At a toll plaza the the collection booth looked like a bombed out cement bunker. The walls were covered with dirt and dried mud, and the sullen guy in the booth looked like he had not washed or changed clothing in weeks. My driver believed he had been locked in the booth so he wouldn't run away with the toll money. We pulled in and paid the 100 rupee fee ($1.50USD). While waiting for change the horns in the cars behind us started to blare. We then learned that the computer that prints the tickets was broken and we would have to wait for a receipt and my driver wasn't leaving without his .30 cent change. Within minutes about five toll plaza employees arrived at the scene and they got into a heated discussion about what to. I cajoled my driver to hit the gas after I heard that we may be there for hours. He was hesitant until Bob from California gave him 100 rupees and told him not worry about the change. We raced out of there and about 100 feet later we saw a Rabari tribal man crossing the road with his camels. The driver said that without Bob's generosity we might have had to sleep in the car waiting for them to fix the machine. I am not sure that camels and computers can exist on a major toll road. I just hope the guy imprisoned in the toll booth finds a way out real soon. Seems like a hard way to make a living.
Sandy from Seattle just spent 18 hours traveling to India and Bob from California just completed a 15-hour flight. They landed and arrived at the hotel at 3:30am eager to get to their rooms. But after having their passports copied three times they were told that the master key for their rooms wasn't working and they would have to wait. They sat in the lobby until 6:00am unil someone could figure out how to get the keys working. Imagine a 130-room hotel without a master key.
At another hotel the rooms that we reserved and paid for five months ago were not available and had people in them. Afer a testy exchange of words with the manager I convinced him to give us free internet. He then dialed his boss in Delhi who preceded to call the owner in Mumbai who after letting me know that if we came in July during monsoon season we wouldn't have this problem. He eventually consented and at dinner the manager gave us the internet passwords needed to log on. As expected, there wasn't any internet service in the hotel. When I let him know that his gesture was pretty useless he asked me if I would consider working in the hotel as I had some good ideas about the hospitality business.
Later on the manager who by then was like family to me asked in what way he could make my group happy. I told him of the groups love of lime soda. He was very happy to hear of this and in front of me called the restaurant manger and ordered these concoctions for us. When we arrived at the restaurant I made the assumption that they wouldn't be ordered and my premonition was correct. I went over and ordered them and we received them at the end of meal. The waiter said that he never received a call and he had to get a staff of three to make these delicate drinks. I asked why three and he explained that one person needed to pour the syrup in, one to put the exact amount of sugar in and the third to put true lemon juice in. I commented that it seemed pretty complicated and he agreed and said it is like a chemistry experiment to get it just right.
After another great day in Gujarat we returned to the hotel and the manager was at the front door with a man that I assumed was his assistant. I thrust my bag into this gents hands and threw my jacket over his shoulder in a playful manner and gave him my room key. He happily grabbed it and off we went to my room. I then noticed that he didn't know how to open the door. I later commented to the manager that his staff should receive training on how to open doors. He asked why and I told him what just happened. He then let me know that he thinks that the fellow who carried my bag was another guest.
Photographing the copper and brass workers in Wadhwan was fantastic. Buildings from the 1700's, cattle crap everywhere, women in beautiful sari's, playful children, dudes with white turbans, a man with incredibly hairy ears, geriatric men in turbans and large framed, jet black sunglasses all made for a terrific afternoon of photography. I passed this one building with massive wooden doors, with huge brass handles, intricately carved columns and a tree growing out of the one mud caked walls. I was approached my a man who let me know that it was his house and he proceeded to take out at key that probably weighed more than I do and opened the door. In front of me was a mosaic of wooden buildings, magenta covered walls, rooms without roofs and an surreal sense of decay; ruin porn at its best. This building is a metaphor for India, illusionary, full of promise, living in the past, uncertain of the future.
Returning to my room at seven o'clock in the evening I found my room the way I left it at seven o'clockin the morning. Not really a housekeeping dependent type person I was not troubled by the fact that no one came to give me a clean towel. I heard a knock on my door and opened to find three guys and a trolley who were eager to mop the floor and clean the room. Through the use of some nonverbal communication I let them know all I wanted was a clean towel. They really didn't get what I wanted and one guy charged into the bathroom and started to to rearrange my toothbrush and tooth paste. I diplomatically tossed them out of the room and gave them a chocolate bar as a gift of thanks, they smiled profusely and took off. Later that evening as I walked to the elevator I saw a door half open and peeked in to see my three pals sprawled out on beds munching away on the chocolate bar while the television was blaring a bollywood movie. I was happy that they were enjoying the hotel facilities.