It's been two days since I've arrived from Pune where I spent six days on business trip.
Do I have anything to report? Do I?
Pune is about 160 kilometers southeast of megalopolis that is called Mumbai. Unlike my first trip to India where I read up everything I could about Madras, I had sufficient work-related worries to keep me from preparing for the trip. Besides, from my previous experience in Chennai, any attempt at going for some nightlife would prove to be either disappointing or unsavory (I'd choose the former over the latter, but sometimes just for the heck of it...).
The Pune airport is still very much provincial. It at once reminds me of Cagayan de Oro, another industrial city nestled in hilly/mountainous terrain. The temperature is likewise comparable to CDO.
That's where all comparisons cease.
Historical Pune is all over the place - dating from the rule of the Marathi overlords who held sway over this area until Westerners came onto the scene. Sadly, I didn't have all the time to visit the sites and the work much too much to allow for sightseeing --- I would rather have curled up on my bed, doing some reading or following on the Democratic National Convention (side note: what a broadside Barack Obama's team fired that night. You've got to give it to the Democrats - the candidate they chose has moxie.)
Our factory is several kilometers away from the city proper, far enough to be zoned into an industrial area. The head office was somewhere in the suburbs as well, apart from Pune central which is built along the banks of the Mula-Mutha rivers (known for its diverse flora and fauna - hmmm... I wonder how these can survive in industrial goop).
It is said that Pune people are among the best in terms of technical education because of the many schools built within the city area. The military has its National Defence Academy here (which I saw only from a distance) while there are a number of government and private educational institutions based in the city as well (I saw only one, Symbiosis University).
I distinctly asked for a guest house instead of staying at a hotel - a hotel has too many distractions, and besides from being expensive, would not offer too much added value - at least to me. The place they selected was an upscale housing development located near our office which reminds me a lot of developments in Singapore or Hong Kong but the flats are much bigger (similar to standard Arabic configurations) and the buildings are not as tall. My only (and biggest) gripe with the place was that there was no Internet connection in the evenings, which annoyed me to no end. I therefore had to track but my Dammam work and my current work in India at the same time.
My colleague and I would have breakfast in the guest house (which came free) while lunches were at the office. Now there's an experience - personally I have nothing against Indian food. It's just that --- well, sometimes, you just don't know what you're eating. To be fair, the food at the office, which was vegetarian, was tasty and they served plentiful amounts. The tea boys were always around to offer you hot tea or coffee and the office environment, at least by Dammam standards, was palatial, Epicurean even.
(That shows how much we could do to liven up our work environment.)
I'd leave out the rest of my stay (ummm, confidentiality, confidentiality!) but I would say that the visit was not altogether satisfying (some things were left unresolved) but I left with a feeling of optimism (excellent potential for growth within India for our company).
I thoroughly hate Indian airports. I mean it, yes, thoroughly. If traveling in the Philippines is bad, in India it is worse. In some cases, I am told, it is more expensive to travel from one point in India to another than it is to travel from Saudi Arabia to Mumbai. The availability of air connections is a problem, and the trains or buses don't offer the same level of convenience.
It took me three hours just to check in my bag through two x-ray machines, get myself frisked several times, all the while pushing away people who always wanted to get one place up (some idiot even used the airport police as his alibi, ano ka, ulol? Lokohin mo lelong mong mabaho!)
On the flight back I was touched by the discipline of my fellow passenger (German or Austrian by his first name, Christoph) who took copious notes of his travels (in long hand, no less). I wish I had the energy or the desire to do the same again, at least during that trip. But I was tired. Dead-tired.
I also missed that wonderful flight attendant who made my Dammam to Mumbai flight memorable. I don't know your name, miss, but you've got one more admirer, at least.
The worst part was that we were at least thirty minutes late landing in Bahrain and my connecting flight to Dammam only had a forty-five minute window. The immigration desk was a half-nightmare, and I literally did myself two Roadrunner cartoons running from one end of the airport to the other (How did they add so many gates in just the four months since I last traveled here? And the new gates didn't have tubes, so the bus it is for you...)
I was dripping with sweat and had no semblance of poise when I got to the bus --- but at least I ran into one of my colleagues coming from vacation back home and we had a blast. One of the highlights of this trip was the smarmy way one of our kababayans was sidling up to him during the bus ride. I guess she was already doing that to him during the trip, only he never noticed ... it would have been great had she been the bomb, but of course, ehem, 'wag na lang, manahimik na lang ako, hehe.
So now I'm back. Ramadan has just started --- one whole month of lovable craziness. Ramadan Kareem!