ryan pirog, photography
ryan pirog, photography

India

My entrance into India was not smooth. I landed, the flight was fine, and everyone filed off into customs. Standing in line I remember it feeling like any other domestic US airport at 3am, everyone’s tired and you have to stand there, holding your passport, waiting, waiting. Finally I get to the booth and hand them all my paperwork, my passport and literally everything that I had to convey why I was there. But, the “where to” portion of my custom sheet didn’t have an address. All I knew is I was being picked up at the airport by a guy name Michael and we were heading to the IGL headquarters in Salem. Little did I know Salem was 8hrs away. So in desperation, and pitty on the customs officer’s part, they took me over to a table/desk and I called the 1 phone number that I had for Michael. Well Michael picked up, but I couldn’t understand a word he was saying. So I looked at the customs officer and handed him the phone, with the look of I don’t know what to do here. Well they chat for a few minutes and the guy starts writing down the name of the hotel I was staying at. I’ll never forget it, Hotel Jamaica. I walk out to the arrivals pickup area and call Michaels phone, nothing, voicemail. So I’m standing there, 4am, looking for an Indian guy named Michael…. 8 seconds later up walks this small balding Indian guy, Michael. He takes me to the truck and introduces me to the driver, who doesn’t speak English, but he smiles and shakes hands and all, nice guy. The driving in India, like most of the non-Western countries is crazy. There are no lanes, and speed bumps replace what would be lights in the US. Plus you have hundreds of motorbikes all over and people everywhere, even in the middle of the night. Driving to Hotel Jamaica in the early hours was interesting. You’d pass a bunch of teenagers on a tractor, or buses loaded to capacity or trucks or anything you can put a motor on. We finally get there, and I get up to my room. I lay out my camera gear and make sure it’s not damaged from traveling. I make sure all the batteries are charged and everything’s cleaned for the following weeks, just one last double check to make sure. Then I took a shower, which was an amazing shower. After 30 some hours of flying I just stood there, remembering not to swallow any water. I sent some emails home, watched Indian TV for a few minutes and went to bed, about 5am. Now Michael told me, “Mr. Ryan, we’ll be here to have breakfast and pick you up at 8am, and then we’ll leave”. So thinking they’ll be joining me for breakfast, I set my alarms for 7:40…. 7:30am I get a call to my room, Michaels here, and we need to leave. I’m panicking and running around taking a shower (don’t swallow the water) packing my gear, and clothes, and making sure I didn’t forget anything. I scramble downstairs thinking we’re in this big hurry, and he stops me. No no, go have breakfast we can leave after that no worries…. My omelet was ok and the coffee was kind of weak, but the tea was good… We get back into the same SUV from a few hours ago and head to the IGL campus. We drove through cities, and slums, and the industrial areas and finally the rural parts, and kept driving. We’d pass through these small towns and cities, and it was like watching a movie out my window. What is daily life like on the way to Salem India? Not much different than anywhere else. People fixing cars, people at bus stops, people shopping or selling something, or just people hanging out. There were these small parades of teenage boys in the streets, throwing colored powder on each other and carrying various statues. It was apparently a Hindu religious holiday. We kept driving until we got the end of what seemed like the paved roads, I didn’t realize it got more rural. Driving on the rock and rutted dirt roads was a trip, and you’d see 3 - 4 people on one moped navigating this field of softball sized rocks. Finally we crossed over this path of land between two rock quarries which lead into the outskirts of town where IGL was. We turned right down yet another dirt road and after a few hundred feet we were there, my home for the next month-ish.

 

Sep 23/Day 1
IGL Sharon Campus
Kanavai Padur
Thideer Kuppam