Definitely got that wrong, and the agent who checked me in said there were only three empty seats on the plane and that I would definitely have a seat mate. Once on the ancient-looking, no-seat-cushion, noisy-as-a-locomotive 747 my seat mate asked me if I would switch with her and move from the aisle to the middle. When I politely whispered no, she bolted and I never saw her again. Sixteen hours later, with half a book read, and and one ambien in my system, I woke up in India.
The customs line was really long for Indian citizens but I breezed through the foreigners line as myself and two others were the only ones there. I arrived at the conveyer belt first and hoped the bags would come out quickly. The next person out from customs grabbed a cart, and with all the room in the airport, proceeded to wheel it right into me. Too tired to get New York on her I kept my mouth shut and smiled. The conveyor belt was broken and airport staff had to physically drag all of the bags out so it was another hour until before I left the airport.
I always start a trip by giving a donation to the first beggar I see and it didn't take long. While walking in the market a women who "looked like" she was in her 50s but could have possibly been either 40 or 80, was the recipient of my foreign aid. After giving her some rupees she pleaded with me to take her photograph. But before I could hit the shutter button she lifted her sari to show me a scar on her stomach that she seemed very proud of. Miss personality then took the money, kissed it, then starting primping for the camera as though she was a Hollywood celebrity on the red carpet. To me she was Miss India and her happiness in posing was a great welcome.
Gujarat is known for its fine cuisine and a few of us went to Swati Snacks which is a well known and loved Ahmedabad eatery. The items on the menu looked unfamiliar and so I asked our smiling and friendly waiter what he suggested. Within minutes out came raita, a yogurt based preparation, chichi, a split pea dish, generous helping of ghee, mukhaws and hot dal.
The textures, spices, and seasoning were fantastic. Not knowing what you are eating and not being able to pronounce the names of our first meal made us all laugh and smile. Jane, from South Africa, impressed as a serious foodie and helped us with the pronunciation, and Carl the professional food photographer from California, cursed himself for not having his camera. The coconut water had a cream in it and I think I found my new drink of choice
With photo leader extraordinare Jeremy Woodhouse leading the the charge a first-day sunset shoot was in order. The best place to do this was on the bridge crossing the Sabarmati River. If you have been to India you know that crossing the street is a combination of dance, athletic ability, pure stupidity, cunningness and anticipation. Our trusty driver Jagdish stopped the car in the middle of the road in the middle of the bridge and we all piled out. I saw blind fear in the face of a few and an expression of, "are you crazy, we can't cross here!" in the face of a another group member. We watched cars go by an then, with a pack of bicycles coming up next, we quickly and deftly crossed the street. I noticed a few people were holding hands like they were school kids on a trip and I felt an arm latched tightly onto mine as well.
Ahmedabad, India — January 8, 2015