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.