India: Oct 6 & 7: Flying To India

In anticipation of my trip to India and the dramatic time shift (eleven and a half hours), I intentionally only slept four and a half hours the night before I left, thus allowing me to sleep on the plane during California's afternoon/India's wee hours of the night. As an added bonus, staying up late let me get a lot done that I wanted to finish before leaving.

Getting to the airport was a little dicey. I'd planned to take the bus which I've taken previously that runs right by my apartment directly to the airport. But, it turned out they closed some roads around the bus stop to do roadwork. I wasn't sure where the other stops on this route were nor did I know (or could find a sign about) how the bus was being rerouted. Instead, I used my backup plan and took the Caltrain. (Luckily, during the night I'd checked the schedule and made a backup plan.) But Caltrain was six minutes late, making me miss my connection to the BART. I had to wait nearly twenty minutes for the next train. Finally I got to the airport, in the end with still ninety minutes before my flight. (As you can tell, I left myself a lot of time to get to the airport.)

I checked in, grabbed a snack, waited for, and boarded my plane. While waiting for my plane to take-off, I tried to ignore American Airlines horrendous easy listening music. It made me miss United's Gershwin.

On the first leg of my flight, I enjoyed an empty middle seat despite the flight being nearly full.

I chatted with my seatmate. He works for HP Labs, building radiation-hardened circuity. The circuity is built via etching then imprinting, not lithography. I originally started talking to him because I saw him reading some papers from NASA Ames. He was reading those for research, though it turns out he actually did work for Ames in a dramatically different area: virtual reality.

Partially because I was interested and partially because I wanted something that I didn't care too much about that'd help me sleep, I read some of the papers he had. I made it through a paper about fault tolerance and some of one about solar radiation before attempting and succeeding falling asleep.

In Chicago, where I grabbed another snack, I ran into an ex-coworker/ex-boss, who was on the same flight as mine to India! What a coincidence. I knew he was traveling to India the same day I was, but I didn't think we'd be on the same flight with any sort of plausible probability.

On this flight, from Chicago to Delhi, they gave the evacuation instructions in Hindi as well as English, the first real evidence I was leaving the country. Also, of course, they fed me multiple times on the flight. The meal choices provided the second piece of evidence I was leaving the country.

Each seat had a screen in front of it providing maps of where the plane was. I enjoyed trying to see if I recognized the names of countries and cities that we were flying over.

They kept the plane cold! Really cold. I wore everything I had and a blanket, and I was still cold. On my return flight, I brought more clothes on board to alleviate the situation. The action was unnecessary, as the temperature on that flight turned out to be perfectly comfortable.

The only reason I survived the roughly twenty hours of travel time to India was a book. I wasn't planning on bringing one because I didn't want to have to carry the weight around the entire trip. But, a close friend smartly photocopied one for me and suggested I simply throw away the pages as I finished them, thus only carrying what I needed. Brilliant.

Of course, I finished most of the book on the plane--I tried to read slowly to savor it--so the weight thing didn't matter much. And, I actually never bothered throwing away pages I read, instead giving the book after I was done to the friends with whom I traveled. Nonetheless, the idea was ingenious and, without the book, I likely would've lost my sanity on the plane.

Incidentally, someone once mentioned to me that they thought paperbacks were originally meant to be in that style, disposing of pages as one reads. However, I can't find any confirmation of this theory on the web.

Throughout the flight, like the last one, I tried to block light and see light at appropriate times for Delhi. I wish I could've had better control of lighting to affect my circadian rhythms. The flight itself and most people on it stayed on Pacific time, meaning most of cabin's lights were out when I wanted to stay awake.

Finally, we landed. It was happily warm (in contrast to the flight). I went through customs, which was surprisingly easy, then waited only a short time for my friends to pick me up from the airport. Although nevertheless short, several Indians still offered to help me with whatever I needed. Obviously, I turned them down.

My first experience with Indian traffic made me note "crazy traffic laws. Red lights don't matter. Lanes don't matter."

As my compatriots hadn't eaten dinner, we tried stopping for food in a very nice hotel, but found its restaurant closed for renovations. Instead, we ended up at a joint, Al Kauser, in a market near the road. We shared assorted parantha, other breads, spinach mutton, various kebabs, and more. Since I already had dinner, I didn't eat much. I also didn't eat much since it was time for me to take my anti-malaria medication, which was supposed to be taken on an empty stomach.

Some of the little food that I tried was good. Some was weird.

I took a few pictures of what I ate on the airplane and in transit. Sorry I didn't take any pictures of Al Kauser. I didn't bother bringing my backpack to the restaurant and found I felt naked without it. Even if I had it, I wouldn't have taken pictures: I wasn't yet in the travel mindset, nor had I yet learned the Indian camera etiquette, nor did I feel comfortable doing flash photography (because we ate al fresco at night) at a place like this.

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