My internet connection at home was down for three days, because apparently there had been some thunder and lightening last weekend, putting my ISP (and others) out of service. I have no idea how that is actually possible, but I guess it is. On the plus side, I had missed the thunder and lightening, because I spend the weekend recruiting in a very small college town, a village really, in Rajastan. We flew into Delhi and then went on a 4 hour drive over solidly potholed roads across the border to Rajastan. Well, Rajastan is of course still India, but for some reason or other our driver had to stop at the border to Rajastan to pay some taxes in a little hut of a control post.
This college village is really more like a little gated community with a bit of an army barracks flair. The whole village seems to live off the students, but if you picture lots of college gear shops, book stores, movie theaters, let alone regular theaters, then you would be utterly wrong. In fact, we went out to the central student meeting area, which has a large number of good and cheap eateries, and there were hundreds of students late in the evening hanging around having dinner outside under the stars. Kind of nice, but two things were notably missing: beer and women.
There was not a single bottle of beer to be found and our attempts to buy some were met with apologies. I didn’t quite get whether alcohol is actually illegal, or whether there is simply no demand. Among the hundreds of students there were maybe 20 women. Not that there aren’t any female students in the college, but the girls’ housing complexes (of course, no coed here) are actually closed at 11pm. Boys can roam around all night, but the girls get locked up behind the Berlin walls that surround their dormitories.
The campus does look a bit like a nice and pleasant peaceful army compound, and so basically students spend four years of their lives here, in complete isolation, with no distractions whatsoever, under blistering heat in the summer (it was a good 40 Celsius), and chilly cold in the winter (when it gets below freezing). What a life! The college campus temple was very beautiful though, and there’s a bunch of peacocks running around (and away from my camera), so I guess you win some you lose some as a college student in Rajastan.
Before our trip to Rajastan, I had gotten a call from my car dealer who asked me whether she can give my number to the Hindustan Times, because they were writing an article about the HM Ambassador. I said, sure, why not, so the newspaper called me. They actually wanted to do a photo shoot the next morning, so I told them to come early, since I had to go bring my car for service and then go to the airport. When they didn’t show up at the agreed upon time, I called them, and they told me, ah, well, sorry, we don’t have time for a shoot. So they interviewed me on the phone, I e-mailed them a picture of my silver machine and apparently there was a half page article in the Mumbai section of the Hindustan Times last Saturday.
I still haven’t seen the article, because I was out of town, but apparently it praises the HM Ambassador and then used my quotes (plus the Italian embassy employees who bought two Avigos) as solid proof that Made in India stands for style and quality in the world. Of course, I had expressed my utmost satisfaction with the most beautiful car gracing the Indian roads, so everybody was happy. So happy, in fact, that both my car dealer and some guy from the Hindustan Motors company called me to express their thanks for my valuable input. I guess it was at that point that I realized I should have tried to make deal with them – maybe become their official HM Ambassador ambassador in news, print, and media, in exchange for a minor donation, of course. Anyways, it was all very amusing and now I am famous for being that crazy Westerner driving around in an Amby – by himself, no less.
The trip to the HM service center was also quite an experience. So this car needs the first service stop after 1000km – not 10000 miles, or even 5000 miles, but 1000km, which took me all but three weeks to rack up. That’s the first joke. Then it took me forever to find the place, because the address was useless as usual, and when I called them, they basically refused to give me precise directions, but just told me to ask around, as it would be so much easier.
So I asked a cop, who actually spoke English (a premiere), and he swore on his mother’s grave that he knows exactly where the FortPoint service center is, except, he couldn’t for the life of him explain it to me (it turned out to be a few hundred meters down the road on the right). Eventually, I found the place, in a tiny lane under a bridge next to the Mumbai race tracks, and was greeted by a very disgruntled guy who took my service book, filled it out, and asked my to sign it, right were it says something like Customer Signature. I hereby certify that all work has been completed in a timely manner to my fullest satisfaction. – Of course, at that point, nobody had even driven the car into the completely overcrowded workshop, let alone told me how long it would take or how much it would cost.
Of course, being the narrow-minded Westerner that I am, I refused to sign squat and just asked him how he can possibly expect me to sign this when they haven’t even touched the car yet. The guy wasn’t in much of a mood for minor details like that and just shot back: Sir, we cannot start the work without your signature. So that really cracked me up, but then his boss came around and just told him to start the work and make the customer happy. Yup, that’s right!
They said it would take 90 minutes to do whatever it says in the service book, and after a number of reminders that I have to be at the airport pretty soon, they were done two hours and fourteen hundred Rupees later. I am sure they didn’t do everything they were supposed to do, but then again, what do I know? I really regretted not having brought my camera, because the workshop crew was quite a troupe. I guess they couldn’t believe that I had actually bought an Amby and even drove it there myself, so there was a lot of laughter and hellos, and good spirits all around. Not that many of them were actually working, and they took a half-hour tea break while I was sweating about making it to the airport in time, but I will definitely bring my camera to the next service stop, which is due at 5000km or probably in less than three months.