Saturday, July 24, 2010

Reaching Shanghai:

By the time we reached Shanghai, excitement took over fatigue, thirst and hunger. Right from landing till boarding respective group buses – all necks had a busy time looking around the well-lit and well-built Shanghai International Airport. And again the shutterbugs went into action.

Folks don’t you feel that repeated boarding and traveling made us perfect travelers? I bet, most of us have become very good travelers by now.

Well, coming back to the point. Meeting the Chinese in-charge of respective group was one of those golden moments. We – in group II – had Ching and John. Both gem of a person, all of us bothered Ching a lot. We’ll have to accept that our Chinese friends had better patience and higher level of tolerance than us.

Though grown ups – all of us behaved like school kids on picnic - while on our outings. And bless Mr Deshpande. It was his efforts that got us yummy Indian food when we landed in Shanghai.

I could kiss the hands of chef who cooked Indian food and thank him profusely (sic) for the only Indian food our palate tasted while in China.

I wish Deshpande Sir would have got us at least one more such treat while in China. My friends like Rachna, Harendra Rao and roommate Vardhika Malpani would not have lost so much of weight by the end of journey.

The long journey from Shanghai to Pudong was all embedded with skyscrapers shining with lights (as if it was Diwali. I doubt even if during our Diwali we have such lightening systems).

In a way, the lights reflected prosperity of Shanghai and its bid to show the world its rabbit’s pace of development and progress. Did anyone notice – the smallest building was six-storey?

All of us had that WOW view from our hotel windows. Once we reached Shanghai, all home sick had that urge to talk to home.

But Chinese are punctual. And punctual enough to even tailor their guests as per their punctuality. Most of us wanted to place a call home telling about safe landing (and much more), but despite repeated attempts did not get an opportunity.

At Chinese hotels, international calls are mainly made through separate business centers. Had it been India, the Indian host would have woken up entire hotel staff to make arrangements for Chinese to make international calls.

But we are Indians and they are Chinese.

I don’t know who slept the first night in hotel at Shanghai and who did not. On entering respective rooms, most of us were busy with the inspection. Peering out of the window opening to well-lit city.

And tragedy awaited for people like Harendra Rao aka apna Hari. Like all of us, Hari too opened the mini-bar a his hotel and his joy knew no bounds on seeing his mini-bar stacked with heaps of chocolates, whiskey, cold drinks and water.

Sharing his happiness, Hari called up his friends to share his newly found trove of treasure. The entire gang had a feast. But the repercussions of feast were to be felt later, while signing out of the hotel. (read ahead for Hari’s plight).

The Shanghai Expo

And with the Shanghai Expo, we started exercising our feet. Lazy like me, who seldom exercise, had a tough time eating herbs (read boiled food) and walking.

While stepping into Shanghai Expo I realized how over populated China was. Since it was a public site, it was bound to have so many people. But still…………!

In zig-zag rows we stood waiting for our turn. Being whisked from one pavilion to another, we hardly had time to absorb the beauty (or should we say the hustle-bustle around).

By the time we reached Indian pavilion, the dormant patriotism suddenly started making waves. Before entering the pavilion all of us raised slogans – Bharat Mata Ki Jai. As if we were some krantikaris (revolutionaries) all set to get Indian pavilion freed from monotony it offered!

I wonder if anyone noticed what stinking smell the water at Indian pavilion emanated. In fact, I later realized that same foul smell of water was experienced in water town Zhujiajiao and other places too.

Indian pavilion:

Well, once at the Indian pavilion, we were hurriedly shown a 3-D show. Even before I could recover from the 3-D show, we were hurled out of the pavilion.

It was here I noticed the ability we Indians have to crowd up. Except for few delegates, none other could make out what our Minister for Sports and Youth Affairs Mr MS Gill said.

Those gifted with better height genes made the most in crowd. They had to just crane out their necks to see the minister, while dwarfs like me got lost in the milieu.

It was only after everyone dispersed, I could find myself. Next 15 to 20 minutes were spent with the photo session. Again, like kids on picnic, we made a beeline to the China pavilion. The Chinese pavilion was in fact much larger, had better designs and even better presentation.

From vintage engines to bullet trains, from archaic drainage systems to recent ones – Chinese pavilion had it all. Especially the movie running on ceiling of the pavilion made us feel as if the sky ahead is moving.

Most of us spent quality time at this pavilion. And then came those four hours long of boredom and hunting. Hunting? Yes, hunting for Indian foods. Many of us tread our way back to the Indian pavilion to munch paranthas, dosas et al.

Those like me, with poor streak of adventure and fear of getting lost, anchored themselves opposite the China pavilion. By the time we reached back to hotel, the homesickness resurfaced.

We hadn’t talked to our families for over 24 hours.

to be continued

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