Today is my first day with the Global Studies class. Woke up early to grab some food. Looking over the class itinerary it’s pretty obvious that we’ll be eating better than we did during the first half of the trip. During breakfast I kept noticing familiar faces filtering in to the restaurant. Our last class together in D.C. was over a month ago and since the majority of the class is from the Part-Time or Accelerated MBA program reintroductions are in order.
At 9:00 AM the entire class boarded a luxury coach for a day of sightseeing around Delhi. This was a completely different mode of sightseeing then Justin and I had grown accustomed to in India. Knowing that for the next 10 days we’ll be living in 5-star hotels, traveling via luxury coach and moving as a 40-person group makes me happy that I chose to come over early to experience some things a little more intimately on my own. Window seat on a giant tour bus is slightly different than head out the side of a motorized rickshaw doing 25 mph through congested traffic circles. I will say this, sitting on a bus and not having my face two feet from the exhaust of the motorized rickshaw next to me in traffic is a nice change of pace.
The bus squeezed its way through the narrow streets of Old Delhi and dropped us off at the Jama Masjid aka the “Friday Mosque” near the Red Fort. Jama Masjid can hold up to 20,000 worshippers on any given day. Voluntarily feeding the pigeons in the outdoor mosque was probably not the greatest idea. Its safe to say that pair of socks is not making the trip back to D.C.
After the mosque everyone paired up and hopped on bicycle rickshaws. My driver was 5’4” and a buck thirty tops. The look on his face when I crawled up on his rickshaw was priceless. He wasn’t bigger then my left leg. Toss Justin into the mix and the dude needed a runway to run down to get enough momentum to pedal. The ride took us through the narrow streets of a part of town known as Chandni Chowk that houses hundreds of little shops selling everything from incense to fruit to beautiful saris. There were points in the ride where I didn’t even have to get out of the rickshaw if I wanted to shop. Some of the little alleys are as narrow as six or seven feet.
The scariest part of the ride wasn’t the traffic or the fact that the rickshaw seat was barely screwed into the bicycle it was the electrical wiring that loosely hangs down all over the streets. I’ve never seen so much wiring in a city.
The class regrouped at the Chandni Chowk subway station. Justin and I tried to ride the subway three days ago and gave up. We watched three packed trains go by before conceding. It was absolutely shocking to watch people get on and off the subway cars. I figured the entire group was about to experience the same thing. This particular station actually had designated boarding and exit lanes on the ground. There were also attendants all over the platform making sure patrons were allowed to exit before new passengers boarded. We split up and hopped on a single car at various entrances. I had asked our guide how many stops we were going and he told me one so when we got to the next station I lowered my shoulder like a fullback and busted through to the door. The three other guys I was with did the same. It’s a little disheartening to exit a jam packed train in a foreign city only to turn around and see the other twenty six members of your class on the train waving at you. Thank god Justin bought a cell phone.
That night the class hosted a cocktail/dinner reception in a ballroom at the Taj Palace for area professionals and local Smith administrators. A senior executive from Standard Chartered Bank of India gave a 30-minute presentation on the challenges his company faces as it evolves to meet the needs of a growing middle class. This was the first of several meetings we have scheduled across India with entrepreneurs and senior managers.