Monday, November 1, 2010

First nine hours in India

I landed in Trivandrum, India at 3:45 AM local time (6:15 PM EDT - yes - this is my first time ever in a half time zone). Total journey from the Upper West Side to my hotel in India was about 24 hours, by way of JFK and Doha.

Several observations about my trip so far:

1. Qatar Airways is fantastic, especially because they have plentiful delicious vegetarian food. In coach. (None of this chicken-or-beef nonsense I once experienced in first-class Continental.)

2. Doha Airport has surprisingly reasonably duty free single-malt Scotch prices, despite its majority culture prohibiting alcohol.

3. Indians have near 100% compliance with mustaches. It is rare to see a man without one or with any other style of facial hair.

4. Indian men tend to wear western clothing, whereas Indian women tend to wear traditional clothing.

5. India has the best, most considerate vegetarian food in the world. Every one of the dozens of dishes at the breakfast buffet was labeled as to whether it was vegetarian (by Indian standards - so eggs and fish are not, but dairy is).

6. I went into town to get a tuxedo made. The hotel provided me (at my expense - about $30 for the first two hours and then $10 for each additional hour) with a driver, who not only could navigate the crazy driving in India (passing in the opposing lane or worse between the two lanes, the bikes/walkers/auto-rickshaws - which are tiny cars with only one wheel in the front instead of two), and had cold bottled water, but came into every store with me and translated what I wanted into Malayalam (yes that's a palindrome in English transliteration) if needed.

7. Speaking of which, Malayalam and Hindi use different alphabets, so most signs here are written in three languages (English being the third).

8. If you ever go to get clothes made in India, bring many many pictures of exactly what you want. Don't assume they will know what a tuxedo is or what it is supposed to look like or why there is a satin stripe over the seam in the pants.

9. I went to two places - Duron and BodyFit. Duron was much better - they spoke better English, knew what I wanted, asked detailed questions of things I didn't think of, arranged me for to come back for a fitting two days later and then would have it done in four days, and even sent me with fabric samples so I knew what kind of satin to buy.

10. With regard to fabric, when you want clothes made you have to go to the textiles store nearby and buy your fabric (the tailor tells you how much he needs of what). I had never done this before, and learned two things. One, to make a tuxedo jacket and pants for someone my size (5'6") requires 3.5 meters of wool and 1.25 meters of satin (the tailor provided the synthetic lining for the jacket). The high quality materials ended up costing the same amount as the labor from the tailor! Fascinating. All in, including the three trips with the driver, the cost will be under $250, which is incredible for a custom made tailed tuxedo using high quality fabrics.

More to come later.

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