India Trip – Don’t Lose that Boarding Pass!

I took a few weeks off from my India trip blog, but before I forget.. this one is good and I’ll remember this for a long time!

When we were returning from Goa to Mumbai by Air.. this is an amusing (it wasn’t funny when it happened – trust me)…

I passed through security final security check point and my carry on bag was pulled aside for “questionable content”.. I had some small scissors in a case as part of my overnight stuff. Remember this is has been in my bag since we came to India and it was not flagged in ANY security check points neither in US nor on the flight TO Goa..

So I said to the security guy.. go ahead and take the scissors.. as I had forgotten that I even had them. They removed the offending item and I was on my way.. with my carry on bag.. Of course this is where the fun begins.

I met my daughter and we were getting some snacks pre-flight and I ask her whether she has my boarding pass and she of course says “NO dad.. you have your own pass!”. Of course I did not have it! I had left it behind at the security check point.. and in being flustered at the bag check.. I had left for the gate w/o the boarding pass.

We went to the gate and asked for a duplicate pass and of course.. the gate agent said “We cannot print  you a new pass, you will have to go BACK and get a new pass at the checkin gates”.. Panic sets in.. Keep in mind this airport is ultra modern with all the amenities you want except #IndigoAir cannot print boarding passes at their gates!

The agent tells me to go back to security check point and see if the boarding pass was pulled aside.. I race back to security and of course it’s not there.. The security officials send me to the customer security desk.. monitored by the military.. I go over to the security desk and explain to them my situation (and the officer was very very patient and helpful I must say)… he was aghast that the gate agent asked me to go back through security to get another duplicate from the check in gate agent at the front of the airport!

After I tell him my sad stupid mistake.. he asks me to go back to the gate and get the gate agent.. so I race back to the gate and ask the gate agent to come to the security desk.. so now we both go back to the security desk and she says again.. “Customer must get new boarding pass from check in desk at front of the airport”.. The army officer goes ballistic and says.. “No.. he is the customer.. you go to the front and get him a duplicate”.. After a few minutes of back and forth… the gate agent finally agrees to have a duplicate boarding pass sent back through security  gate.. so I can board my flight!

This wait was about 15 minutes.. whereas the gate agent said they would print the duplicate and be here in 2 to 5 minutes.. Well of course this was not the case.. So here I am sweating profusely at my stupidity for losing my boarding pass after security check.. as well a quite bit embarrassed. By this time my daughter is texting me as our boarding time is approaching for our flight to Mumbai is approaching…

Finally the Indigo Air customer service agent comes and gives me my duplicate boarding pass.. I snatch it and make a beeline to the gate. Can you guess what happens next???

My daughter and I are boarding at the gate and the gate agent (a new gate agent).. says “Sir you cannot board.. Your boarding pass is not security stamped!”.. So the gate agent tells me to “run back to security and get the boarding pass security stamped.. Let me lay out this scenario.. the distance from the gate to the security check point is at least 1/10 of a mile..

So now my daughter boards and I sprint back to the security check.. I ask the military official to stamp the boarding pass.. and he just looks at me in disbelief and and refuses to stamp my pass.. By this time.. I’m sweating profusely and my NY attitude is surfacing with multiple choice words about to be expounded by my vocabulary..

Luckily the security desk guy (again.. I must say this officer was totally amazing!).. sees my distress and comes over and tells the other guy to stamp the pass.. I guess he had rank.. so the security reluctantly stamps the boarding pass.. and I race back to the gate to board the flight finally!

Now lessons to be learned here:

  • Never ever assume that security in Indian Airports is consistent
  • Never ever let go of your boarding pass when you pass through security check in India.. Of course.. there is NO cellphone boarding passes.. so you are always dealing with paper!
  • Remain calm.. always say to yourself —> “This is India and you are wrong.. as they are just following their directions”.. this will absolutely nullify any anger and panic you are feeling
  • Security at Airports is very very tight… If you don’t pass through multiple security check points with the same information.. something is very very wrong.. The terrorism threat in India is taken very very seriously!
  • Stay Calm! After all you are the one at fault. even if what is the norm in America.. you cannot expect this level of normalcy in India.. even if technologically India has really surpassed America (i.e. Dual Sims Phone are the norm in India.. we don’t have ANY Dual sims phone in US!)
  • Remember that even though technology is superior in India.. they are still living in the paper world with process!
  • Always, Always, Always.. make sure your carry on bags don’t contain anything that may cause you grief.. Well how would  I know that my cuticle scissors that I’ve been taking everywhere would be flagged at this airport??

After I got on the plane.. I did a silent prayer and told my daughter of the whole episode.. She of course was laughing so hard that tears were coming out.. Well what more can you expect??

So my next post will talk about what happened with Air India on the way back to India. Again.. totally my fault.. but who knows what is can happen when in India..

Big Fat Indian Wedding in Mumbai

When I say I was overwhelmed by the wedding in December, it is an understatement. After we settled in, there was constant activity at my cousins house for the wedding preparations. Every day there was activity, more family visiting, more ceremonies, more rehearsals for the the festivities (Pre-wedding and wedding).

For 5 days we didn’t even leave the general vicinity of the house we were staying in. Shopping, eating, shopping, eating, dance rehearsals, wedding preparations and daily evening festivities were the order of the week. For these days passed so quickly, that I felt like I was living in a different world. So this was what it meant to have a real Indian wedding!

We were fortunate that we had purchased a cell phone with totally “free” service so we could communicate with the outside world. Keep in mind as a foreigner this kind of purchase has to be done by a native. For approximately $80 I got a phone which had dual Sims and unlimited data, voice and text messaging. Outstanding!

We were able to get currency exchange at the local market (thankfully), so we were able to spend cash freely. Keep in mind, the de-monitization issues were still visible everywhere. No money at ATMs and getting change when you do spend money was not easy.

With every day wedding activities and shopping, by end of day, we were exhausted and just wanted to sleep. Keep in mind of the first day or so we were both having jet lag issues, so sleep was a commodity!

Anyway.. we survived and back to the wedding preparations:

The love within the family for each other and their togetherness was absolutely genuine. What I realized is that family is family no matter if you are in India or outside the country. First and second generation cousins who had never met each other were spending hours upon hours and days together and enjoying each others company! Every day was a blast! When you have a large family like mine (I have like 17 first cousins), and of course these cousins have their kids!

Generation 1 (me and my cousins) and Generation 2 (the kids of my cousins) were so amazing and so in tune with what needed to get done for the wedding. There were three major event preparations happening simultaneously.

  1. My aunt’s 80th birthday celebration and the wedding preparations. Two nights before the wedding was my Aunt’s 80th birthday celebration. This was  a dual event as in addition the the birthday celebration, there were simultaneous Henna being applied to all the women and girls that were part of the wedding celebration!
  2. Dance Rehearsals for the Dance party (Sangeet) the day before the wedding ‘
  3. Wedding preparations (including all Hindu religious pooja’s  and food preparations on a daily basis

All of the above was going on in the same house we were staying!

My Aunt’s birthday celebration was a huge success. She had no idea about the party and she was absolutely overjoyed. For me it back fond memories of my mother and how great it would have been to see her here enjoying her younger sister’s 80th birthday party!

The night before the wedding was the Sangeet (singing and dances) celebration at a hotel near to where we stayed. OMG, the preparations, the dance rehearsals (your’s truly did perform a dance – which we will not discuss further), and the performances at this event were a sight to be seen. Let’s just say the alcohol was flowing and and everyone was having a great time!

The next day was the wedding! This wedding was an all day affair that included wedding and reception. There must have easily been a combined of about 500 to 750 people at both events. Of course my cousins and our huge family out staged everyone at the wedding and reception. We are absolutely a loud bunch of people! Someone called me their ring leader,  yet I do resemble that remark!

To see a wedding like this is kind of overwhelming! To see cousins and family you have not seen in years is such a joy and you get a sense of belonging. This is something I absolutely feel at times here. I really don’t have any close relatives that are in NJ and my cousin in California is quite a distance away.

Pre-wedding  shopping that my daughter and I did was endless. My daughter and I had to buy our wedding outfits and even though it was pretty straight forward, the choices were amazing. As I had said in my other posting, everything was just a taxi ride away at the local market area in Vile Parle East. Even after converting into dollars the purchases were a tremendous bargain!

By the time we got home from the wedding reception, we were exhausted!

The day after the wedding, my daughter and I took a taxi tour of Mumbai.. This was amazing! The crowds, traffic and the sights and sound of Mumbai was visual and audio overload! Let me leave details on this for another post!

The wedding celebration my daughter and I experienced, is something that neither one of us will forget for a long long time. It was exhilarating to spend time with family and to see the love that my family showed towards each other was something I have NEVER experienced.

To say that this wedding was “A big fat Indian Wedding” is an understatement, but from what I understand, most weddings in India are like this!

 

 

 

 

 

India 2017- A Trip in Review

First in a series of posts on my Big fat Indian Wedding in India and random thoughts of my trip to India in December of 2016

In the last month of 2016, My daughter and I went to India for the first time in o
ver6 years. We went for an Indian wedding and to say we had the time of our lives would be an understament.

India
India 

To see India as a native is also an experience that was eye opening. There is no country that is more diverse and has sense of pride than India. This country is a super power and you see this everywhere!

As many of my readers know, my writing is infused with a sense of humor. Over the next few postings, I’ll convey to you my views on what I saw during my vacation in Mumbai, Goa, Pune and back to Mumbai. Many of my opinions will invoke responses (hopefully). Much of what I saw and my thoughts should be just considered my views and treated with the humor and realism, I try to inject into my postings.

When I go to India, I am a foreigner.

  • I’m what they refer to as an IBCD (Indian Born confused Desi (slang term for a person of Indian Origin)). This year when I went to India with my beautiful 24 year old daughter, I went with an open mind and went without the normal prejudices I bring to the table when I visit India.

My experience in India was amazing! The changes in the lifestyle of the people that call India home (regardless of whether they live there or are NRI’s like myself), has progressed tremendously.

Some ramblings to start:

  • Be prepared to walk – When you get off the plane, the huge rebuilt terminals are just that.. huge and spacious.. your walk from your plane to immigration and customs will be at least 10 to 20 minutes. The vastness of the international airport in India is a sight to behold. The same holds true for the aiport in Goa.  What you experience in these terminals is for another posting.
  • Your Dollar goes further – If you are coming from United States, you are already at an advantage as you are getting a favorable return on currency. One dollar equals $67 Rupees. This number might make you feel rich, but the fact is that even with this favorable returns on currency exchange, it is quite expensive to get around (be it by taxi or other mode of transportation).
  • Currency and De-Monitization: 2016 was the year of demonitization of the 500 and 1000 rupee note.. this made getting money via ATM, via currency exchange an adventure. Empty ATM machines and Limitations on how much you can exchange for currency for me was quite restrictive. At the airport, I could only exchange $40 for local currency!
  • Change Anyone? Make sure you have plenty of cash on hand and change. Due to de-monitization and the basics how things run in India.. Don’t expect to get change easily.. So everytime you get change for currency you are using for payments, treasure it. You will need it!
  • Rules of the Road: There are none.Forget the concept of normalacy and organized traffic patterns  when it comes to automotive traffic and travel. The law of the land is “If u are in a car, Look Forward only, and lane indications are just for sake of having them“.  Remember that when you cross the streets.. you need to always look “right-left-right” and if you are an NRI, for the first few days, you are always looking the wrong direction when crossing ANY street!
  • Traffic is a mess, but rarely do you see any car that has dents or has been damaged due to an accident. The patience and skills that drivers in India show is amazing.. I have to applaud the patience of every single driver that is in a car, motorcycle, scooter, bus, taxi, rickshaw… and any other vehicle that is on the road!
  • Technology in India is at par with what we see in the US. In certain thing we have been left in the dust. Can you get a dual Sim phone in the US for less than $80?
  • Travel is divided into multiple categories: Pedestrian, Car, Public Transport, or Taxi (can be rickshaw, or taxi). Yes there is even Uber in most cities in India!
  • Travel Light: You can literally go to India with a carry on and get everything you need within 24 hours! With Malls and markets readily available buying d Clothes is not a big deal.. be they Indian or western (for me that’s Jeans, shorts and short sleeves).. So my suggestion is pack light and leave lots of room for souvenirs and clothes that you MUST buy!
  • Family is family – For me I met I attended my first real “Big Fat Indian Wedding”. The size of my family is huge and to meet them in one fell swoop is not only overwhelming, it’s touching. Considering I have 17 first cousins and each of them have a few kids, the family in attendance at the wedding was huge!
  • Curb your apppetite – With India comes food. You get the best variety of food in the world. Be it vegetarian or non-vegetarian. If you are looking for beef you are out of luck! Cows are sacred in Hindu religion, so you will not get any beef (or at least I didn’t find any) in Mumbai). Friendly advice… if your stomach is weak, make sure you take enough meds to settle your stomach, otherwise you will be making constant trips to the bathroom.. Most of these will not be pleasant as you will be running there! I was lucky.. I only had only 24 hours of this unpleasantness, but the symptoms were around constantly!
  • Security – India is very secure. With all the threats of terrorism, you will see plenty of armed military from the time you land to the time you leave. You will not feel insecure when it comes to this. At times this is overwhelming, but you will see that this is absolutely necessary with the world we live in.

There is so much more that I can write about my trip. I’ll use the next few postings over the next few days to give you my spin on my trip.