January 15th – 18th, 2016 – Pune, India
I’m getting to know the Bhubaneswar airport very well now too. I am becoming proactive telling the ticket counter in advance that my luggage will be overweight and I will need to pay the excess baggage fee. I don’t know where this lady was all along during my trip but the one who checked me in to go to Delhi and then Pune asked if I would like my bags to go directly to Pune!!! “Of course!” I screamed! This was going to save me big Rupees in Delhi and the hassle of having to get my bags and do the line up! I asked her why I wasn’t able to do this all along because I made this request on the first voyage and she said she didn’t know but she would do it for me. This woman is my hero and a saint; I told her this about a hundred times! This Is India. So then it was me and my water bottle going through security again. See you on the other side 😛
I was sitting beside a man on the plane who was asking about my trip and if I was with anyone. I explained my life history in a nutshell to him and that I write blogs here in WordPress and I’m connecting with my close friends from the online blogging world to in person. He was in total shock and asked if I ever considered the fact that some of these people could be ex-cons or dangerous fake people. Plus I should be aware that people hide behind screens and change their identities in order to manipulate other people and create trouble. He suggested I carry some pepper spray to protect myself! On one hand this guy was right. There are definitely people like this in the world but on the other hand I knew my online blogging friends like family. None of what he was saying was true and never even crossed my mind. But to an outsider, this seems pretty strange to see a female solo traveler going around India to meet online friends in person. Hmmm…… but hey this is India and I know I’m in great hands. Not only that, I’m going to see a sweet friend of mine, NJ (her blogging name) Neerja and her hubby Dinesh. Both of them are engineers but work at different companies. You can check NJ’s awesome blog at AmeTalk.
I made it to Delhi airport, went to my connecting gate and for the first time in my entire trip, I had a flight delay of two hours. This was a bit of an inconvenience but at the same time, I could go and eat 😉 I know my way around here now and I’m starting to feel at home. Finally I boarded the flight to Pune had another meal and made it safe and sound. My luggage also made it and I got a pre-paid cab to go to my hotel The VITS. I called NJ to let her know I arrived and both of us were starving! She said she would meet me at the hotel restaurant when I got there. We saw each other and our arms stretched out for miles giving big hugs after. It was so amazing to see her in person what a beautiful smile she has. I met her husband Dinesh and he is also extremely kind and generous. All three of us are so chatty and always laughing, we clicked instantly! It felt like a reunion even though it was a meeting for the very first time. We made plans for the next day to see each other since it was the weekend and Dinesh would be picking me up at the hotel to go back to their place after, on his motorbike. We said goodnight and off we all went smiling ear to ear 😀
The next day I got ready and Dinesh came by to pick me up. I was excited to go on the motorbike but I also remembered how the traffic was 😛 I held on tight to Dinesh’s backpack while we rode through the streets. Some were families of four people without helmets on a bike and texting on their phones! This is India. Heads were turning looking at us we laughed and Dinesh said not to make eye contact with them to reduce the gazing so I kept my eyes in front. We reached their very nice flat which is the top floor of a nice condo complex with a great view of Pune. NJ and I sat and talked for hours. We exchanged some gifts I washed some of my clothes and then I watched NJ work her magic in the kitchen making veg biriyani. The smells of a home cooked meal were so great and seeing all her spices was so much fun. Here is what bay leaves should look like. They are the size of my hand! This is India.
We planned to go to Osho Ashram that day but since we ate lunch late we decided to go tomorrow instead. This meant we could go shopping and then out for dinner later on. NJ and I caught an auto-rickshaw to go to a nice shopping district and I bought several souvenirs there with the help of NJ talking to the merchants about the prices. She’s so good! It was fun walking around and then we had a break in Starbucks and talked even more. It was getting late so we got an auto-rickshaw to meet Dinesh at a restaurant near my hotel and their place. Dinesh is a non-veg like me whereas NJ is veg. Both Dinesh and I ordered something to drink with our meal, I had a glass of wine and he had a beer. Alcohol isn’t consumed by many in India but that glass I had was so good and it was nice to have it with someone. After supper it was late and already time for bed but wait….now there were three of us and one motorbike. They said to get on we will go tripling even though it’s usually not allowed at night! So with Dinesh as our captain, NJ in the middle and me behind holding onto both of them, we made it to the hotel safely and illegally 😉 Whew, what a great day. This is India.
The next morning Dinesh came to pick me up again on his bike and we went back to their place for lunch. NJ was up early working so hard preparing lunch and supper for us ahead of time because we were heading to Osho Ashram and Park that day. Before lunch she made the best Masala Tea that I’ve ever had and she is quite famous in her family for this amazing tea. Both of us talked about food for hours and before we knew it, we were hungry and it was time for lunch. NJ made Kadi with steamed rice and a carrot/cucumber salad and she is the Master Chef 🙂
After lunch we caught a cab to go to Osho Ashram but when we arrived it was closed. However, Osho Park was right beside so we were able to walk around this beautiful green setting, click some pics, look at nature and talk and laugh for more hours! I was learning so much about relationships in India and how arranged marriages work because it’s so different from here. It was very interesting to know all the details that matter for a couple to meet and then all the details that go into a wedding. In this park there were young couples in love and it was cute to see them hand in hand, taking selfies. When it was time to head back, Dinesh called a cab with his cool app on his phone and it arrived within 5 minutes! This Is India. The technology is amazing here because engineering is such a huge profession, Canada can learn from you.
After reaching their place, we had supper that NJ previously prepared which was stuffed eggplant, gram flour and capscum and the famous chapattis. I was so full after and I had one very happy belly. We had to say good bye because I was leaving the next day to take my final flight to Delhi. I’m still bad with goodbyes, it was hard to leave. NJ and I gave big hugs again and then Dinesh took me back to my hotel. I thanked him for everything, he was so kind, generous and fun it felt like I knew them for years. When I reached my room NJ sent me a message after saying she missed me already which made me miss her more! I had such a great time with you NJ and Dinesh, thank you for everything, your hospitality was top notch and forever memorable. I really hope you can make it to Canada someday and I really hope I can make it back to see you again. As I said before, India has the biggest hearted people who are so welcoming, loving and giving.
This is Dinesh and NJ and This Is India ❤
Stay tuned for the final chapter….