Sunday, February 9, 2014

Chalta hai (pronounced as chalta - hey)!

Where does a typical journey in India start? At the train station, of course! However, given the amount of luggage we had, it was inevitable to get help in carrying our suitcases. In India, one typically gets a coolie for this task. Coolie is not a cool dude, coolie is actually a courier carrying your suitcase on top of his / her (yes, her) head. The whole process is, as everything on India's streets, accompanied by blasting honking of cars.
Within minutes, we were following our bags on the coolies' heads into the train's business A/C car. For the next four hours, we had a breakfast, which actually was a brunch and extended for the whole trip. Some of the things offered on the menu were omelet, something else that sounded better (which Cathy and Dimitri ordered), two cups of chai, hot milk with cereal, lassi, yoghurt and sweets.

How many IBMers does it take to work out the strategy to exit a train with a luggage and many other Indians within three minutes? The answer is zero, it takes only a well organised lady from Pyxera, Shruti. The simple logistical plan: The team lines up and leaves without the bags, the coolies get in and unload the bags. Then, the negotiation begins. Our local consultant, Jaspreet, as well as his coolie sparring partner, engage in a heated argument in order to agree on the price. Finally, the sparring coolie gives up and the team starts to load the bags on their heads (again).

The driving style and the noise in Ludhiana match the Delhi standard, but the drivers safely bring us to the hotel. Of course, there is no way we could start our CSC engagement without getting a firm Punjabi blessing, which consisted of a dot between our eyes, a flower garland as well as a drink.

The next item on the list was to get the well deserved lunch at Baba's, which consisted of delicious spicy Punjabi barbecue. All team members started to dig in into the local cuisine. Some were happily working on the dishes, some were trying to cut the spice using lemon and lassi, others had the reaction as if they were in a sauna. After the extensive lunch, it was not possible to have a dinner that evening.  We went back to our hotel and after spending a few hours together discussing logistics and hearing some of the key details of CSC in India from Mamtha, we decided to take a walk to the local market.

We soon learned that walking to the market will be a definite challenge every day that we decide to do so.  The cars do not slow down, there is no street light or cross walk and your life flashes before your eyes. However, since we managed to write this post, we survived.

The next day, we took on the next adventure: We headed to Chandigarh, the only planned city in India and the capital of Punjab.

Chalta hai!

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