There is nothing quite like the juxtaposition of me, a 36 year old American sitting in a crowded café in Bangalore India. I arrived in Bangalore 2am IST on Tuesday the 13’th day of January. The baggage carriers were lined up single file, one combing his hair with a black plastic comb in preparation for his pending task. I left the plane to a chorus of bis später nd auf Wiedersehen both German for, basically see you later and was off through a narrow tunnel towards customs. To my surprise the airport was remarkably clean and well maintained. The facility is less than two years old and still has that “new” airport smell. There were 12 customs agents all seated behind desks. Some were men, some women all very much Indian. My passport was checked, stamped and handed back to me as if I were receiving change for something I assumed would cost more than the ticketed price. I was now officially on Indian soil, alone and still thinking of the airport in Atlanta where I had kissed my wife and children good-bye. Time for the gut check.
At baggage claim there was the typical chaos of people struggling to tear their bags and parcels from the carousel; women holding young children on their hips, German men with thin, black framed eye glasses, Indian men with moustaches and me. I was fortunate that my bags were tagged as “priority” and were one of the first few bags available for retrieval. With luggage in hand and a nervous sense of nausea in my stomach I marched towards the exit doors where I was to meet my driver.
The outside air was a breezy 70 degrees. It was a welcomed sensation after 17 hours of inhaling the reconditioned air of airport terminals and planes. Outside there was a red rope held up by brassy colored poles placed every 6 feet or so. Behind the ropes a mob of taxi and chauffeur drivers holding up signs. Each sign with a name on it, the trick now was to find my name. I paced the line awkwardly and on my third pass back I spotted my name Mr. Charles Anthony, written boldly and neatly in black permanent marker. I went to the sign, made eye contact with the man holding the sign and calmly said “that’s me, I’m Charles”. After a short walk across a narrow street, Swami pulled the car around, we loaded my bags in the car and we were off.
The car was small, rather worn on the interior and I think the clutch was getting read to give. Thankfully I found out later that morning when I was picked up for work, that Swami and the car I rode in from the airport was not to be my assigned driver and car. There was apparently a mix –up with the car service and company sent two drivers and I picked the wrong one.
The road from the airport was primarily an industrial boulevard. There were several factories on both sides of the road and spackled in between them were rundown shacks, the size of a typical mobile home. They were cement in construction, open on at least one side and I could not tell if anyone actually inhabited the domicile. We drove on for approximately 40 minutes, talking from time to time, pausing what seemed like every ten seconds for speed bumps in the road.