May 21st 2010 New Deli (scroll down for video)
Our flight to New Deli was quite smooth despite a few mess ups by Delta airlines who could not seem to handle the task of processing 10 bags that the band has to shlep halfway across the world. All together our flights ended up being around 16 hours thanks to sitting on the runway for several hours at the congested JFK international. Door to door including a stop in Amsterdam I suppose it was about 21 hours. We were met by an expediter just inside immigration which earned us a spot in the diplomat line. Within 5 minutes we were moving on to baggage claim. Adam and Jasna’s suitcases where both missing, however all of the gear arrived safely. The guards at customs gave us a bit of a hassle but Charlie and I broke out some gear and played the Indian national anthem. Nice applause and away we went no more questions asked! Within a short while we were perched in our hotel restaurant for some overpriced Indian food. At this point it was 1am the day after we departed JFK. 9 ½ hours ahead of New York time. Why the half hour? I have no idea but it messed me up at first.
May 22nd 2010 New Deli
After a semi decent 6 hours of rest I was awaken by the sound of horns, motorcycles and cars. I looked out my window and I was looking at one of the busiest freeways I have ever seen. I thought “wow, 4 star hotel, business class room with a major highway within rock throwing distance”. I had to wonder why they would put their guests that arrived that late against the freeway. Later that evening I would be told the hotel is completely full to capacity and that I could not move after being promised a quiet room. I began explaining to the front desk man in my slightly persistent/urgent tone that that another night of not sleeping was not going to work at all for me. Suddenly there was a room across the hall from mine and porter joined me for a quick transfer.
The band met for a full on world class breakfast. We embraced the local cusine and had the chef fire us up a Dosa platter. I am not even sure what it is but wow was it good! Especially with masala tea. We would say “chai” tea in the states but chai means tea in India so we are essentially saying “tea tea”. So this marks my commitment to spread the word and start calling it spiced tea or Masala tea. Masala just means “any number of spice mixtures ground into a paste or powder.”
Scott and I decided to take a little foot journey after breakfast and get some cash as the hotel was not giving us such a good deal on currency and I am pretty current on my currency markets. The rate outside of the hotel was so good that we would save enough to buy several meals per $100 that we exchanged and that was a good enough reason for me to walk several blocks in 100 degree weather. That few blocks we walked was almost surreal. Within a few minutes we acquired an “entourage” of young kids begging for money. All I could really offer them was a magic trick or two and a courtesy thank you in Hindu. Then I asked them for money; it didn’t work as well as in other poor nations. I became very clear that the Indian nature was to wheel and deal for anything and everything weather it be in a shop or jockeying for a spot in line. One thing we learned right away was the people here are more than willing to jump in front of you in a line but being from New York we layed down the law right away. A little whistle to grab their attention and gesturing to the back of the line seemed to do the trick. I also noticed kids would steal your luggage cart if you turned your back for a second although they didn’t seem to bother you if you already had luggage on it. It was just unreal the amount of activity in a few blocks. It made New York’s China town seem pretty sleepy! Ladies hauling off construction debris and cement on their heads in 5 gallon buckets. People sweeping up piles of plastic bottles and trash in the street and burning it. Little 3 wheeled cars, motorcycles, bikes just driving like complete maniacs; and the horns were out of control. It made mid town New York sound like the quiet car on a train or a library. Scott and I even had to dodge a car going the wrong way on a one way 3 lane highway. I got the sense that New Deli was pretty much lawless as far as traffic goes and I have a new understanding of why New York cabs drive the way they do as many cab drivers come from this part of the world. Lines on roads just do not matter, plain and simple!
After our little outing the band hired a driver for the day. It would be about $20 each to have our own van and driver for an entire day so off we went. Our driver; I don’t remember his name but I nicknamed him Avis since his tag said Avis before his real name which was kind of difficult to remember. We went to the parliament building, the Indian gate and the lotus temple. We also had a nice meal, did some shopping and picked up some art and even found a great espresso joint where the employees wore orange shirts that said “more coffee” on them. The most interesting thing of the day was driving in the craziest, busiest traffic in the world. I mean, I could believe how many people they could fit on a motorcycle, let alone how dangerous it is to fit a family of 5 on o small motorcycle. I have started a photo series that will be dedicated to odd motorcycle cargo. On this day alone I have snapped some good shots of some pretty interesting stuff! I suppose the one striking thing about India is the huge gap between rich and poor. I saw entire family’s living under pillars along side the main highways. At least I am assuming they were living their or maybe just having a picnic with the family in the middle of two highways and dressing the kids for the occasion. It seems poverty is a big big problem in this part of the world. Even in busy shopping areas the urine smell was so strong our eyes would burn when walking in some areas, especially when there was some construction going on as there was some cover.
By the time we arrived back at our hotel it was around 8-9 pm and we were all ready for bed; the jetlag has been kicking our asses hard. Jasna and Adam still had not got their suitcases and they were wearing the Charlie Porter Quartet t-shirts Charlie had made for us. I fought the tiredness until about 10:30 and that was it for me.
May 22nd 2010 6:45 am
I awoke around 5:30 but kind of hung in bed for a bit before hitting the grand breakfast again before our final flight of the week which would get us to our first destination of Hyderabad in the south eastern region of India. It is now Monsoon season so I figured it might be at least interesting. The airport was of course interesting! And after checking in a man came up to Jasna to notify her that a piece of Jazz at Lincoln Center luggage was found sitting outside on the curb. It turns out it was mine. I had been tending to someone else in the bands suitcase along with my entire drum set. Ooooops! probably not a smart move with security being tight after the Mumbai bombing. After some run around and id checks and inspection I was allowed to head to checkout with my suitcase. A lovely little fellow with uniform came up and wisked us off to the front of the line and checked us in. I slid him a few hundred rupees, since he essentially saved my ass from missing the flight! The flight was a dandy! We had a really decent Indian style meal on the plane. It seems airlines are starting to care about food again which is awesome if you ask me! Cheers Jon Wikan