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

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Indian youth delegation to China

Indian youth delegation to China

Hi friends,

(Especially the fellow delegates that visited China)

Here is an effort to re-create day-by-day account of our memorable journey. Please feel free to add.

The Journey Begins

The day I left for Delhi – to be a part of the delegation of Ministry of Sports and Youth Affairs, Government of India – I did not have even an iota idea of the places delegation will visit in China or even what to expect.

Like me, there were more than eighty youngsters, all masters in their fields who have converged at the International Guest House of PUSA, Delhi for two-days orientation programme.

I remember many of the murmuring each other – “Yaar hamein jaana kahan hai China mein”. Those two days were like two decades. If there was something enjoyable, then it was the company of strangers, who have descended to be a part of the delegation.

The most striking sight was to see all my North East friends praying – with hands folded and lips murmuring – right before meals.

Breakfast, lunch or dinner – all of them prayed before taking the first morsel, while atheist like me (and many others) chomped food lost in talking.

The delegation was truly a bunch of surprises and represented every state, every corner of the country. In fact, it was here I truly realized – UNITY IN DIVERSITY.

An interesting part of the two days orientation programme remained the group assigning and room partners’ introduction. Few of us would have envisioned how attached (or detached - as in some cases) we would become to our roommates.

Then we had our youth managers Saran Sir, Randhawa Sir and Madam Ira Prabhat – all loving. Folks do you remember the clapping we practiced (but later used in our buses or groups only)?

It went

123, 123, 1..2..3

123, 123, 1..2..3

123, 123, 1..2..3

And all thanks to Mrinal Bhaiya for preparing us with his valuable – China mein kya hoga stuff. Now I feel that Mrinal’s lecture was the only one that we thoroughly enjoyed. I wish ministry offers more such insights to future delegates (if any) so that they are not as blank as me (or perhaps others also).

On buses, which were strikingly similar to State Roadways Transport Corporation (aka apni PRTC buses), we were taken to Chinese Embassy and later to the IGI Airport. But when we boarded same buses on June 27, we realized that our Chinese friends have spoilt us with the luxury of AC buses.

The food served at the Chinese Embassy in Delhi was trailer to what we were going to have in China. Trailer? Yeah. Chinese food is a feast for Indian non-vegetarians and difficult on vegetarians.

A word about cameras:

It was during this visit I realized that how technology has made all of us ace-photographers (literally). There were some of us who made videos of all events – even the mundane ones such as presentation at Chinese embassy. I believe all of us carried back full hard disks and lot of digital datas, besides loads of loving memories.

From pillars and greenery at the International guesthouse to its front façade – all the non-living items were given VIP shutterbug treatment. I guess all of us have pictures of posing in front of guesthouse building.

Taking off from Delhi:

For people like me, and many others, it was first experience to fly, while for some it was first experience to be on an international flight.

More than three hours went by checking in, exchanging currency, having snacks (at exorbitant rates) at the airport and doing the most important thing – gossiping. I remember, we were not given any breakfast on June 17 and it was snacks at airport that kept us alive.

While all the hungry stomachs were overjoyed at the sight of food served at the Air India flight, the amount served left everyone distraught.

All the hungry demons waited for second serving at the flight, which, of course, never came. Food at AI flight remained topic of discussion till we landed in Shanghai.

Once in the flight (economy class), all of us started – garmi hai. AC kab on hoga and the ultimate was – jab jahaaz chalega hum sheesha kholenge, hawa aane ke liye.

And does anyone remember the roar we gave when plane took off? It was something unforgettable. So many people having the same feeling of exhilaration at same time (while the plane took off). Rest of the six hours were spent trying to peer down the plane and spot houses, rivers, wide expanse etc and capturing the same in cameras.

For the nth time, many of us watched the Bollywood flick – Kambakht Ishq. I guess air-hostesses might have a difficult time dealing with curious delegates’ (yeh seat wala button dabane par kya hoti hai?) attitude.

To be continued..