Jan 18, 2007

Horn OK Please

We exited the airport and looked around for a guy who would be holding a card with our names, since Ashu had kindly arranged for our transport from Mumbai to Pune by Taxi. I really didn't know what to expect, since we were hours late and I couldn't imagine that the guy would still be around, but we actually found him eventually... He didn't speak English, but the first thing he did was got us two bottles of Aquafina for the ride - how thoughtful, I mean really!

So we hit the road to Pune, which is a medium-sized city about 75 miles southeast of Mumbai; although it's not far, we were warned in advance that the ride takes 3-1/2 hours at best due to "road conditions." Just getting out of the big city was quite a feat, what with all the cars and animals and people in the road. Our first impressions of Mumbai were very skewed (as we would later learn) because all we really saw was shantytowns and beggars coming up to the car on the way to the road to Pune -- we weren't looking necessarily forward to coming back at the end of our trip. I didn't even know what to think about all the young women with babies approaching the car, and about the people sleeping on the sides of the road - I was too overwhelmed with tiredness and pretty relieved that I'd have a few hours to nod off.

We started our journey in the afternoon, but soon it was dark. I awoke to find our taxi in all kinds of hot water on the "highway." We kept coming up to slower-moving vehicles, and I noticed that all cargo trucks were brightly painted in a carnivally fashion, and they all said some version of "Honk OK Please" or "Sound OK Horn" painted prominently on the rear of themselves.

It didn't take long to see what was going on - people were supposed to just honk to let these generally slower vehicles know they were there. So you come up behind them, honk, try to go around them, honk more, and then when you're almost past them, you honk some more. Immediately after that you overtake another one, so you just do it again - it amounts to a non-stop honkathon from all angles. I later noted that this happens no matter what type of vehicle you're passing, whether it's a scooter or motorcycle or autorickshaw* or another car. You just beep the horn. You also beep the horn when going around a corner or a turn in a windy road. You beep at bicycles, dogs, oxen, piles of agricultural debris, burning trash, construction sites, goats, children, bales of sugarcane, painted trees, busloads of pilgrims, roadside shrines, and just to keep yourself company. (Later in the trip, Rajendra would tell us a story about the various meanings of the turn signal in India - it can mean "I'm turning this way" OR "go ahead and pass me on this side"... obviously a misinterpretation of the signal could be an immediate accident, but they seem to have it figured out.)

Eventually, we close in on Pune. We are to be staying at the flat of one Mrs. Asha R., known most famously as the mother of the one and only international man of mystery, Anand. Anand's family keeps this flat in Pune, even though they don't live there, because I think they go there often for business and/or pleasure. Our job was to get the key to the flat from Sagar, the son of the cousin of the mom of Anand. We kinda knew Sagar's address, and we sorta knew the address of the flat, and our driver kinda sorta didn't speak English. It was fun. Oh and also, they don't have addresses per se in India. Every structure has a name, and you say what street it's on in what city, and that's it. So for example:

Remi Bizcourt, Shah Industrial Estate
Off Veera Desai Road, Anheri West
Mumbai 400 053 India


3rd floor, Millennium Centre
Somajiguda Hyderabad 500 016 India


A-27, Mohan Co-operative Industrial Estate Limited
Mathura Road New Delhi 110 044 India

You get the gist. We were going to find Sagar at some address like that, and our driver kept getting out of the car to ask people where it was. Eventually, we found him, and he hopped in the vehicle with us to show us where the flat was and bring the keys over - we found it and dragged ourselves into the ye-olde-elevator up to the top floor where we entered and began to open up the place. Nobody lives there regularly, so it was fairly spartan. We flipped on the "geyser" (what the hot water heater is called) and tried to get the lay of the land. Our plan was to shower, go find food, and then pass out for the night. I went into the kitchen, turned on the light, and greeted a medium-sized albino lizard sitting in the sink. TJ and I teamed up to scoop him into a collander and shuttle him to the balcony, where we dubbed him Edgar Winter Jr. and released him into the night...

*One of these babies:


Blogger lil miss dubin opined...

tiny monkey, foot dangling. heeeeeey laaaaadieeees. (6)

5:45 PM  

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