We were in India in year 2004, New Delhi in particular, and precisely Faridabad. This place called Faridabad was not as what we imagined it to be.
Let me start with our arrival at Indira Gandhi International Airport. After flying for 5 hours in a MAS flight, we arrived in the evening and we were somehow surprised due to the condition of this international airport. I would say that as a comparison in Malaysia, this airport will not even look in par with our Penang International Airport. The interior was bad and old, there were not much Indian cultural presence showcased except for posters of some indian company advertisements.
We walked towards the immigration lane to get our passports validated and stamped. When it was my turn, the officer took my passport, did not even look at me but kept talking to me in Hindi and honestly, I did not understand what he said. I kept quite and looked to my surrounding, to see if there were anyone near me. No one was and my wife was at the other immigration lane. To whom is this officer talking to? Then the officer went silent and stared at me. After a few seconds, he said..."YOU ARE NOT AN INDIAN". I asked "Why?" He answered "You dont understand Hindi so you are not an Indian." I looked at him, smiled and said to myself...fantastic....even the Special Branch in Malaysia wont be able to do a super fast investigation as done by this officer. There was no smile on his face. Maybe he was expecting me to plead to him to accept me as an Indian even though I dont speak Hindi. (All this happened because I look alike an Indian, Pakistani, Araby, etc)
After that episode, me and my wife got ourselves together and walked away from the immigration section and headed towards the exit and looked for a bank to exchange money. We had approximately some USD3,000.00 and felt that it would be safe to exchange the money to Indian Rupees before exiting the airport. We saw a signage showing State Bank of India. Below the signage we saw two guys sitting on chairs with a pair of tables fronting them. We thought that must be the security desk or an information counter for the said bank and went along to ask those guys for an exact location of the bank.
Well again surprise...surprise....that's the bank. Yup, I am not lying. That's the State Bank of India, Indira Gandhi International Airport branch. Now this is what I call money underneath the table. They took our USD's and put it under one table and from under the other table, they took out the Indian Rupees. Then they told us that the branch is under renovation so they are operating it without walls and locks. How safe ones money can be.
Okay, thus far we had some fantastic surprising moments inside the airport. We were tired and hurried to the exit. We were supposed to be fetched by our business contact in India by the name of Sanjay Marwah. So we walked out of the airport and our eyes stopped blinking for a few seconds. We saw a cow sleeping at the airport exit doorstep. It was so noisy with vehicles honking and people talking, shouting, yelling, etc. Surprisingly, the cow stayed calm, undisturbed and unperturbed.
We looked to our surrounding and saw people sitting on chairs with old tables and there was a signage written "Limousine Service". Thanks but no thanks. I wonder what are limousines in the eyes of this limousine operators. Dare not try to ask them as I do know that in India there are more opportunists compared to opportunities. I called Sanjay and he was heading his way to the airport. We waited for almost one hour and he arrived with a friendly smile and we were happy to note that we will finally leave the fantastic, fabulous, full of surprise international airport. I mean as for now, we would leave, but eventually this is where we have to check-in to check-out from India.
The journey to Faridabad took about one hour. Some things that we saw were interesting and some were not. Honking and yelling is something common. I realised something weird with Sanjay, when he spoke to us he put his smiles on, when he look at other drivers on the road his face turns fierce, no smiling and he stares at them with a wicked look or maybe an angry look is more suitable. I realised this along the journey. I also realised that the vehicles on the road are mostly dented and had no side mirrors. I asked Sanjay why is that so and he said, "In India if you dont remove the side mirrors after purchasing the vehicle , then someone will be heartful enough to knock out the side mirrors for you". In regards to the dents on almost all vehicles "In India, we believe that cars without dent is not worth to be on the road". Fantastic....fabulous...me and my wife grinned and looked at each other.
We arrived at Faridabad and Sanjay took us to our hotel. The hotel was nice and neat .. from the outside. Remember that surprises only happens when you are too comfortable with what you see. Me and my wife were too tired and wanted to relax. Sanjay checked us in and we were taken to our room by the hotel staff. They were courteous and friendly, there were smiles all the time and they even bow to us as an element of respect. We did not like them bowing to us as we feel that it is a bit too much of a way to show respect to us. Then I realised that in India people hardly shake hands, so this is the way they greet you with respect. (This should be a lesson to some politicians in Malaysia that said nasty things about a PAS women candidate that did not shook hands with men).
We got into our room and closed the door, locked it and laid on the bed. After a short nap, I got up and went to the bathroom (people say if you want to know about a persons cleanliness, look at their toilet). So, it was not very clean and the windows were broken. There was a bath-tub but looking at how "clean" it was, lets just forget about soaking one's self in the tub. Minutes later someone knocked on our room door and I opened it. It was a guy from the room-service department. This guy asked me if we were comfortable and after I said "yes", he left with a smile. After another few minutes the door was knocked again, I opened it and it was the same guy again, he smiled and asked "are you sure everything is all right, sir?". I looked at my wife and then looked at this guy and said "yup, everything is fine". He smiled and left.
I told my wife, this is a bit creepy as situations like this never happened during our stay in other hotels whether in Malaysia or abroad. She agreed with me. Anyway, we were still confident on our safety as Sanjay is a reputable person here in Faridabad and we were close to him and furthermore we give him plenty of business opportunities. Just after me and wife finished talking, again someone knocked on the door. I opened the door and the same guy was there smiling and before he could say a word, I quickly put my hands into my pocket and took out Rs50.00 and gave it to him. He smiled and bowed and left. So, all the knocking was because I HAD FORGOTTEN TO TIP HIM AFTER HE SHOWED US OUR ROOM. Okay, case solved.
No more knocking and things were quite and we took a longer nap. After bathing, we got ready cause Sanjay will be fetching us for dinner. Today, dinner at his house with his family. Sanjay arrived and we started our journey. It was approximately 30 minutes from the hotel. The distance was not that far, the journey took time due to very poor road conditions. We experienced off-road condition at certain stretch and the surprising part is that, the roads were in the town of Faridabad (off-road condition inside a busy town).
After arriving at Sanjay's house, we were greeted warmly by his wife and children. Very nice people and the surrounding was nice too. It was a bungalow house located in the heart of a housing estate for the rich and famous. We had chicken and lamb. Everything was halal as Sanjay specifically asked one of his supplier that's Muslim to slaughter the chicken and he bought the lamb meat from a Muslim butcher. He knows the Muslim do's and dont's, thus he did not offer me to drink any alcoholic beverages. All this made our visit and dinner at Sanjay's house unforgettable. We shared our family moments.
After spending time at Sanjay's house, we made our way back to the hotel. Me and my wife made our way to our room and had another shower and took a long nap till dawn.
The next day events and happenings........please wait for the next episode.