Incredible India (Part 2)

I can seldom get in my quickie sightseeing on work trips. As an interpreter and translator, I have to be near my boss even on social events. Fortunately we have returned to India a couple of times. On one such trip, my boss’s purpose for traveling to to New Dlehi was an ISSF World Cup hosted by the National Federation. Mine was to continue my exploration of this amazing country…oh, and to work, of course.

The problem with combining work and pleasure is that time for the latter depends entirely on work, so on any given day, my boss might tell me to take the afternoon off or on a day when there’s nothing scheduled in our official itinerary, he might decide to call an impromptu meeting at the sports venue, and my plans for sightseeing fly out the window.

So I’ve learned to do pre-trip research and have a list of restaurants, shops and interesting places near the hotel, in case I hit the jackpot and get time off.

On this particular trip, I included Swaminarayan Akshardham, a Hindu house of worship and cultural complex. If there’s a perfect time to visit a spiritual site, it’s on a work trip, when stress, jet lag, lack of sleep and a packed social agenda are the norm and the soul needs some loving care.

I was staying a the Vivanta Surajkund Hotel, which is lovely, near our World Cup venue, but far away from everything else, apparently. One day prior to my boss’s arrival, I hired a driver to take me to this place and it took almost 2 hours to get there (hello, nausea, my old friend). There’s a lot of speeding up and slowing down (careful of the cows, for heaven’s sake! The only reason I didn’t turn into a backseat drivers was my nausea).

When I arrived, there were hundreds of people waiting to get in and my heart sank. But, hey, I was already there and it was worth a try, so I asked which of the dozens of lines I should stand in first. I was told I couldn’t enter the complex with my backpack, camera or mobile phone, so I had to fill in a form with my phone number, hotel info and agree to the terms of the “cloakroom”. It took about an hour to reach the window where one hands in the form and one’s belongings.

From there, I was directed to the window where I had to buy a ticket and that was another half-hour wait. Then, I stood in a different line to enter. I wish I’d had an interpreter with me, I would have enjoyed speaking to my comrades in line, as they looked more calm than I felt.

The complex, which opened in 2005, is beautiful, but I glanced at my watch and it had taken so long to get in that I had about an hour to see everything, quickly buy a couple of gifts at the shop for my best friend and find my driver for the long ride back to the hotel.

Was it worth all the trouble? Not really. Would I go back for a better visit? Only if they sold Disneyworld-type fast passes.

The following morning, I conduct a poll among the lobby staff and come to the conclusion that my best bet for shopping is the Khan Market. I’ve got my rupees in my purse, a currency app in my phone and a driver willing to wait for me. Now, at this point I suggest 98% of the male readers skip the rest of this paragraph. What did I buy, you ask? I bought this exact salwar kameez, half a dozen shawls, and a few pieces of jewelry. It’s hard to resist so many beautiful textiles and I was tempted to buy saris because the fabric is just a work of art…but what would I do with them back home? As usual, it took me an hour to get back to the hotel. You know what? I think the minimum driving time in New Delhi is always an hour!

Back to work mode! Sightseeing is over when my boss lands so let’s get into it, because I could talk about India for hours.

Above you can see some beautiful images adorning the competition venue in New Delhi, including that huge backdrop for the final rounds. Is it easy to work abroad? Nope. But the meetings in India were well organized and our only real source of stress was traffic. People were always kind, willing to help and ready with a smile. Can’t ask for more!

Come back for the next blog post, where we wil be talking Olympic Sports work, work, work, gossip, work, work!