual fare would be, it can be really troublesome to get on an auto or taxi to move around.

With Uber, all we had to do is call up a driver, get in on the car, and get off when the destination arrived. It was that simple. Almost no communication with the driver beyond the usual greetings and occasional navigating. Most of the drivers were smart enough to check up the Google Maps that is embedded on the Uber app and get to the destination by themselves. A few who were confused, we were able to lead them to our destination without any issue at all.

I don’t know how much of a foreigner I am coming from an Asian country, because everywhere I go, people thought I was Indian before I spoke, but I can say that from a foreigner’s perspective, Uber is probably the best thing that has happened in India. It makes life so easier. I believe Indians share the same sentiment, too; although I don’t know how the fare compares to their regular transportations.

Kinley

Kinley‘ is the ‘Mum‘ of India. Or at least, that’s what it looked like during our short stay in Pune. Everywhere I went, the water bottles were from a company called Kinley. If you are a Bangladeshi, or you were in Bangladesh at some point, you’ve probably seen that in most official places you’ll see the bottles of ‘Mum’, which is sort of like the unofficially official mineral water of choice. In India, that’s most likely Kinley.

Women Biking

This one is probably not applicable for the most parts of India. I spent most of my time in and around Pune, and I noticed a noticeable number of women driving bikes. It’s not a common scene coming from Bangladesh. But then again, I think the area I lived in was kind of an area that’s different from the ‘average Indian’ areas. It’s hard to explain unless you lived in Dhaka.

See, in Dhaka, there are some areas that we call ‘elite’. Areas such as Gulshan, Banani, Bashundhara, Baridhara, etc. are the places where you can see a slightly upper class of lifestyle, choice of clothes and things like that compared to most other places. I’m not sure if I’m right, but for me, the area we stayed in — Koregaon Park in Pune — is one of those areas with expensive hotels and such. I haven’t seen a Rickshaw in the area. I thought, like Dhaka, India had plenty of them. So where did they go?

The only answer could be this: We were in an area where they were prohibited from entering. I can’t be sure, though. Maybe some Indian reader can clarify it in the comments?

Law-Abiding Drivers

I noticed a kind of obedience to the law in the streets every time I was out walking or going somewhere in a car. It was most apparent during Mumbai to Pune drive in the expressway. Every driver appeared to have used the indicator lights before changing lanes; a sight so hard to find in the streets of Dhaka. At times, I did see traffic congestions. But everything still looked to be rolling so smoothly that my Bollywood-trained eyes were getting confused. I thought they had huge traffic jams in most of the streets.

Or maybe, just like in the previous case, it was because I was in an area that’s a bit ‘upper class’ compared to the rest of the areas? I sure do remember traffic jam in and around Mumbai. A lot of it. So I can’t be sure. But in my first visit to India, this definitely stood out to me.

Another thing that stood out to me was police cars sitting in the dark. The sun had already set over the horizon when we were on our way to Mumbai from Pune. In the expressway, I noticed quite a lot of police cars sitting in complete dark. It reminded me of those Hollywood movies where officers sit idly in the dark waiting for someone to pass them while speeding. As soon as that happens, the police sirens start blazing and with lights on top, the chase begins.

I saw the cars on the side of the road, but sadly, nothing happened for the next part to kick off.

Zomato

Apparently, Zomato is the most favorite and most reliable way to check food menu and reviews of most, if not all, restaurants in your surroundings while you’re in India. I can’t say I’ve used it a lot because I go into extremely low food mode whenever I’m traveling and I stick to the food that I’m used to, things like burger and sandwiches, but the few times I went, Zomato helped out. If you’re traveling to India, this might be something worth looking at for all of your food needs.

Is it Puna or Bombay?

Something strange I noticed is how different people use different names for the same cities. I mean, I know it used to be Bombay at one point. But now it’s Mumbai, right? (Do correct me if I’m missing something.) But I’ve still heard a mix of Mumbai and Bombay from Indians and I was confused which one was okay to say and which one had more ‘coolness’ to it. πŸ˜› I mean, Dhaka used to be Dacca. Nobody calls it Dacca. It’s still Dhaka, pronounced and written as so. So what’s the deal with Mumbai and Bombay?

Even Pune didn’t get a free pass either. While some people said Pune as in cafΓ©, others said Puna as in Tuna (fish). I mean, is it PunΓ© or Puna? Make up your mind already!

So there you go! Those are 7 things that stood out to me, among many others that I didn’t care enough to note down or forgot to note down, during my four-day trip to Pune, India. If you’re an Indian, as I’m sure there will be some people from India coming from my Facebook and Twitter feed, please feel free to sound off in the comments and let me know what you think.

Also, stay around for the final part of the series which will consist of images and my brief thoughts on how the first WordCamp I’ve ever attended went, and what to expect if you’re planning to attend one in the future.

Written by A. I. Sajib

I love writing about technology, life, and everything between. I love photographing people. I'm a Happiness Engineer at Automattic/WordPress.com. The best way to get to know more about me is through my blog at http://ais.blog

12 comments

  1. They have upgraded airports in Mumbai, Delhi, Hyderabad and Bangalore. I am from south India so I land in Hyderabad. I only flew from Bangalore airport. I see no reason to fly via Mumbai, thankfully. I am scared of big cities and their crowds.

    Uber – taxis are like that everywhere in India. If they know you are not local, they will milk you. Being Indian, I faced this when I visited neighboring states. I look forward to use Uber next time I am in India. Regular taxies literally loot me.

    I love Kinley too. One of my close family member works for Coca Cola. People drink Aquafina too, made by rival Pepsi Co. I am happy with either of them in that order.

    Rickshawas are becoming rare in India. In my childhood, rickshaw was popular but over the years auto-rickshaws have replaced manual ones. Personally, I feel bad to be sit on my bum, pulled by another human. And most youngsters would think the same. That leaves very little market for richshaws in India πŸ™‚

    Prohibition rarely works in India unless it is sever prohibition like drugs and firearms. So prohibition is surely not the reason for disappearing rickshaws on Indian roads, afaik.

    Mumbai-Pune expressway seems to be the exception. Othewise your observation is correct. There is lot of chaos on Indian roads, yet everything flows smoothly.

    Zomato – I never used their app and have no plans to. They recently acquired largest restaurant review site, Menu Mania, here in New Zealand. On my drive to work, I see their billboard with “wtf” in big bold letters with a tagline “where’s the food” πŸ™‚

    There are lot of cities undergoing renaming in India. Bombay-Mumbai, Pune-Puna, Bangalore-Bengaluru, Madras-Chennai and I am sure there are few more. Not just metros, my hometown in one of the southern states has changed its name too, recently. There is no set rule. People call it whatever they like it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks a bunch for your inputs! Don’t worry about your typos. I speed-read your comment and didn’t notice any. πŸ˜›

      I’ve grown up in a big city so that doesn’t quite scare me despite the fact that I’m generally a very introverted guy and I would probably be sitting quietly even if I’m in the middle of a crowd. And I was referring to that exact point regarding taxis. It’s the same in Bangladesh, too. I was almost certain I was going to have some bad experiences while moving around. I wasn’t aware Uber had launched in India, and I’m glad it did. You should definitely try that out.

      I’m actually a bit surprised to learn that Rickshaws are becoming rare. I mean, yes, at times I do feel bad to be sitting while one guy is pulling all my weight all by himself. But Rickshaws remain to be the primary mean of short-distance transportation in Dhaka and all over the country. And I can say that it will remain so for the foreseeable future. The few roads where you’ll not see any Rickshaws at all are generally known as VIP roads where Rickshaw entrance is prohibited. But I can picture how better the traffic situation could have been if there were no Rickshaws.

      Also, call me crazy, but up until now I actually thought Madras and Chennai were two different places. πŸ˜› Thank you for saving me from being embarrassed in front of someone. πŸ˜€

      Liked by 1 person

  2. About the Rickshaw, I’ve been stating in Pune for almost two and a half years now, and I don’t remember seeing a rickshaw in any of the area, people rely on Auto Rickshaw (the first image of your post) for short distance travelling. Although, You’d find a plenty of them in Delhi ( NCR region )

    Liked by 1 person

  3. The local Marathi language people called in Mumbai but the British called it Bombay. The name Bombay stuck around for a long time and still does. But when it was changed officially, Mumbai being very cosmopolitan has a lot of people who dont speak Marathi and hence still call it Bombay.

    This is why a lot of people call it Bombay and Mumbai.

    About Pune and Puna – actually it was called Poona by the British and the older name of the city is Pune. Some Hindi speaking people or people from outside Pune call it Poona but usage of Pune is more or less widespread.

    I know its confusing but thats who we roll πŸ™‚

    About the place you were residing in. Yes, it was a very elite area but that is now why you saw so many women driving bikes. Actually Koregaon Park there are probably less women on two-wheelers than elsewhere in Pune, as most residents drive cars there including women.

    Atleast in Pune and Mumbai, you will see a lot of women travelling on two-wheelers or using public transport. This is city wide and does not have anything to elitist areas.

    In Mumbai, I never in my entire living memory remember a time when we had hand pulled rickshaws. I think they were around in the 80s only in Kolkatta. All of them are auto-rickshaws for atleast a couple of decades. Atleast in Mumbai and Pune.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Aditya for clarifying those. I literally had no idea and that makes a lot of sense. πŸ™‚ Also, it’s fascinating to know that Rickshaws are going extinct in India. I can totally see how much better the traffic situation would be if there were no Rickshaws, but the way it’s going, there’s no apparent sign that Rickshaws will disappear anytime soon in Bangladesh.

      Surprising to know that it’s already happened in India.

      Like

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