Monday, July 14, 2014

A flight to Shanghai

This is part of series of blog posts on Farewell India

As mentioned in previous post, after visiting so many places I stopped travelling within India. Then last summer, I booked a plane ticket to Shanghai. It only took three days to process my tourist visa. China was one of the few countries I always wanted to visit. This was also an opportunity to see one of the most exciting countries in the world.

On a fine summer day, I headed to Mumbai Airport. I don't understand why government officials in India look so dull, bored and are always in anxiety. The immigration officer looked at me as if I was criminal and he was there to decide highest punishment. Out of blue, he asked me how much I made and how was job market in my field. I hardly found sense there, still answered with smile. He lazily stamped my passport and I headed to boarding gate.

My flight, Air China was full of Indian traders who were going there to get cheap products. Guy next to me joked how come I spoke such a good Hindi, even though I looked like Chinese guy returning home. This is major taboo Indians have towards North East Indians or anyone who looks mongoloid for that matter. 

At afternoon, I landed in huge modern Shanghai airport. I suddenly found myself trying to speak sign language as opposed to India, where you could get away with English (at least in urban areas). Everything else is better though. Train travel takes way less than it takes in India with average intercity passenger train speed of 350 Kms/hour (average speed of fastest intercity train, Deccan Queen between Pune - Mumbai is around 60 Kms/hour. Can you see the differences?). When I saw huge train station in Shanghai, I remembered Indian Railways. The worst place to be in India is train station, where it smells shits everywhere, gets so crowded that your fear you might get lost, full of people sleeping on bare floors all day all night. Whenever I go to train station, it scares me. And there I was in Shanghai station in disbelief, drinking free mineral water that came on my ticket, using their free Wi-FI, seating on a proper waiting room under air-conditioned building.   

Infrastructure is just bigger and better, from airports to roads to train stations, you name it. Roads are wider, traffic is well managed, restaurants look clean. I found women workforce everywhere. In India, people try to compare to China on almost everything. Once you visit there, I will feel China is just way ahead of India, which has solved many of the problems India is facing and comparing two is just useless debate.

After travelling for few days, I had to fly back. But I came to know I was not allowed. There is one clause in travel rules, that any Nepalese travelling directly from China to India has to get visa. This is stupid rule obviously, and I have no idea how it came to effect. Nepalese get almost every rights on par with Indian citizen, except voting. And here they are telling me that I need visa to go back to country where I live. I asked Indian embassy in Shanghai how many days would it take to process visa and what type of visa I needed to apply for. They replied it would take more than a week, and had no idea what type of visa I needed to get. If I go for tourist visa, I was not tourist. Same with other types of visa, business, student etc. I am resident of India, who is living here for past four years and has legal rights on par with Indian citizen. At the end, I did a bit of research online and found that if I take transit flight, then I was allowed. (As stupid as it might sound, I cancelled my ticket and booked Malaysia Airlines flight transit via Kuala-lumpur.)

At immigration, Chinese official smiled and greeted me. He was done with process within less than a minute and wished me safe journey. I happily thanked him. There were few electronic buttons for feedback with options form very happy, happy to not satisfied. I took that opportunity and pressed 'very happy' button. I wish I could have told him how awesome they were.

I slept during whole flight. After hours, I wake up. Plane was about to land at Mumbai Airport, I looked outside. I saw miles of slums. Needless to mention, that was our dear India. 

Five years in India, a lookback

This is part of series of blog posts on Farewell India

On summer of 2009, I and couple of friends boarded in a plane to New Delhi. We had finished high school, and were heading for college. It was first time we were going far away from home, which means there was bit of fear in everyone of us. But we were also very excited for so many reasons. We were young full of energy and enthusiasm. We were too happy to escape from family and parents and live freely in a new country.

While on plane, we watched the Himalayas go further away every passing minute. Within two hours, we landed in 43 degree celsius. Next day we travelled by Indian Railways to Pune, a city known for it's weather and colleges. It takes more than 30 hours from Delhi to Pune in normal passenger trains. I had never done that long journey before, but it's all normal here. Indian Railways is show, passengers outnumber seats in every train by huge margin, it is dirty and feels like it was never upgraded once British left. 

Anyways, the journey itself was very memorable. In school, I was taught India was one of the most populous countries. Here I could see vast endless empty land. For someone like me who grew up in remote hills in western Nepal, that scene itself was unforgettable. 

After arriving in Pune for few days, we got admission into fairly well known colleges under University of Pune. But soon I discovered, colleges here are pathetic. Faculties act like a primary school teachers, the ones who are tough. They didn't seem to have needed knowledge to be a faculty, asking questions in class was discouraged, students were punished like primary school kids, in so many occasions exam papers appear with full of printing mistakes. I could go on and on. My life as college student here was terrible. Sure, the college I attended isn't among best colleges in India. But still is fairly well known all around.

Outside of college, we started to feel freedom of being far away from parents. Personally now I feel had been very rebellious. I rejected so many things that were made to us to believe by school or society (even though I was wrong in many occasions, I believe). We did nonstop partying. Travelling was something that happened so frequently. On winter of 2009/10, we went to Rajasthan. It is full of palaces, which doesn't interest me a single bit. But it has great Indian desert, to my surprise. On summer, we went to northern state of Himachal, from Chandigarh to Shimla to Manali. Within three years, I managed to travel many of the major states and cities reaching mountains, great desert and sand dunes, beaches and crossed thousands miles of empty deserted lands by train. Then I almost stopped travelling within India unless it was needed as I din't find any interesting anymore. Though I still wanted to visit Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

During that time, I also developed deep interests in many other subjects like web/internet, economics, development etc. Many times, we debated whole night on those topics. The fact that college didn't provide the environment I wanted; forced me to look elsewhere. This is where self learning came. I would just search best resources on internet, download and continue reading until I got eye strain or exhausted. With internet getting richer with resources everyday, that habit still continues. 

On last year of my college, I did internship in a small IT firm. After college, I started my first job at Changer Technologies, a Dutch company with development office in Pune. This is where real education started. I worked with people from diverse backgrounds, different countries and cultures. Fast forwards, I spent there more than two years, met some great people, developed great friendships, and needless to say - learned a lot.

My life in India has been wild ride. On next post, I will write about issues that excite and depress me.