Sunday, March 31, 2013

"If he's not a driver, what are we doing in his car?" And other stories from Gujarat, India.



Good evening from the lovely state of Gujarat, as usual living a Travelife on the edge. And a happy Easter as well.

Somewhere else in India earlier today, we had a really long and enjoyable Easter lunch consisting of great conversation with a local friend and a most delicious Indian meal -- amidst a very glamorous cutting-edge setting.




JADED CONVERSATIONS AND GREAT INDIAN FOOD

Anyway, the three of us were talking so much about travel and life, and all sorts of other things.

My friend was his usual jaded self, while having dinner last night and then at lunches with two friends of mine here in India over the last two days.



But he succeeded in charming this girl enough over dinner last night and then at lunch today, that she gave up a family event to have a last meal with us today.

I was very happy to see her again, of course, especially as it was Easter Sunday.




TWO DOWN, AND A FEW MORE TO GO?

And at the end of it all, she said to him: "I'll never forget you, you know that."

Hmm. This is the second lady he's charmed in India so far -- in spite of the dry humor, jaded attitude and all.



However, our long lunch meant we ended up leaving for the airport to catch our flight to Gujarat really late.

If you read this blog, you'll know that I like spending as little time as possible in airports. This is because I'm in them every week, so it's a matter of time management and efficiency.

Scroll down to read more...




DOOR-TO-DOOR IN 15 MINUTES

I usually try to get from driveway to check-in counter to lounge in 15 minutes.

Then I work in the lounge until my name is called. I'm always the last one to board the plane simply because I'm trying to fit too much into 24 hours and one life.

Please don't follow my example in this case, though, as there's a good chance you will miss your flight. I haven't missed one yet, but...

21ST CENTURY SPEED



Well, today, we had a pretty plush BMW 7 series zoom us from our fabulous 21st century hotel to the airport.

The flight to Gujarat was at 635 PM and we got to the airport at 540 PM. My usual time, in other words.

The hotel attendants were on standby when we arrived, waiting to take care of us at the airport, so I wasn't too worried about the close time.



But, shock of my life.

To get to India, we flew on one of Cathay Pacific's great new jets from Hong Kong to India.

But within India, we were doing domestic flights on local airlines. So this story concerns a local airline. When we got to the check-in counter of the local airline earlier, it was actually already closed for the flight.

Now most people reading this will probably say: Of course, it's closed at 540 PM.

But that's never happened to me, you see, and I always have this 45-minute window for check-in and boarding in my mind.


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Cathay Pacific flies direct from Hong Kong 
to most major cities in India

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THE LUCK OF A TRAVELIFE

Strangely, neither of us was particularly worried.

I was mulling the options in my mind and they included returning to the city and staying one more night at our fabulous hotel and trying to get out to Gujarat first thing in the morning.



Or flying on the plane without our luggage. The hotel would have to find a way to get it to us in Gujarat.

But with a bit of that luck we always have in a Travelife, the local airline suddenly opened the counters for us. We got on the flight, and our baggages made it too.

I even had time to pass by the bookstore to check out a history book on India I wanted to buy.


*     *     *



Read more about our trip to India
in an upcoming issue of Travelife Magazine

*     *     *


WISH COME TRUE

My friend, who is so not used to flying this breathless way, said to me, in his usual dry way: "Well, you got your wish. The shortest waiting time at the airport."

I was just happy to make the flight as my business meetings in Gujarat start tomorrow.

MIDDLE OF NOWHERE.
AND WHAT A NICE AIRPORT.

When we got to Gujarat, we were pleasantly surprised to find another airport way better than anything in Manila.

It was modern, clean, big and very pleasant. We found our driver quickly and in a matter of minutes, we started out for our hotel.



We were five minutes out of the airport, when my friend suddenly said to me in the vernacular: "This guy isn't a driver. You do know that, right?"

I looked at my friend, sitting next to me, with a quizzical look.

Whatever did he mean? After all, if this guy in the front seat wasn't the driver, what was he doing driving us to our hotel? And what were we doing in his car?

Besides, I'm so used to getting picked up very quickly at airports and just sitting in the car doing something like texting or emailing as we're driving to the hotel, that I hadn't even bothered to look at the driver at all.

I just saw the signboard and got into the car.



HE'S REALLY NOT A DRIVER!

This was when I think my friend suddenly said to the guy driving the car, in his usual straighforward manner: "Can I ask you what you do? You're not a driver, are you?"

This was so not the kind of conversation I was expecting, with a driver on the way to our hotel.

I almost fell off my seat with the answer.

A BANKER'S DRIVING US....

Our "driver" looked back at us and said: "No, I'm not a driver. The real driver is sick today and I decided to volunteer, just because I wanted to see what it's like to be a driver and I love driving my car around. You're riding my car and I'm in finance."

OMG. What are the odds of this happening? Of course, I got this I-told-you-so look from my friend.



And to end this story, as I've got a really early start tomorrow, I just have to tell you what our "driver" really does for a living. He's regional head of private banking for one of the largest banks in India.

He deals with clients who invest a minimum of US$500,000 with him.

And, yes, he was driving us from the airport to the hotel. I still don't know how that happened, but we're safely in the hotel.

Sigh. Never a dull moment in my never-ending, and never-endingly eventful Travelife.




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