So it begins, this story…

January 28, 2014 at 19:59

In the first chapter of Shantaram, by Gregory David Roberts, he describes in detail the feeling of that first meeting with Mumbai. He describes the first thing you meet, the very distinctive smell, which he calls the worst good smell in the world. The next thing you notice is the heat. It’s a clammy, dense sort, and it will make you sweat more than you thought possible.

It’s true what he writes, about the smell and the heat. I know this from the last time we visited. Back then, we arrived in late July. It was the warmest I had ever felt, and the humidity was extreme. It took a few days just to get used to breathing. But this time, arriving in January, it wasn’t like that at all. The smell was still pretty distinct, but the temperature was just right. Coming from -15 degrees Celsius in Norway, to about 25 degrees here was a blessing. So what I feel I have the most in common with Gregory David Roberts on this visit is the premise, as he writes: “So it begins, this story, like everything else – with a woman, and a city, and a little bit of luck.”

I have my amazing wife with me to Mumbai, the city we, thanks to the hard work of good colleagues in Capgemini India, are fortunate enough to be able to visit and work in.

We arrived during the night to Tuesday, after a rather long trip from Oslo. We travelled with British Airways to London first. The plane from Oslo was unfortunately delayed, or as the stewardess so politely told me: “We’re not late, you probably just didn’t read the clock right.” Well, it turns out we WERE late. About 35 minutes. Which is a lot when transfer time is a mere hour. Fortunately, another steward moved us to the front of the plane so we could run from there. He also made sure someone met us so we could be fast-tracked through security. Thanks to that, and the fact that they checked us in even after the gate closed, we made it.

Flying over Dubai

Flying over Dubai

Landing in Mumbai, we went through security, customs and passport control with no big happenings, before we boarded a taxi the hotel had sent. What you’ll notice first and foremost, travelling by car through Mumbai, is the diversity in living standards, people, and architecture. The taxi took us through slums, fancy hotels, past Indians, both Hindu and Muslim, rich residential areas, forests and lakes, under a water pipe line, past homeless people and into our 12 stories hotel, Ramada. We were beat, and went to sleep pretty quickly.

The streets of Mumbai at night

The streets of Mumbai at night

The day following, we got up for breakfast, slept some more, and ordered a taxi to go to the R City Mall. We had to drive through Hiranandani, hopefully our home in a short while. It is absolutely huge, and we spent a few hours trekking through. After the obligatory vacation-coffee/frappuccino at Starbucks, we ate at T.G.I. Friday’s. The prices here are quite different from Norway. We ended up spending 1800 rupees for the two of us, or about 180 kroners. I dare the statement that it would have cost us three times as much back home.

Driving through Hiranandani.

Driving through Hiranandani.

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After buying a few things at a local store, we headed back to the hotel for the SKKY lounge experience. It’s a rooftop bar next to the hotel, with great food and great atmosphere, as you can see from the pictures.

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Best regards, Marius

Here we go!

January 25, 2014 at 21:55

All right!

The people at the visa application center now know us by name after we have called and called again to enquire the status of our applications.

Truth be told, I got my visa approved a long time ago, it’s only Andrea’s approval that we’ve been waiting for. Her visa-type took a while longer than mine.

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I waited outside the application center while Andrea went inside to pick up her passport. I took this amazingly boring picture to have something other than text in this post. :-)

So we’re leaving this Monday. Tickets and a week at hotel Ramada ordered in Powai. We are very happy that everything is sorted – and very nervous.

I’ll be posting more on Monday/Tuesday after we arrive in Mumbai, hopefully with more interesting pictures:-)

Beat regards, Marius

 

And so we wait.

January 12, 2014 at 18:10

Today we are one day overdue from the day we were supposed to go to India. We had some issues with the documentation for my visa. It was quite a lot of paperwork we needed, it turned out. It will be right around another week before we can leave, I think.

It is really just as well that we are a few days overdue. Andrea has fallen really sick with Streptococcus and have been unable to get out of bed for a while, and you don’t really understand how much it is that you have to do before the day of departure. We have hardly gotten a chance to say goodbye to any of our friends and there are so many things we need to pack and pack away before we leave. Another thing is that we haven’t secured an apartment yet.  Andrea is a little anxious about it, but for me, it’s just another page in the book of “No worries”. It’s worked out pretty well for me for the last 26 years, but I’m guessing someday I will be rather disappointed. Let’s just hope it’s not on this one.

We are looking at a few places to live. We have been recommended the Powai area in Mumbai, more specifically Hiranandani Gardens or Lake Homes, which, in my opinion, look pretty great.

Powai, Mumbai

Powai, Mumbai

Hiranandani Gardens

Lake homes

It is quite expensive to live there, though. It will run at a little less than 1 lacs rupees per month (1 lac is 100 000, so it translates to about 10.000 NOK a month – 10 NOK ~ 1 Rupee). That means most of my salary will be eaten up  by this. Luckily, Andrea gets a pretty nice scholarship, and I can work extra remotely for Capgemini in Norway to supply our bank accounts with a little extra cash. We’ll be all right though, the cost of living isn’t that high overall. It’s fairly close to where we will be working, as well as the airport, so that is great.

I’ve gotten in touch with a few real estate agents in Mumbai, who all live in the area, and they have told me that it is a little difficult to get less that 11 months lease, because of a set “lock period” on that amount of time that is standard in Mumbai when you want to rent an apartment. They have said that they will be able to work it out, however, so we put our faith in that.

So for now, we wait. And are grateful for the extra opportunity to prepare and say goodbye to our friends, at the same time that we are very anxious to go.

Best regards, Marius

Our last trip to India

January 5, 2014 at 02:06

Our first meeting with India was a good one. I was just out of high school, 18 years old, and ready to see the world. Marius and I paired up with to other friends and landed in Mumbai without a clear plan. Immediately I kind of fell in love with the big city. It was like nothing I had ever seen before. Noisy, polluted and dirty at first glance, but still – it was something quite special about the place. The smell, the people and the atmosphere we experienced just driving from the airport to the hotel with cows in the roads – we were all blown away.

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Since then Marius and I have travelled to quite a few other places in the world, but we have never had that kind of first meeting with a new country. Some people call it a culture chock – I like to see it more as an epiphany. As we had never been outside of Europe before we got to experience a country that was so different from our own – and we all loved it.

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Mumbai was a great city to start of our journey in. Thanks to our friend Tonia we got to see all of the major tourist attractions in a very short time. Being a Lonely Planet-fan at the time, she got us covered. We experienced Elephanta Island, Gandhi´s home in Mumbai, The Gateway of India, The Taj Mahal Hotel, parks, national parks, beaches, mosques and temples. We even went to see a Bollywood movie at the cinema, and later ate at Leopold’s and was offered to be extras at a movie when we went outside. Sadly we had to decline.

After a few days in Mumbai we took a 22 hour train ride to Agra. Like every other tourists who visits India, we had to see the Taj. The train ride itself was a great way to see the country. Lonely Planet, or “the Bible” as we called it, recommended to stay in sleeper class instead of first class even though the prices wasn’t that different (in European tourist standards), and of course we did.

It turned out to be good advise as we got to know very interesting people when we shared our space. We even got to know a new friend, who we still keep in touch with today, who was kind enough to help us arrange a fantastic round trip from Agra to Jaipur, so we could experience even more than we had planned. We got to see Fathepur Sikri, Amber Fort, Hawa Mahal, Baby Taj – any many other places and museums I can’t remember the name of. Our friend invited us to his beautiful restaurant and hotel Yoshis Resort on the way – for free, and we also met him and his family for dinner in Agra when we came back. It was a great experience.

And then, we got to see the great Taj Mahal. I must say I think it is everything it’s cracked up to be. It was beautiful – and huge! We spent hours wandering around it, studying the details and just sat there looking at it.

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After a great time in the north we headed towards the south for some relaxation much needed after a very busy week of sightseeing. We sat on a train for two days to reach Anjuna in Goa, and we stayed there for a whole week. There was some sightseeing there as well, but for the most part we just relaxed at the beach or by the pool, and shared delicious meals together on the local restaurants. Oh, Indian food! I love it!

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Our trip to India in 2008 was the perfect first backpacking trip. We came home after almost three weeks feeling we had been gone for months and with more souvenirs and stories in our backpacks than our friends and families could carry.

 

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Now we’re finally going back to our first crush – curious of how much she has changed in the last six years. We can only hope that she will treat us as good as she did the last time.

Andrea

The beginning of a journey

January 4, 2014 at 18:37

This year shoots off with a bang. And I’m not talking about the fireworks either. Andrea and I are going to India in only a few short days.

So that means we are spending the first few days of this new year going from emotional extreme to emotional extreme. We are psyched to go, and are looking forward to this new challenge that we’ve worked towards for a while. At the same time it’s – how can I say this – fucking scary!

We’ve tried giving ourselves a good start, so we’ve booked a suite for two days at a five-star hotel close to where we are going to live. After that we are hoping our apartment will be ready. Capgemini in India have really done a great job setting everything up this far, so were not really worried about that part. But we are anxious to get settled and start our life there, away from the uncertainty of not knowing what the daily life will be.

We still have a few things to settle, important things, like visas, contracts and work permits, so we’ll see how that goes. Maybe we aren’t going anywhere after all. Haha! Imagine that! It would make me so sad, happy, relieved and stressed out at the same time. In other words, it wouldn’t make a difference to how I feel right now:-)

We’ll update as soon as we (hopefully/regrettably) leave for the busy streets of Hiranandani, Mumbai.

Best regards, Marius