Thursday, August 15, 2013


It was last year that I finally got my passport made to see my baby niece for the very first time, in Muscat. That was my first ‘international’ trip. Little did I know that 2012 was going to be all about travelling. I landed a job which involved a lot of travelling within India, with additional ‘training’ tenure in Shanghai.

My first day of new job was supposed to be in Shanghai. Needless to say, my parents were paranoid. They have no idea about the industry I work in. I had, myself, not heard of this firm before. But it came through someone reliable, and they made an offer that I could not refuse. All was going great in my existing job, I was up for a promotion. But on the day of my appraisal I told my boss that I wanted to leave. He tried hard to make me stay, but I had already made up my mind by then. Shanghai was calling. I was way too excited. I have never counted my blessings more.

So I was all packed, ready for the adventure. The day I landed in Shanghai, it was raining heavily. Someone from office had come to pick me up at the airport. It was my first. To have someone stand holding a placard with my name on it.

I knew I would have ‘language barrier’, but I have lived across so many cities in India, each with its own language- how bad could it be? I was in for a treat. My driver, the only person I could talk to in the two hour long drive from airport to downtown, could not understand English. I had asked for a simcard to the HR, so that I could inform my folks when I reached. The driver gave me the simcard, but it did not work. I tried using my TATA photon+ on my laptop, but of course, it did not work either. I tried talking to him in sign language, all he managed was to laugh. That was his standard reply to whatever I said or asked. He laughed and continued to drive. It was kinda creepy, but I had no option but to sit back and take in the city vibe.

Finally we arrived somewhere, the driver parked the big SUV, got down, kept down my luggage as I crawled out of the car to help him with my huge suitcase (especially bought for Shanghai trip, ah!) only to turn around and see that he has disappeared. I laughed. There I was standing with my suitcase under the rain, and my driver had run away, without saying a goodbye? Haha, I laughed a little more. Just then another man, walked up to me and started pulling my suitcase and giving me an umbrella. He was mumbling something. . .of which I understood the word ‘apartment’. He started walking away. I followed him, hoping he was not stealing my suitcase.

Mr. Liu was a nice man. He spoke broken English, but we managed somehow. I was given this beautiful service apartment on the 18th floor. The view from the balcony was fascinating for my little heart. All the skyscrapers and Chinese looking building. And ofcourse, 18th floor. Losing patience with a thousand questions in my mind, I asked Liu to fix ‘internet’ on my laptop (I was so glad the word internet is understood universally!). What then started was an adorable hilarious conversation between me and Mr. Liu through Google Translate. I thanked the wonders of technology. I had no money, as I couldn’t get it converted. Mr. Liu gave me 50 RMB to buy dinner. I sent emails to everybody who had to know that I had reached / arrived in Shanghai safely.

And that is how I was introduced to Shanghai. Initially I was to stay in Shanghai for 3 months continuously, but due to work and other stuff, the three months were spread across 6 months. So I was alternating between Shanghai and Gurgaon every other month. And that I think was a lot more fun, than staying for 3 months at a go.

I was a lot more social in Shanghai than I have ever been in India. I was always up to something – trying all kinds of cuisines, meeting friends over drinks (that’s too much for the homely Indian myself :P), going for music concert, visiting art galleries, travelling to water towns, visiting this Chinese sex museum, shopping (!!), bargaining hard with the Chinese, getting lost on my way home, travelling in metro and helping other ‘Indian looking lost people’ with directions, sampling all the local Chinese beers, gorging on pork and beef, learning to say a few words in Mandarin, mastering chopsticks. . . I had a great time in Shanghai.

There are so many teeny tiny things / observations that I remember and miss about Shanghai now. I thought I will keep a record of all that, just so that I never forget, but it is so difficult to pen down every little thing.

I miss the ramp walk of men and women walking out of the subway every morning. Everybody there is so stylish. I felt like a troll, in front of them. And at my workplace, in the first week, I was so taken aback with the ‘politeness’ and quiet in the office. I came from a loud advertising agency which had blaring music playing all the time, people screaming at each other from one corner of the room to another, people pulling your leg, playing pranks, people arguing with each other, bitching about the clients, sulking about how life sucked, making plans for the weekend, staying late in office. . . you get the drift. And here I was, in this quiet hall where there were more than twenty five people and an eerie silence. Everybody was plugged in, listening to their individual music; the only sound audible was that of people typing on their laptops, and infrequent murmurs. (Though I must add that the office was very tastefully designed, crazy and wacko). So as a person, I am not even very loud. Back home, I am the quiet one. And if I felt like that, you can imagine. . . I had to keep my expressions in check. Initially I felt so awkward being all excited, talking about something in my typical animated way, only to notice that other voices were a hundred decibels lower. But I got used to it. Others also opened up to my candour, and I got along with everyone really well.

I have so many stories to tell about how it was living in Shanghai, but I don’t like long blog posts, so I am going to stop right here. Perhaps, I could write in small instalments. Fancy a part II ? In fact, I feel a little embarrassed sometimes talking about my stay in Shanghai. It just sounds so annoyingly corny, starting every other story with – “Oh you know when I was in Shanghai……” So even when something does remind me of Shanghai, I don’t say anything. I just smile to myself and think about it fondly.

Enough said. Let me leave you with a few pictures from my first trip to Shanghai.

Fete De La Musique in Shanghai
 The authentic Kung Pao Chicken
 Swings in my swanky office
 Shanghai skyline at the Bund
 Some Jazz bar we went to
The first view from my balcony


  1. very well written. How can you tell whether a city is truly devoloped? The ramp walk. Same thing in London peak hour. Suited men and women going about as if the most important job has been entrusted to them ! ;) I definitely fancy a Part deux !

  2. Your post reminds me to my first travel abroad, those excitements and nervousness :)

  3. @ Pan:

    Seriously! This reminds of an interesting line I came across recently - "A developed country is not a place where the poor have cars. It is where the rich use public transportation." - Mayor of Bogota. Shanghai was the first time I used a metro; coming back to Delhi Metro...things were quite different :P

    @ Little Finger:
    Seeing you here for the first time. Welcome :)
    Excitement, yes!! Nervousness? Not so much :P haha

  4. What a journey! :-) I simply loved your narration!
    OMG, that taxi driver gave me the creeps! I'd have freaked out if I had been in your place!

    P.S.: Kung pao chicken is my fav dish! :D *droool*

  5. @Ashwathy:

    Kung pao chicken is awesome! That was the only chicken thing I ate there. Otherwise I was on Pork all the time! My chubby cheek pictures are quite an evidence of what happened :P

  6. exciting. Many people I knw have visited almost the whole world but regret missing China and u got a whole 6 months there...coool;-D.

    Loved the write-up & pics:-)).

    1. It was whole lot of fun and I miss it now! :)


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