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. 🙂
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.
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.
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. 😀
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‘ 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.
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?
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.
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. 😛 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 café, others said Puna as in Tuna (fish). I mean, is it Puné 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.