Can’t walk with my head held high in India… Literally!

Nope, I didn’t do anything wrong or shameful… I just realized I can’t walk without looking down in India..

I don’t get a chance to walk much during my trips to India.  On this trip, since I have been working 8-10 hours straight without stepping outside, I decided to take a quick walk for a couple of blocks and get a soda.  My driver wanted me to jump in the car.. but I thought I could use little exercise.  First, I started walking on the paved road… look at below picture to see how a typical roadside is.. paved main road and mostly uneven dirt/rocks next to it.  Very few roads have paved sidewalks.

Typical Sidewalk on a street
Typical Sidewalk on a street

First, I started walking on the main paved road and realized that I was about to be run over by Buses/Auto Rickshaws and/or bikes.  With paved road being so narrow, there isn’t much room for pedestrians (who don’t have right of way) to walk on it too… since I was walking against traffic, I was able to jump to the side of the road… I think I even heard “Intlo Cheppi Vachava?” (in Telugu), which meant, “Did you tell anyone in your house where you are going?”…  a famous sarcastic saying for people walking/driving recklessly.

Then I started walking on the side of the road on the dirt part, got a call and as I was looking at phone, I hit a rock on the road and almost tripped… since the side of the road is uneven, you really have to watch every step you take.. So after a couple of more near wipe outs.. I started walking “slow” and in little steps and I am sure people thought I was walking drunk or something.

In summary, I realized walking on busy streets in India is no longer safe for me… I have a lot of employees and can’t take risk of walking and crossing busy roads and called my driver to take me back to office… sad but true…

I can’t walk in the country I was born and lived for 22 years..  holding my head high… since I have to watch each step I take 🙂

PS: For all my expressed experiences in India… I want everyone to know, I am not complaining, it is way of life and it not “normal” for me anymore.

43 Hours… Door to Door – Part Deux

If you had the patience to read through Part 1, you may need more patience this time too… If you haven’t read part 1 yet… please read it here.

12 1/2 into the trip… Amsterdam Schipol airport, April 3rd.

I have been through this airport about 20 times now, so know exactly where to go and what to do… Arrived at Gate E17 and checked into Foursquare again and started my 10 min walk to the KLM lounge.  I just read an article that Amsterdam airport is now rated as world’s 3rd best airport.. I can see why.  This early in morning, more than half businesses are open, people arriving and fresh set of employees in Blue (KLM) directing people.  Arrived at KLM lounge, setup shop and read through all my emails, played a couple of games, freshened up a bit, but still 4+ hours to go.  Decided to rest in the “Relaxation Room”… dark, quite and long chairs to rest.. no talking or food.  Couldn’t get real sleep in, but about an hour into it, a couple of guys open the door and start chattering in some asian language from what I could gather, they are trying to figure out what this is… so I had to get up and “shhh!!” them… for myself and others in there… they realized it was sleeping room and closed the door.

I decided to get up now, freshen up again and start walking toward gate and enquire about the tour of the city for return trip (I have 6 hrs coming back).  It is a 3 hour tour and looks like I will be able to do it for sure.  Walking through Schipol, you will hear these 2 announcement over and over again… if you ever go through there… one is “mind your step..” on every moving sidewalk towards the end… similar to what we hear in US about “moving side walk is ending”… second one is “So and So… immediate boarding please, you delaying the flight, we will proceed to off load your baggage”… both in distinct accent.. that I can recall even before getting to the airport.

I noticed tmy flight said “boarding” on the departures board (still 1 hr+ to go), so started walking towards it, reached there and got through security (they ask you all kind of questions again…) to only see that they haven’t.  Started boarding at 9:45 a.m… here we go.

Flight #3: Delta Flight # 50, Airbus A330-200, Tail Number N855NW. Airbus 330-200 is slightly different – 4 rows of business class before the door, 2 after, and then Economy.  I am in 5H – and immediately realized that it is a heavy traffic seat since everyone has to pass you.. I was regretting my decision, but the seat next to me was empty… so let’s see.  Then a few minute later the bursur comes to me and asks if I would like to move to 1 A or 1 B.. I asked if there anybody else in the row? he said no, it is open.. so picked up my stuff and moved to 1 A… This is much better… 1st one to be served, no body next to me, and quiter.  We push back about 20 minutes late, but pilot assured that we will be arriving on time.

So same routine… nuts, drinks, lunch, movie… this time I watched “This is 40″… had some funny bits, but was too close to reality 🙂  Slept for almost 5 hours on this flight too. Woke up half an hour before landing.. filled out the immigration paperwork, switched out SIM card in one my phones to the India number, had another drink and passed over the meal service.. I  know in a couple of hours I am going to get some home made Indian food, so no more airplane food for me.  After all these hours, you are ready to back on the ground…. after a couple of loops around airport, we landed at 11 p.m. local time in India at Mumbai.. and at the gate by 11:15 p.m. – 5 minutes past our scheduled arrival time.  It is now 29 1/2 since I left home…

Getting out of Mumbai Airport… Always a challenge.  11 p.m. is like peak rush hour at Mumbai… all international flight arriving around same time… people running to get through the immigration lines… Luckily I was able to get into the line for PIO (Person of Indian Origin card Holder) and Foreign Citizens… Quickly out of immigration… made my duty free purchases and started the wait for my 3 suitcases.  Here I never seen any rhyme or reason… Priority Tags get you no where… I had bags come in early, late and never… so dug in for the long haul… this is a crowded area about half the size of our normal baggage belts with 250 people and 500+ suitcases.. watch out “toes”… 5 mins in, I see my first.. then second and what? third too?  Nice… got them all and I am out of here… well not quite…  I have to go through customs.

India is known for its bribes and corruption and it it everywhere… if you try to fight it, you don’t get anywhere… so I learned to live with it.  I have a projector for office, about 3 iPhones and bunch of small stuff… if I go through customs, they will try to make me pay an import fee of let’s say $200.  But I have to open each and every thing and could be an hour.  One of the “porters” asks me if I need help… in this case “help” means getting through quick… I said yes, he gets me through with a nod from one of the officers for $150.  He says he has to split with a lot of people.. for me, it is a known evil… and by me pointing it out, not going to rattle ranks and create a national debate… So I got out of airport with hundreds of people waiting outside and it is close to midnight now and it is 90 degrees and humid… yes, it is peak summer time in India.

I met up with my childhood friend Subbu, who now has the obligation of picking me up and dropping me off from/to airport every time.  It is not so bad for him, since I bring him their much needed supplies from US and they come to US for vacations and I plan all their travel.  It is a fair trade (I think)… There are no connecting flights to Hyderabad till morning and I really don’t want to spend 6 hours in airport.. We reach his house and start catching up on things, about their May trip, work, over late dinner (12:30 p.m) and drinks.  Finally went to bed 2 a.m. local time… it is 1:30 p.m. in Arizona, so I am really not that sleepy. But sleeping on a flat surface after 33 hours sure feels good and I dozed off….

The final stretch: Got up around 7 a.m. at this stage, you are really antsy to get to your destination.  I want to get home, see my Niece’s new baby, start work, etc.  My flight is at 10:10 a.m. decided to take a later flight so we don’t have to hurry in the morning.  Learned that my friend is also leaving for New Delhi at 10:30 a.m. so we both going to leave for airport around 8:45 a.m. – he lives only 10-15 minutes from the domestic airport  (same airport terminal on opposite end).   Arrived at Mumbai domestic airport around 9:10 a.m. – I requested an upgrade with Jet Airways, the biggest Private Indian Airlines using my miles and it did get confirmed, nice.  Went for check-in, knowing that I have to pay excess baggage fees.  I shed about 20 lbs at Subbu’s house and rearranged the 3rd suitcase to be a carry on with  almost 30 lbs… and still weighed in at 120 lbs.  In India they charge by the Kilo (120 lbs = 55 kilos).  The allowance for 1st class is 30 kgs.  So I have to pay $4 per kilo over the limit – so close to $120.  The ticket actually costed me $100… Had to go to another counter, pay the fees, come back and get my boarding pass.  Subbu and I made it through security quickly and at gate by 9:30 a.m. – ready to board last flight.

Flight #4: Jet Airways Flight #7017, Boing 737-800, Tail Number: VT-SIZ.  Boarded the flight and and settled into seat 2D.  This plane has only 2 rows in First Class, one of those old Air Sahara fleet Jet Airways bought.  I was in Aisle and the passenger next me showed up late and I kind of recognized him.  He is Mohan Babu, a famous Telugu movie artist who appeared in more than 550 films.   I didn’t want to pester him, but he started the conversation asking me where I was from, and then we had a nice conversation during the one and half hour flight.  Between him dozing on and off, finally got the opportunity to snap a couple of photos on my Phone.  I am surprised that he was so down to earth (at least with me).  I complimented on his stone studded Breitling watch and he said he didn’t know what kind it was, and was a gift from his son Vishnu (who is also a movie star).  I told him his son did “WELL”…

With Mohan Babu
With Mohan Babu

Finally landed in Hyderabad at 11:30 a.m. local time (41 1/2 hrs since left home), by the time I got my bags and got outside to meet my dad and our driver and another employee from office… it was close to noon.  The ride from Airport to our house is about another hour weaving through the traffic of India…

Arrived at my parents/sister’s house at 1 p.m. local time – exactly 43 hours since I left my house in Scottsdale… went to my sister’s place on ground floor first to see my niece’s one month old girl and then eventually upstairs to see my mom… bit exhausted, but glad to make it to my destination.  After unloading suitcases, quick lunch… I left for office in an hour and worked till 11 p.m. that day 🙂

So, there it is… my typical one way journey to India.  There are other ways to get there quicker, but not with the perks of upgrades.  Now that I have been doing this 3-4 times a year, over the last 5 years, it has become a routine and when I started documenting it, I feel more tired than the actual journey itself…

Thanks for making it through both parts (if you actually did).  Next up 6 hours in Amsterdam on my way back home in a few days.

43 Hours… Door to Door from Scottsdale to Hyderabad… Part 1

Warning! This POST can be very long and you may need to get your favorite beverage to get through it…

In the last few years I have been visiting my India office 3 to 4 times a year and a lot of people made quite a few comments…

How long is it? I don’t think I can make that long trip… I can’t sleep so I will have tough time… I feel restless, etc.  We all made long road trips, but this is a bit different for sure.

So here goes my one way trip from Scottsdale Arizona to Hyderabad India.

24 hours before (pre-trip): I usually start getting into travel mode the day before, try to ware myself down, so I can sleep well.  I now pack the night before leaving, start gathering items I will take, along with all the Amazon boxes that were received for my India shopping.  Around 8 p.m. I started packing and as usual tried to distribute weight in to the 3 suitcases (I can check 3 bags w/each 70 lbs or less in International Business class).  I didn’t actually weigh them, but have a good feeling about them.  I decided to get the dogs to their kennels tonight, since I won’t be seeing them for 3 weeks.  Sent a few emails, printed itineraries, and almost ready for bed – around 11 p.m.  The flight from Pheonix is at 7:15 a.m. – so at least want to get out of the house by 5:30 a.m. – so eventually ended up going to bed around 11:30 p.m.

2 hours before: Got up at 4:00 a.m. (less than 4 1/2 hours of sleep), woke up Lesli around 4:45 a.m.  As always time flies fast in the morning.  5:30 a.m. – still not ready trying to pack up  my computer and load the suitcases into car, etc. .. finally all set to leave 5:40 a.m.

0-1 hr : Finally out of the door.. 5:45 a.m. (April 2nd) – a little later than I wanted to, but no worries… They say you need to “check-in” 2 hours before for International flights.. but if I can make it before 30 minutes cut off, I should be fine…

Arrived at Terminal 3 of Phoenix Airport at 6:10 a.m. – usually get the attention of Sky Cap guys quick, this morning everyone seem to be a lot busier.. finally got one of them to help with the 3 heavy suitcases.  Inside the terminal the lines are long, but fortunately the Sky Priority line has no wait.  The suitcases are weighed.. 56, 51, 48… not bad.. actually less than what I expected, I should have crammed a few more things in… Being a loyal customer has its perks, the check in was fast, said my goodbyes to Lesli… If I had to go trough the regular line, it would have been a little stressful.  Was able to get through the priority line, through security in less than 5 minutes and at gate by 6:35 a.m.

I am still “Checking In” on my Foursquare app and now at Gate 17, I just regained my mayorship… I have been fighting this one with a couple of people for a while.. If you use the app, you will understand.  If haven’t heard of it before.. check it out at

Flight #1 – Delta 1446 (Boeing 757 Tail Number: N654DL) from Phoenix to Atlanta: They started boarding early – so I didn’t even wait 5 minutes at the gate to board the plane. I started settling into my seat and started replying to emails on my iPad passing on the offer for drink from the flight attendant.  We pushed back 5 minutes early and on our way… I tried to get my power nap in.  The time when they close the door, you have to shut off all electronics (not all of them do, but that’s a different story), until you reach 10 K feet for Wi-Fi to be on.. is typically 20-30 minutes.  I mastered the art of sleeping during this time so you can wake up and get to work.  I woke up to the “ding” noises they make after we reach 10 K altitude.  Started with my iPad for work, since they are going to serve breakfast and you have to stop temporarily anyway.  I choose cereal instead of eggs and potatoes.. since I have many more airline meals coming up, better to start light. Last thing you want is an upset stomach on these long fights…

As I got up to get my earphones from my bag overhead, I noticed a really familiar guy behind me.. I knew he was an anchor on ESPN and his name was on the tip of my tongue.. I looked up ESPN anchors on Google and it is Steve Levy.  Even without “make up” he looked very similar to his TV appearance.  I wanted to talk to him and mentioned about our new venture Golfradar… but I am not going to be one of those “guys”.  After breakfast, I got up again to grab my laptop for work and noticed Steve Levy was wearing Ryder Cup Golf hat and looking in my direction.. so I said:

“were you golfing in Arizona?” – he smiles and say.. no “Just the hat”.. may be he thought I asked if he played at Medina Golf Course which was on the the hat… “Dumb move”… I told my self and sat down and went back to work.

The next 2 1/2 hours went by fast.  Between the chats with India crew online, emails and everything else, I squeezed every minute until they ask you to shutdown before landing for work. After I shutoff all electronics the guy next me started talking about Atlanta and how it is his first time and I gave him a few pointers on where to go, etc.  He was reading Golfdigest so we ended up talking golf, PGA TOUR and of course Golfradar.  Gave him a card and asked him to check out our site next week.

Transit in Atlanta: 1:30 p.m. 5 hrs since left home

We landed a few minutes early.  I checked my next gate was E12, landed at A28… will be perfect walk for the next flight.  I have been walking between terminals in Atlanta for last few months – it is a bit long and much needed “exercise” doctor recommended.  As I started my walk, I notice Steve Levy is a couple of steps ahead of me… so here we go… I got my card handy… so I catch up to him and said…

“So heading back to Hartford?” …. another dumb move… nothing better to say?

He says “Yes and You?” – cool we are going to have a conversation now 🙂

Me: “I have 3 more flights to go.. my next one is to Amsterdam in an hour and half”

Steve: “What kind of flight is it?”

Me: “It is an Airbus 330” – (Idiot!! I said to myself – he didn’t ask you what kind of plane..) before I can recover he goes “I meant how long as is it?”

Me: “Oh (giggling), 9 hours and then another 9 hours and 1 hour”

Steve: “Wow, hope you sleep well…”

Me: “What were you doing in AZ?”

Steve: “I was covering baseball last night, back to the Studio now”…

By this time we are approaching the middle of the terminal and I have to turn right and he stopped to see which way he needs to go… so I guess it is end of the conversation. He says “Safe Travels, Nice to Meet you”… Dang.. so close, but couldn’t slip my card to him…

Brisk 20 minute walk to E12 (checking on Foursquare at will on the way)… it is 2 p.m. – not enough time to go to Lounge, they will board soon, so decided to hang around the gate.. doesn’t look like a full flight.  They announced that they will start boarding around 2:20 p.m. – made a couple of quick calls to customers and ready for my flight.

PS: If you are still with me here.. I appreciate it.  If not, I have to get better at my narration.

Flight #2: Delta 174 Atlanta to Amsterdam (Airbus 330-300 Tail Number N817NW)

Started boarding at 2:25 p.m. – Usually like to get on these flight when they start as you can get settled, have a drink and get yourself into the long flight mode.  I am in seat 2G (Aisle), looks like 2H is empty, I like it when it is empty so no one jumping over you to get to bathroom… but at last minute an ex-employee got the free seat that he was waiting for and was quite happy he made it (by his conversation on the phone, I got this part).

Settled into my seat, noticed that Delta changed to new amenities bag to Tumi… looks nice, took my shoes off and put on the travel socks, started sipping on the Champagne and started making my calls and last minute emails.. since International flight don’t have Wi-Fi yet, you can finally get “disconnected” and not worry about work for at least 10 hours.

We pushed back few minutes early here too.. the Bursar of the flight comes and introduces by name and calls your name and takes the order for dinner.  I noticed that she went and talked to all Diamond Medallions first and did her rest of the route… I guess they want us to get the first choice of meals (I can think I am special right?)…  20 minutes into the flight, they start the service.. warm nuts and first drink.  I decided to watch “Silver Linings Play Book” since I had to stay up until we finish dinner… I am pretty impressed with the movie… Bradley Cooper wasn’t particularly my favorite actor, but he was very good.. and of course Jennifer Lawrence was awesome..

Dinner and Dessert over.. time for my sleep… I noticed we are almost 2 1/2 into the flight and have about 6 hours left… looks like good tail wind.  I started watching Louis CK, and trying to fall asleep… it was another 30 minutes before I did.  I really don’t like the Airbus 330s.  They are the old fleet of Northwest and don’t have flat beds.  The seat extends quite a bit but is at a slant.. so you feel like you are slipping… but it is much much better than sitting the whole way.  I woke up “now and then” to see what is going on, I noticed the guy next to me is not able to sleep and kept getting drinks… I got a good 5 hours and skipped the breakfast service and woke up 30 minutes before landing… We are 40 minutes early and it is 5:20 am. on April 3rd in Amsterdam, by the time we landed.  That means it is still 8:20 p.m. on April 2nd in Scottsdale – and I already gone through the night with 5 hours of sleep on the plane.  My next flight is at 10:35 a.m. – almost 5 full hours to go.

I told you… it was going to be long.  I will cover the rest in Part 2… can’t believe it is going to be so long… oh well.

Part 2 in a few days…