This is a combination of an older post I wrote about taxi rides in India with some of my current trip mixed in. It is kind of a synopsis of my mornings here at Lemon Tree hotel.
Woke up early as usual and headed down the stairs at the hotel to the gym. I enter the stairwell and the smell of camp fire waifs through the air. It is faint but there every morning. I look out the window of the stairwell, as I do every day, trying to locate the source. As usual I see nothing but the dry earth around the electrical tower and other buildings in the distance.
The solid marble stairs where slight slick from the young man mopping them. The mop water was sickly gray from the dust of the workers that are updating the hotel. Every day he is mopping and I come by, trying to stay ahead of the construction dust. His hand touch he's his heart and he cheerily says "good morning sir" in his best English. I greet home back with a smile and "good morning".
After my morning workout I head to breakfast. The hotel updates are going great, and I talk with the General Manager briefly about them before breakfast. We briefly discuss the renovations and I thank him for the new non-skid gym flooring. If you are ever in Hinjawadi I highly recommend the Lemon Tree hotel in Phase 1.
The people I meet in the hotel and on the streets are all so friendly and most often have a smile for you. Although when you see them walking or sitting by themselves their faces show a weariness you only see on the most competitive athletes after they have given all effort and lost. I wonder what the oppression is or if it is just the heat of the summer.
After breakfast I get a cab for my morning commute. It is hit or miss as to if it will show up when the Uber app says it will. But I risk it and head outside to wait. I step out of the air conditioned building into the India summer. The wave of heat hits you in an instant. It is forceful, like a bear hug from a friend you haven't seen in a long time. Engulfing you into its waiting embrace instantly. I walk the 50 feet to where the cab will pick me up and wonder if I should have waited inside.
The cab shows up right on time and I jump in the back seat. The best English comes out of the driver, "good morning sir" the next question should be my name and destination. I can't begin to make out what the driver asks so I just give the two standard answers. Today I am met with success and the driver starts honking and pulls away rapidly.
The horn is a standard driving tool here and is used seemingly more that the steering wheel itself. Over the course of my 20 minute trip the driver will honk 20 to 60 times. We join the sea of cars on the two lane road that often holds 4 cars across. I watch as the motorcycles flood past the cab and other cars. They clump up like a school of small fish among the sharks of cars, buses and trucks. The swarm past us the clump back together, 2, 3, 4 or 5 bikes side by side. Every car and motor bike jockeying for what is perceived as best road position. Cars pass inches of each other, sometimes I am amazed the side mirrors manage not to collide. Ever 800 yards or so, depending on the region, there is a speed bump that brings traffic to a near halt. Cars, motorcycles, buses and trucks race along the way. I watch out the window and my mind drifts.
The apartment buildings are clumped together like stands of trees as tall as mountains. Springing up wherever the seeds of progress land. Acres of land dotted here and there with the groves of modernization and farming around that.
People mill about everywhere racing to the office. Most of the men are dressed in shirts and slacks of Earth tones. The women are dressed from Western wear to traditional sari, in bright colors. It strikes me like the fields with the men being the earth and trees and the women coloring it like the multi-colored wild flowers.
A motorized rickshaw passes by with double the occupancy than it should have. People packed in sitting on laps and squeezed together. It's a wonder the rickshaw can still go, a vehicle built for three maybe four carrying 6 or 8. You can hear the whine of the engine in the midst of all the traffic noise as the driver tries to will more speed out of the rickshaw so he can drop all his passengers faster. My driver says something to me and I ask him to please repeat. He asks “where are you staying” which I know doesn’t mean what hotel I am staying at but where am I from. I tell him Los Angeles, United States. As we get closer to my office I tell him “u turn” so he will go down the divided highway turn around and drop me on the proper side. Crossing the street in front of my office can be a terror, very much get the sense of playing advanced levels of Frogger trying to cross the road there. From there I tell him “drop by two wheelers” so he will drop me at the row of parked motor cycles.