Well the trip from Mumbai to Pune by car was extraordinary in many ways. I have heard for years from Aditi and others not to even think about driving in India. Well I now fully understand. On this trip, I came to realize the myriad of ways the horn is used. It is a delicate instrument, much like a surgeon’s scalpel. The foremost thing the horn is used for is heralding the arrival of the car you are in. This usually means I am merging in front of you or you cannot merge in front of me or I am passing you on the left or I am passing you on the right (these last two make more sense when you realize car lanes are suggestions not hard and fast rules). You will note that I have not talked about honking in anger or frustration. There does not appear to be any of that.
In a test of the professional driving skills of my driver, it poured so heavy, he was forced to travel at speeds much closer to the non-existent speed limits. Now don’t get me wrong, I did see 3-4 speed limit signs in the 4 hour drive, but they were going by so fast I am not really sure what they said. Many of the most thrilling situations came about as we were climbing up the mountains between Mumbai and Pune while weaving in and out of lanes and traffic. Although I cannot speak for the driver, I know it got my blood pumping even faster.
I was amazed that there was an eerie and uncanny similarity between the countryside outside of Mumbai and many parts of western Washington. If you ignore the different shapes of the buildings and only look at the countryside, you might have guessed you were in say Skagit Valley or Enumclaw. Then as we started the climb up the mountains it was so reminiscent of the Cascades that I almost missed Washington (lol). Since it is the tail end of Monsoon, there were waterfalls galore and the occasional truly severe rain followed by not so heavy rain. Ah the rain.
As we arrived in town, I guided the driver to exactly where I knew the apartment to be. We pulled into the driveway and the ever helpful driver (no I really mean that), asked the security guard where the Star Homes Apartments where and he told us they didn’t exist. So after an extensive questioning of all 5 million residents of Pune, we found one that told us we were in the right place, so back we went. This time we went to the other gate and there were additional people there who recognized the name I was given. They guided us to the correct building and lo and behold a mere three hours after arriving in town, I am writing you this missive. (Well I was a tad too optimistic about that 3 hours. It is now Tuesday around 10:30am local and I am still waiting for the irrepressive Ganesh to return with the WiFi card.)
Now do not get me started on the apartment itself. The person who is trying to help me is a 20 something young man named Ganesh. He appears to have the best of intentions but since he has limited English and I am even more limited in Hindi, we are having some challenging communication issues. Right now he is trying to recharge the cable box so that the TVs work. He has offered to supply me with a modem so that I can send this missive when I am completed and he offered and went to get me something to eat. The score stands at 1 out 3 at this moment but I have hopes to get the other two competed before I crash tonight. Just as an interesting tidbit of culture, Ganesh calls the boss lady his Ma’am and she calls me Mr. Mike. I want to know where America went wrong. I long for the old days when there was respect for authority, hehe. Okay, so I was never one that respected position, but that does not mean I can’t miss it.
This will come as no surprise to any of you, but at this point in time I am feeling overwhelmed. I cannot describe how much of a fish out of water I feel like. I am going to take these first couple of days and just try and get my feet under me, so that I can function to some semblance of normality, whatever that is, lol. Before sending this off Tuesday, I hope to take a few pictures from my fairly large balcony. I mention that because this morning I dared the traffic and crossed the street to have a sausage McMuffin and coffee at the McDonalds. You will also note in the picture that the same block also has a KFC. I must say, I think I have landed in fine dining heaven.
I hope to also include a picture of Koregaon Park. It is a nice little refuge from the hustle bustle of the rest of India. But its real claim to fame is that within its boundaries is the famous German Bakery which was the target of a terrorist attack in 2010.