When I said I would join Dex in India for a three month work assignment, I thought I would get off the plane and have the whole place cracked in the time it took to do the research beforehand. Basically, I was a cocky little shit and I believed books were better teachers than actual real experience. Oh, dear, how wrong I was.
You see, the thing is, you get off the plane, you go through all the immigration checks, the visas, the passport control, you are thoroughly searched and allowed through the airport and it doesn't hit you. You collect your suitcase at the baggage claim area, and walk through the arrivals gate and it still won't have hit you. And then, if you're lucky like I was, you meet your chauffeur, and you get on the road to your new, albeit temporary, home. It won't have hit you then either. You're in a country where you are in the minority.
Let that sink in.
On our first day in Hyderabad, we pretty much just got to the apartment, locked the door behind us, and passed out for a lovely 7 hour nap before ordering room service, getting onto the WiFi to get in touch with various family members, and then going back to sleep.
Sunday. Our first full day on Indian time. We decided to head out and explore a bit around our local area, Gachibowli. I was excited, hyped to see the real life India I had spent so much time reading about. We set off out of our complex, leaving the colony (estate, township, village, whatever you want to call it) and headed towards the main road. We had gone no more than five-hundred meters and that's when I hear it - the eye-watering, cringe-inducing crack of a bullwhip. Then I see him. A squat, round, wrinkled man, walking barefoot towards us and dressed in nothing but a pair of ragged shorts, with about a third of his body crudely painted. He progressed towards us at a steady pace, arms out-stretched, begging wordlessly. I skirted round him in that way you do when you see something or someone who you feel endangered by, facing him all the time until he had passed me and continued on his way down towards where we had started.
That was when it hit me.
That exceptionally mis-quoted line from The Wizard Of Oz never seemed more appropriate than right at that moment. Except instead of Toto, it was Dex, and instead of Kansas, it was Dublin. I was suddenly and very rudely, I might add, brought down to earth on the dusty side of Old Mumbai Highway with an unceremonious bang.