A Passage to India

Monday, 25 February 2013 03:11 AM Written by  Gaurav Gupta-Casale

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2/9/13. Leaving the hotel in Florianopolis

“Does everyone know where their passports are?” Maddy asks the bus. It is around 7:30 A.M., and everyone has managed to collect themselves and pack their luggage on time. After everyone shuffles bags, purses, and pockets, Abby remembers that Clara has her passport. Clara tries to make up for being the last person on the bus by strolling up the aisle doling out skittles, sunscreen, and earplugs, like one of the many stewardesses that we will encounter on our 4 flight journey.  Mouth agape, Clara sprinted quickly to retrieve Abby’s passport.

I asked Hannah how she was feeling this morning.    “I am feeling a little bit tired, and a lot bit excited.”    Ally said that she was tired, and a little cautious, and definitely sad to be leaving.

2/9/13.   At Floripa Airport . 8:00 am.

            As Liza wondered if our cohort would succeed in forming a functioning line during check-out, Judy made the effort to responsibly hand out luggage tags. Clara was a little bit more relaxed than this morning, so I asked her what was going on. Since she has just finished reading Perks of Being a Wallflower, she was excited to watch it on the plane. (Luckily, on our flight from London to Delhi, Virgin Airlines provided us with a quite satisfying array of in-flight entertainment, including the movie Perks of Being a Wallflower). At the same time, Clara was very much dreading the journey.   But, “You got to do what you go to do.”

2/9/13.   Arrived in Sao Paulo, 10:59 A.M.

            After arriving in Sao Paulo, Hannah could use some Starbucks. Unfortunately,I think she has to wait for that experience until we are in China. (Nolan Fun Fact: The largest fast food chain in the world is KFC and not McDonalds). Professor Goodhart wishes for some sort of Star Trek technology, so we could be beamed to our destination.

Here is the list of what the people around me were reading/doing as we waited patiently in line for check-in.

  • Lizz-- Enjoying India: The Essential Handbook
  • Joyce-- playing Sudoku on her IPad
  • Judy-- it had something do with food.
  • Michael-- Late Victorian Holocausts
  • Clara-- Cutting for Stone
  • Maddy, Ally, Sarah, Sam, and Nolan- an edition of Cosmopolitan (horoscopes and “why text messages from boys aren’t always what they seem to be”).
  • Missy-- Perks of Being a Wallflower
  • Hannah- word search
  • Abby-- Seriously I'm Kidding
  • Dave-- NYReview of Books, a review of Joseph Anton (scathing review, describes Rushdie as selfish and self-aggrandizing).

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2/9/13.   Left Sao Paulo at around 5:20 P.M.

2/10/13.   Arrived in Madrid, 6:37 A.M.  

Looking around at the new international terminal at the Madrid airport, Michael observes, “It seems like the Pittsburgh Airport was designed before the revolution in airport architecture.”

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I agreed. With my brief exposure to the Madrid airport, I concluded that European cities seemed to have a nice finish, one that only history that can provide, one that the US has not yet accomplished. I asked Dave about European cities. He said that Europe focused on “not just building something new, but fixing something old.” I was a little upset that I could not discover this commitment to preservation in my travels.

It was a pretty uneventful flight, but if I had to guess, I think everyone suddenly realized how long and arduous the rest of the trip would be.  

But on a cooler note…. It is Sam’s 21st Birthday. WOOOOOOOH!!! (Sam celebrated at Heathrow – the highlights included a delicious apple cider beer in an airport pub and a game of ‘Cheers to the Governor!’)

Trying to mentally prepare ourselves for the most grueling part of the adventure (a 12 hour layover in Heathrow), the cohort let go of whatever stress by pressing their camera lenses to the window to capture a fire red sunrise or by joining Professor Goodhart in yoga.

2/10/13.   Left Madrid at 8:30 a.m. arrived at Heathrow at 10:05 a.m.

While waiting to collect our luggage, Michael organized a pool--who was going to lose luggage.   It was a small, friendly wager that everyone participated in. Later, Nolan was upset when he found out that the majority had bets on him.    As revenge, Nolan was secretly planning to sabotage Joyce’s luggage so he could win. Having already lost my luggage on a return flight to Delhi, I figured the odds of that happening again were quite slim – so Hannah and I (correctly and dare I say, shrewdly) guessed that no one would lose luggage.

On a more important note, we took the Heathrow Express to our pods in a Pod Hotel (Yotel) that PittMap kindly booked for us!  As Abby notes, the pods “were refreshing, very futuristic, and really comfortable. I especially enjoyed the shower. Definitely a cool, convenient way for people in the airport to get rest when they have long layovers.”

Finally after showers, naps, rugby, fish and chips, luke-warm beer, sporadic announcements that unattended luggage will be destroyed immediately, we made it to check-in at around 5:50 P.M.  We were checked in by an agent who made the process a lot more exciting and eventful than it had to be.   At any moment, I expected him to say ‘Pip Pip, cheerio!’ and fly away on an umbrella.

2/11/2013.   Arrived at Indira Gandhi Airport, Delhi.   11:50am.

We made it! Everyone exited the plane, only to find that Dave, Joyce, and Michael were not with us. After about 10 minutes of deliberation, Clara decided that it would be best to head over to customs by ourselves. We walked about 500 feet and then stopped immediately in front of the escalator that we were supposed to take down to customs; what we saw was a definite foreshadowing of the crazy adventures we are going to have in Delhi: a sea of crowded Indians, pushed up against each other, waiting patiently to get through to the other side to retrieve their luggage. Dave, Joyce and Michael were waiting for us at the base of the escalator.   And off we went to join the line.

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One last thing :   If you haven’t guessed already, this is going to be a very emotional and important 5 weeks for me. I feel like everyone is coming over to my house for an extended sleepover -- in the sense that I am allowed to share a very personal and very intimate part of my life. It’s crazy to think about the fact that my closest friends from back home, who know me the most, haven’t experienced a part of me that the Mappers now will. But after India is over, whether good or bad, I can’t wait to hear all of their first and last impressions on India.

Anyways, I hope India is ready for all of us!  

Peace, love, and Carnaval, 

Gaurav

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