Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Alls well that smells well?

I have just returned from my first official trip. I had gone to Gandhidham in Gujarat for some research work on salt. My first such trip in years. It was hectic but great. This trip led me to a new 'acquisition' - my own cell phone. Yup. So late, in 2005. I have never used one, never felt the need to and was amazed at how much people talked and talked into their cells. And I felt irritated that they carried it around everywhere and stopped conversations and meetings to take calls. They carried it in their pockets, in thier palms, hung it around their necks and most often stuck between their shoulder and ears. I started using A's ancient one (he is very attached to it) when I started work, confusing our friends no end. 'Oh you have got the cell today', A's friends would say, on finding me taking their calls and vice versa. Not to mention the amount of comments it drew - what is it? A murder weapon? Where did you get it? You got it in 2000? Don't you mean 2000 years ago and so on and so forth, remarked my colleagues who like people in France, spoke constantly on their colourful, slim, glitzy cells which did everything including, I suspect, cook their dinners!I got mine on the penultimate day before my trip and was bewildered with the many user-friendly options. And I must admit, I felt sheepish and guilty when for no reason whatso ever, I had this terrible urge to call A up and give him a blow by blow account of my progress through the airport!

My flight reached Ahmedabad around 9pm feeling incredibly foolish at the amount of warm clothes I had worn and carried with me. It was a pleasant 27 degrees! I took a car to Gandhidham where the biggest salt producers in India are located. The roads were simply fantastic and we covered the distance of 480km in 6 hours flat and despite couple of halts. A member of the reseach team travelled along with and this lessened my apprehension about travelling alone in the night in the company of an unknown driver. But I couldn't relax because thed driver played some really horrible music at ear splitting levels and I couldn't even complain sicne we didn't want him falling asleep at the wheels. I was really thankful about one thing though - my choice of a non-AC car despite having a budgetfor one. With an AC car, we would have had to keep the windows rolled up and boy did the driver have a B.O problem. Had me gagging in the backseat. I sort of solved the problem by pulling down my cap right down to my nose (Well I did say I had gone prepared for the cold...and having got my cap along, it was easier to simply wear it)!

We reached Gandhidham in the wee hours of the morning and by 10am, was out with the research team meeting the salt producers - big, medium and small. At each place, we were offered some godawful tea, terribly sweet and smelly (buffalo's milk) and refusing it would be bad manners. I was really dehydrated since all I could do was take small sips of the tea. (Water was ofcourse a strict no-no. Couldn't afford the loosies while on the road). At our fourth stop, our host, contrary to the custom, didn't offer us anything at all till we were nearly at the end of our discussions when he suddenly shouted to someone 'Where is the juice?'. Aah. Juice...never was a more wonderful word spoken. But it took its time coming. The minutes ticked by. The conversation flagged. We racked our brains to think up things to ask. Not finding any, went through our old questions. Every now and then, someone would rush by with something in his hand and we would all look expectantly at him. But no it was not the juice. At one point we even got up to leave but the host pleaded with us to wait. Finally, finally, some one came in with three glasses and set it down in front of us. I shot out an arm and downed the entire juice in one gulp only to realise that my colleagues hadn't touched theirs. They were picked up their glasses only when the host too was served. oops. But I was past caring. Orange juice never tasted so delicious.

At the end of the day, I was pooped beyond exhaustion and although I had the whole night to catch up on my sleep, was prevented from doing so by a fly that had got in god knows how in the clean and beautiful hotel room. Every once in a while it would alight on my forehead, nose or face and wake me up. I spent the better part of the night swatting it away.

I left for Ahmedabad at 6am which on hind sight was a mistake since we reached the airport at A'bad by 1.30pm and had to cool my heels till 8pm. The driver was a very polite young chap and shyly told me about his future plans - he had just gotten engaged to his sweetheart back in his village in Punjab, saving up to buy a truck, like his father. He told me about the tourist attractions in Gujarat. He insisted that I should visit the Akshardham Temple right next to the airport. I realised I had been unnecessarily apprehensive about travelling alone with at the begining, as I drew in the airport. Just as I had finished signing the bill and handed him the money, he asked me what perfume was I wearing. Something I picked up in France. Nothing expensive, just some deo. Why? Madame, you had left your sweater on the front seat yesterday and I smelt it. It was so nice!

Eeeeps. The idea of this young man (howsoever nice and polite, sitting there sniffing away at my sweater gave me heebie-jeebies) and I was so glad that he mentioned it to me (if at all) at the end of our journey!

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