Do you feel like you could stand to be a more patient person? Have you thought about traveling in India? As an earnest proponent of the “whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” school of character building, I can’t recommend traveling in India enough as a way to become a better human being.
As I write this, I am sitting in a rather dingy hotel suite in Chennai, mentally congratulating myself for not completely losing my mind with the kind, well-meaning, and utterly ineffective staff.
Knowing I had a 14 hour layover in this absolutely boiling southern Indian city, I had the utter stroke of genius to book a hotel an hour from the airport. Yes, I’d have to get up at 2 a.m. to return to the airport for my onward flight, but this hotel was right on the beach and it had a gorgeous pool! I envisioned myself lounging poolside all afternoon with a fruity umbrella drink before putting in a few hours’ work in the office area of my opulent six-room suite.
Have you ever noticed how my plans always seem to go to shit?
After an uneventful 55 minute flight from Bangalore (during which we were served lunch, even though the cabin crew barely had time to pass out the boxes of sandwiches and mango juice before turning around to collect the trash; American carriers, kindly take note), I land in Chennai, collect my suitcase (that I bought last night after deciding that backpacking was utter bullshit) and exit the airport in search of my pre-booked taxi.
My pre-booked taxi, I should add, that never shows up.
See? More patient already. I randomly choose a taxi counter, arrange a cab, and 5 minutes later I’m in the back of an ancient black Vauxhall, plunging into the melee of central Chennai. At every nauseating turn, I remind myself that I’ll be lounging poolside shortly.
We finally make it to my hotel, but not before my driver attempts to deliver me to two other hotels and a seafood restaurant. He’s really convinced that the latter is the right place, and calls the parking lot security guard over to help him argue with me.
Naturally, the security guard is on his side. “Yes, you are definitely in the right place, madam!” It’s not until I threaten to get out and walk the rest of the way that the driver believes I’m really not staying the night at India’s version of Red Lobster.
We drive the wrong way down a one-way street to arrive at my hotel, but apparently this is OK because he honks the horn a lot. I’ve learned that, in India, you can disobey any traffic rule you want as long as you make liberal use of your horn while doing so.
The hotel manager is round and cheerful and welcoming as he takes my bag and ushers me inside. “Which way to the pool?” I ask, hoping he doesn’t notice the rivers of sweat running down my arm as we shake hands.
“Oh, sorry madam! The pool is being now closed for maintenance.”
I can almost feel the increased patience flowing into my body.
Another employee pipes up. “You can always go across the street to the beach, madam!”
“OK. Is the water safe for swimming?”
“Oh, no. Current is too strong. Definitely do not go for swimming.”
<Deep, deep breath>
While I’m sure it would be lovely to bake on the sand on a 95 degree day without any way to cool off, I decide to pass on that. I guess I’ll be spending the afternoon holed up in my room, getting caught up on work.
“Oh, madam?” I’m halfway across the parking lot when the hotel manager calls after me. “Sorry, sorry. WiFi is not working today. Sorry!”
Patience. So much patience.
Please note: I absolutely love India, and the Indian people. I would never dissuade anyone from visiting India, especially my beloved Bangalore. But, ah, when you go? Bring a sense of humor.