Goa + Rajisthan = Returning to Bombay with a mustache and a story

posted by on 2007.12.16, under India, Other, Travel

Here is rough recap of the travels that a blog can only touch the surface on trying to summarize…

Travel problems seem to follow me wherever I go, Rome, Leipzig Germany, Hyderabad, and now most recently Bombay. The 10 day vacation planned was all set, flights, hotels and trains all booked through much appreciated help from family and friends all around India. Marie, my American travel accomplice was set to come in on the 11/30 night, and we were off to Goa 5 hours after her arrival to enjoy the country I had made my place of employment. I was ready for a vacation.

But…Maries flight did not reach the 30th. The time difference was overlooked, and although her arrival time on the eticket said 11/30, the plane reached 12/1. Go figure. We managed a last minute flight to Goa the following morning in the end, and barely made it on the plane on time as the security guards and I had an 30 min confrontation about my guitar possibly having a bomb hidden in it….yes, these guys wanted to disassemble my guitar to remove the electronics inside, suspecting I was a terrorist planning on the blowing up their airplane. Apparently, I get that a lot. The funny thing was that not a single person asked me for photo id. We finally made it on the jet and enjoyed 3 days in Goa, a place full of warmth both on the beaches in inside the native people of the land.

My family is from Moira, a village just outside of Mapusa, and it felt damn good to be back there. My grandmother and aunty prepared a huge seafood feast for us, and shared pictures telling stories about our family history. Most of the stories were told about my grandfather, a man I will always strive to be like. I was surprised to hear the actual details of his job as head of affairs for the Palanpoor Newab. (Muslim king) The stories I heard that day from my grandmother will always stay with me, and it was one of the most memorable days I have had in India so far. Since arriving in August, I have constantly wished that both my grandfather and my cousin Nigel were still around to witness my move back to the motherland. My fascination with the Newab and Nazim rulers was only to understand more of my grandfather;s life. This afternoon spent in a small Goan village finally filled that void.

The following day, my auntie took Marie and I north to a remote beach shack that her friend Toffee lived at. Toffee was another character I met in India who I will always remember….By far the coolest woman with a very unique perspective on life, and the most relaxed attitude with absolutely no tension. She was sort of like a female version of the character Johnny Depp plays in Pirates of the Carribeean.

With little no no commercialism, Mandre‘s beach gave us the ambiance we were looking for in Goa. We sipped on Kingfishers, ate fresh seafood, made friends with crazy Britishers/Argentinians and soaked in the sun without being marketed to by dolphin boat companies, women with beads, or any other members of the tourism industry which unfortunately has taken over the state. The only salesmen I met on this beach pitched me on an ear cleaning service costing only 15 rupees. Awkward…

Later that night we met up with some of my Hyderabad friends also visiting Goa and got a glimpse of the internationally famous nightlife. We started off in a club on Baga beach that looked like identical to the club in the movie “Scarface.” I was joined by 4 attractive girls all wanting to dance, and dance we did. Wild night, and I have to modestly admit that I might have owned the dancefloor this crazy night in Baga. In fact, A group of guys came up to me and simply shook my hand, no words spoken. Straight up respect.

We wrapped things up in Goa and made way for Jaipur, the pink city of Rajisthan. We left Jaipur 2 hours after arriving and hopped on a train headed for Udaipur, the city of lakes . Two of my friends from WMU invited me to visit them in their beloved hometown. Accepting their invitation would prove to be the wisest travel decision I made in India.

With a change in transportation mode from planes to trains, I was still not able to avoid confrontation. We started off this trip with a mix up in our tickets, sitting in the wrong train compartment. The rightful owners were very upset about our honest mistake, and apparently called us “dumb white monkeys” in Hindi. I was irate when my cousin translated his words later in the night. I like monkeys tremendously, but I hate racism.

I have been met with similar racist remarks often on this trip to India. My father and mother shared the came citizenship as these people, but that has certainly not earned me any more street cred than any other foreigner with absolutely no Indian heritage. This public humiliation was something I did not expect when I decided to move to India. My father has never experienced anything similar to this in his 25 years in the US. Moreover, I feel embarrassed that this happens to a guests like Marie and other westerners. They are respectful people genuinely interested in learning about Indian culture. This is something that needs to change in India, starting from the tourism industry which blatantly charges white people 10x more for entrance fees into the beautiful attractions in the country. They charged Marie 200 rupees to get into places that darker skinned people and only had to pay 30 rupees to go to.

Back to the train…I let the situation on the train go without retaliation, much to my own regret but for the peace of the travels we had ahead of us. The result was that we had the best 4 days in Rajisthan that anyone could hope for.

Check out the pictures
Album 1
Album 2

Summary of Rajisthan – Stayed in a palace penthouse, beautiful scenery, architecture, boat rides to island palaces, met the Maharana (King) of Udaipur by interrupting an important business meeting to introduce myself as”Jason D’Mello from Kalamazoo” and took a picture with him (see below) riding unstable elephants down over populated streets, watching Rajisthani performers and dancers, eating on lake front palace restaurants next to the 2 British men who I had interrupted to meet the king 2 hours earlier, heavy bargaining and negotiating in fabric stores with my cousin Sonia, and mischief throughout the Palace Penthouse.

The King and I

Got back to Bombay in high spirits, parted ways with my travel friends, and made a last minute trip back to Hyderabad for business. It was a vacation that couldn’t have been scripted, it was just simply brilliant. I wish you all will have a trip like this sometime in your own bad ass lives.


They Just Won’t let me leave!

posted by on 2007.12.15, under India, Travel

It seems fitting that my departure from Hyderabad would be an struggle. 4 months ago, I would never have imagined over 30 people coming to see me off. The day itself was chaotic, as the work in the office was not completely finished, but as with any start up endeavor nothing really goes as planned. I said my goodbyes at the Threshold office I had tenured at, went to my house to say goodbye to my new family. I bought a beautiful painting of a famous lord krishna scene to thank them for the generosity the past 120 days. After all, they gave me a wonderful home without charge, and showed me the kind of warmth and hospitality that traditional Indian household’s are famous for having.

While we ate dinner, the neighbors stopped over to say goodbye. The young boy, Aditya presented me with a handmade card. He probably had taken a liking to me because my American accent reminded him of the place he was born. The gift was completely unexpected and caught me off guard. Days before he woke me up at 7am to play cricket, pounding on my door with his brand new bat. I only woke up to answer out of fear that the Indian officials were after me for somehow violating my visa. I couldn’t refuse to play with him when I saw how excited he was with his new sporting equipment, and went outside to bowl to him.

His gift (below) put to shame the painting I had gifted to my host family *Note that he called me “Jason Uncle” like the kids we had taken to the park for Children’s Day through the AIDS organization….I don’t know if Im ready for that title.

(It was nice meeting you we had a great time and lot of fun. Look forward meeting you again and playing cricket with you again. Have a nice trip around the world. See you again buddy bye bye. It’s a Four4 Dude)

2 hours later I was on my way to the airport, after the third round of goodbyes at Bottles and Chimneys. Satya seemed down all day, but got me to the airport as soon as possible. For the first time, Satya was not able to get me to my destination in time however, as the airlines refused to let me leave Hyderabad. I had arrived just 5 minutes after the check in time, and they closed the gate while I was in line.

Obviously I was pretty upset about the situation. People were still going through security check! Moreover, Goair never mentioned to me anything about a final check-in time. I’ve flown over 15 flights in India the past 4 months. Only 3 flights have ever left on time, so I assumed the usual 30 min rule I use for air travel really applied. Lesson learned – Indian Standard Time is not something to depend upon with airports.

Since the airlines mishandled the entire situation, refusing to let me talk to anyone in charge until the flight actually took off, I felt the need to vocalize my frustrations. I created a scene worth writing an episode of curb your enthusiasm on. I spent 45 minutes yelling at the man in charge for how his company acted at the check in, for not printing flight details on etickets, and for just being an obnoxious human being. My most trusted friends in the city witness all of this, as they came to the airport immediately after hearing I missed the flight, and stayed with me until 3 AM.

This man, a complete stranger, had been observing my behavior since I arrived at the airport.
He eventually interrupted my monologue damning GoAir to years of soft business. He surprisingly took my side in the argument, telling the GoAir manager that it was completely unreasonable not to put me on the plane saying “come on yaar, this is India.”

After I realized that i succeeded in humiliating the manager, I wrote down all of the employees names. I told them that they “handled the situation like a bunch of monkeys” I drafted up a statement, describing all of the incidents that had happened at the airport, and presented it to the manager, who agreed with everything I had written. I asked him to sign the document, and he refused. I called him a coward, and left it at that. It was an ugly scene, I am not proud of my behavior, but I don’t regret it… I said all that I needed to say.

I needed to get to Bombay, so I booked a 3am flight with Spice Jet (which was supposed to leave at 9pm the previous evening).

That was my exit from the city I was not ready to leave. I was off for a 10 day adventure through Bombay, Pune, Goa, and the Rajisthan cities of Udaipur and Jaipur. The joke of the whole debacle in the airport was that in two weeks I would return to Hyderabad on an unexpected business accidentally book a flight with the same airlines trying to avoid an airline that I had also had problems with in Goa. I was reunited with the crew I had publicly scolded, and yes, everyone remembered me the second time around. They made it very clear of this at check in time. To their detriment, I arrived to the airport not just 30 minutes early, but an hour and thirty minutes early. Not even GoAir could screw me with that kind of timeliness.