Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Gardens and The Ride

I will get the wedding and reception posted later because there will be many pictures, but thinking of those events reminded me of how many trips we made to Delhi last week for various reasons. This won't be in chronological order since it is a good news, bad news type sequence and we'll start with the good. Read on and you'll see what I mean.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

P-day, or so it was declared, and all of the senior couples (5) including President and Sister Ricks, met at the mission office then headed to the Mughal Gardens behind the country's Presidential residence in Delhi. The president and the sisters went in the mission van, and the rest of us gents crowded into an "auto". Fortunately, the gardens weren't too far away, but the looks we got, and smiles, made it a fun, but cramped trip.

The Presidential residence is a huge building that housed the British High Commissioner and his officials. Don't think of it as a residence because it is much too large for just that. We couldn't go inside, but it must hold many offices as well as residence sections. It is huge, the only way to describe it. The gardens are apparently only available for walking tours during the spring of the year and entrance was free and security was very high as we went through multiple check points and screenings. No bags, cameras, cell phones, nothing was allowed except the clothes and shoes you were wearing. And that was unfortunate because we both had hoped to take pictures and afterwards looked for someone selling pictures, but nothing, just what we took away in our memories. There are photos on the internet and a story about 95,000 people that visited last Sunday alone. Glad we got through when we did and there was a good crowd then.

The gardens are modeled after gardens the British had observed in the palaces of the Mughal rulers in India along with some of their own designs. The beauty of the gardens is hard to put in words. The Mughal Gardens are actually a series of gardens, each with its own theme, working back from the main building and connected by pathways. The largest garden immediately behind the building included water courses, fountains, and ponds. It had a large grass center area that was table top flat and manicured. I could just imagine the ladies and gents in their white outfits playing a leisurely game of croquet about 100 years ago.

The variety of flowers and colors, the trimmed trees and bushes, vines, even an entire wall of sweet peas, all made for a fascinating walk for anyone with any degree of appreciation for the natural beauties of this world. It was a great respite from our missionary work. Afterwards we enjoyed a late lunch at a chinese restaurant that was also in a garden setting. Quite a beautiful day as it was sunny and warm. To cap things off, we took an auto home since the driver who took us to the restaurant had waited. It was a long ride in one of the little vehicles, but turned out to be rather fun given the great weather and the time of day was the minimum for traffic. The picture was taken from our auto while driving on the Ring Road heading towards Noida.

Maybe you can get a feel for the almost ground level view you have in the little 3 wheelers.

Monday, February 16, 2009

It was a busy morning with calls, emails, and I made good progress in a phone call, love Skype, with the Area in Hong Kong obtaining understanding of the issues faced in India with the neonatal resuscitation (NR) projects. I had ordered a taxi, large car, to go over to the mission office and pick up the 16 boxes of NRT stuff, manikins, etc. that had been shipped back from our NR training in Bangalore. We were lucky and got Hari. He’s from Nepal and a driver we’ve had before, albeit a very type A driver. We set a record going to the mission office, making it in a little over 30 minutes which is unheard of, but due to Hari’s driving and some breaks in the traffic. We spent time with President and Sister Ricks discussing an NR project issue, then loaded up the car and headed back with one stop. Sister Tanner had located a source for Crisco, or a good substitute, in a store in Pria Market and that was on our list for this trip. Hari knew where to go and we were there in minutes. We were really cruising through the trip until a major traffic tie up caught us on the Noida side. Altogether, it was a good trip.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Today was even busier with another trip to Delhi thrown in. But what a difference this trip was. We had ordered a taxi for 6 PM to go over to a PEF Committee meeting at 7 PM in the same area, Vasant Vihar, as the Pria Market we had been to the day before. The taxi was 15 minutes late, not a good start. The driver seemed to have zero English comprehension. I was prepared for that and gave him a card with the Delhi address written on it. Then a series of calls to the guy who dispatches the cars ensued. After two calls, I thought we were good to go since the dispatcher’s wife had told me there would be an extra 200 rupee charge for distance traveled and she had asked for and been given a landmark for the area we were going to, the Continental Hotel in Vasant Vihar. I could have directed the driver to the location if he had followed the route we expected. As we were nearing where you have to turn to take what is known as the Flyway, a toll road and bridge over the Yamuna river, I said to him, “Flyway” and pointed, and got a “yes sir, yes sir” and then he drove right past the turn and we were toast.

What followed was a 3 hour cab ride that would test anyone’s patience. We had a driver who could not follow directions and I honestly question his IQ level. I put him on the phone with Hindi speaking people at the meeting location multiple times and he still couldn’t get it. He made multiple stops to ask directions in addition to the phone calls. He made wrong turns where he doubled back the way we had just come. At one point, he said “5 minutes” meaning we’d be there in that amount of time. 35 minutes later we decided to tell him to take us home, to forget going to our destination. And then the realization hit us that he did not understand and we had sudden flashes of another 2 plus hours in the cab trying to get back even if he did understand. After yet another phone call, getting further lost on a road to nowhere, stopping to ask directions, and another 20 minutes, we finally made it to our 7 PM meeting at 9:15 PM, 3 hours after we left home. But we did get in on the last 30 minutes. As some church meetings go, maybe it was a blessing in disguise, just kidding, these were good people doing good work in trying to establish the PEF program in Delhi.

But the fun wasn’t over yet. Our driver did ok in taking us back, although at one point I thought he had made a wrong turn, but it was a 6 of one, half dozen type choice. We continued on home without further incident until we got to another choice point about a mile from our sector. The driver took the slightly longer route, but what the heck, I knew where we were and I wasn’t going to let him get lost again even if I had to climb into the front seat. Things were ok for the next few kilometers. Then the driver pulled over on a stretch of road with no buildings and minimal light, but it did have some traffic. He got out of the car and we were wondering, “is he going for directions or what?” It turned out the car had a flat, left front tire. I got out and immediately began looking for an auto, the little 3 wheelers, to flag down intending to bag the taxi and driver once and for all. But everything coming through that stretch already had passengers. After watching the driver mess with the lug nuts for 20 minutes, Sister Tanner suggested I offer to help him. He was light weight enough that he was jumping on the lug wrench and it kept flying off of the nut. When I went to see what was happening, he was down to one lug nut that appeared to be frozen and I could feel that the lug head edges were getting rounded. I took the wrench and tried to keep it on and turn, but it was no use and I could not communicate with him to try and work together. I gave up and handed the wrench back to him with a shrug. A few minutes later, another car pulled up. The driver had been on the phone off and on and apparently had requested help. Sister Tanner recognized one of the two young men who just arrived as a driver we had before. What a blessing to have a companion with a great memory for faces.

Fifteen minutes later we were finally at the house after an attempt to go through a gate to our sector that is locked at 10 PM. We had already decided I was going to pay the rate agreed to before the tour began although not paying anything had crossed my mind. The taxis charge a flat rate for a set time and distance, but there are surcharges if you go over either. After we got out of the taxi, I gave the driver 600 rupees and walked off. It was the amount I had been told by the dispatcher before leaving. He immediately started to protest in Hindi and I just turned my back, walked away, and ignored him. Once inside the house, I called the dispatcher while the driver rang our door bell for a while. Good luck with that. I told the dispatcher I was not going to pay for something I was not responsible for. If his driver did not know where he was going, that was his problem and not mine as far as paying for it. For as mad as I was, I kept it under control. It was well after 11 PM, but we were finally home. After arriving at the PEF meeting and briefly relating the experience getting there, which they were aware of due to the phone calls, one sister jokingly suggested we should write a book about our taxi experiences and I responded that no one would pay to read 5 pages of cussing and we had a good laugh.

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