India isn't for everyone - Part 1

A typical first day in India for the average foreigner will probably feel a lot like a punch in the face. If you're coming from the airport, your first lasting impression may come from the taxi ride to your accommodation. Your seemingly mad driver will dance his way around four each of other cars, bikes, trucks, and buffalo carts as if lanes don't exist. Because in India, they really don't exist. Yes, those are lane dividers you see painted on the street but they're about as visible to an Indian driver as air.

A traffic jam in Jodhpur
Going out to sightsee on your first day will first require you to muster up some courage. And I've actually met a few people who, upon their arrival, simply chose to stay in bed. They took one look out the window and just thought 'Nope, not today'.

For those who brave the outdoors, I think three things will stand out the most. The constant honking of traffic, the trash cows, and the dusty, dusty air. No matter what the locals tell you, don't be fooled into thinking this is just fog. Fog doesn't happen at 2 in the afternoon on a sweltering summer day and it sure as hell isn't brown.

Attempts to go shopping for food and necessary supplies have the potential to cause sensory overload
People who've first traveled in other developing Asian countries tend to fare much better with the initial transition. India is still shocking for everyone but you've at least learned some key skills that put you leaps and bounds ahead of other Western visitors. For one, you already know what it takes to successfully cross the street in this part of the world - treating it like a game of Frogger.

India is harrowing at first and you'll see many things which will break your heart. But with enough time, most people find some aspects of the country to fall in love with. With an open mind, they'll come to discover the life and beauty hidden under that top layer of cow dung. And for the less beautiful moments, well, a really good sense of humor helps stave off those feelings of rage.

Pigeons taking flight at the Amber Fort in Jaipur
But every once in a long while, you'll run into that one person who really just hates India with a passion. As if the very act of being inside this country is slowly draining away their life force.

And this is where I begin the story of one particular man who's not having such a fun time. He went in search of a woman who had run away to the most exotic and remote reaches of India. Except after he found her, he discovered he couldn't go back home. Not because he fell in love with the country or the girl or anything. It was because his passport got tangled up in a complicated visa issue and he was simply stuck there.

Unhappy times. Alex's first ride on the Indian public bus.
For context, Alex has been in process of attaining an American greencard for the past half century thanks to the US's expeditious immigration program. In the meantime, his work visa expired and it was about time for him to conduct his bi-annual routine of leaving the country, renewing his visa at the local American consulate, and flying back home. It was a perfunctory order of business he usually went to Bulgaria or Canada to get done. This time, he decided to do it in Delhi during our vacation. Does it already sound like a bad plan just from hearing this much? Everyone else I talked to about this seemed to think so.

Quick eats at the train station
Last week, Alex received an online status update on the process telling him the visa was delayed. But the message itself was cryptic and had no more information to give. It wasn't until the day Alex needed to fly back home that he was able to walk into the office and hear the news in person that they had no idea when he'd get his passport back. Based on online testimonials from other people who got stuck in similar situations, it sounded like his delay could last 3 months. Also based on the testimonials, it sounded like this was not an uncommon occurrence for consulate offices located in India.

Alex canceled all his flights home that day and emailed his boss about the news. The very next day, he moved to a new hotel in Gurgaon to begin working remotely out of the Google Gurgaon office. So here we are. Alex is working from India and I'm just hanging out with him in third-world cyber city. He was already more than ready to leave India this week and I think this delay might have tipped him over the edge of madness and despair.

But I like to look at things on the bright side. Who knows, maybe after three months, India will begin to grow on Alex. It'll overcome his current state of abhorrence the way a crazy girlfriend in love will eventually make you love her back whether by free-will or brute force. India is kind of like that.

More to come on this story as it unfolds.

Looking for home

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