Wednesday, October 29, 2008

“It’s not what you know, but who you know” and his name is Rahul.

My obsession with checking CNN world news, and reading every page of our Lonely Planet guide books, (preferably the safety sections) could have never prepared for what awaited us when we got off the plane in Mumbai. After we claimed our baggage and went thought customs Justin received an email from Rahul (our contact in Mumbai) saying to call him immediately once we landed. Rahul was the nephew of Yogesh, one of Justin’s Father’s Clients back in New York. We had contacted Rahul several days before our arrival hoping he would be of a little help. Not thinking much of his email, we decided we would get a taxi and check into a hotel, get situated, and then call Rahul.  Luckily just as we were about to depart for downtown Mumbai, Justin thought it would be a good idea to touch base with Rahul, mainly to make sure we did not get ripped off with the taxi fair. This phone call turned out to be much more important than just a simple hello.

Rahul informed us that because of a recent arrest of a corrupt political figure, there was rioting in downtown Mumbai and that it would defiantly not be a good idea, or safe for us to even leave the airport.  Luckily there was a Hyatt, Intercontinental, and Four Seasons within 2 miles of the hotel.  Obviously we had no problem checking into the spa at the Hyatt to wait out the riots, but more importantly await further instruction from Rahul, which ironically turned into a trend throughout our stay in Mumbai.  After a few hours of sitting poolside at this 5 star hotel we received a call from Rahul saying that he sent one of his employees to meet us in the lobby.  We were greeting by a small, well dressed Indian man, who spoke zero English but had a mobile phone for us with Rahul on it.  

This was something out of a James Bond movie with the timing and directions in place, because our next goal was to find the concierge named Vijay (yes, Justin’s maturity was at an all time high).  Sure enough Vijay was just a few steps away and he had a car waiting for us to meet Rahul at his home.

Since there was a serious language barrier between the driver, Rahul’s employee and us, we had no clue where we were going or the level of sketchiness we were about to encounter.  However, when the two Indians exchanged some quick words before entering a very congested area, which followed by quickly locking the doors and checking the surroundings, we started to sweat a little.  After a few minutes of worrying we were relieved to finally meet Rahul at his apartment. 

Rahul quickly became our Mumbai hero, being 6’2 and a solid 220, former state-wide boxing champ and fourth degree karate black belt, he had such control over everyone and everything around him we felt invincible (and to a certain extent we were).  He informed us that the rioting had left the city and the authorities had gained most of the control back in the area.  Shortly after this he found us a great hotel, and personally warned the staff to not take advantage of us or else.

The next 3 days in Mumbai were excellent.  Rahul took care of us like we were his long lost sons, arranging drivers, a great tour guide, and even taking us to the newest hot spot in Mumbai, The Hard Rock Café, where we had some awesome American food, and shared some great laughs over a few beers.  However, our most memorable experience with him was when he met us on the street after our first day of sight seeing.  He asked if we were hungry and offered us some pizza, we obviously accepted and he brought us up to his office.  We were not sure what type of business he was in but assumed it had to be something important because of the amount of cameras and security guards we witnessed just to get to the elevator.  When we reached his floor, he showed us to his office where we sat down in executive chairs.  It was a pretty standard bosses office except for the right wall which was essentially a huge glass window, what was on the other side, we could have never imagined. Peering through the glass we saw 30 Indian diamond sorters, counters, re counters, and re, re counters, neatly organized and looking extremely efficient. However, while we were staring at them in awe, they to were staring at us. Then we looked across the desk and saw why the workers were so puzzled to why the two of us were in the office.  Two trays of diamonds worth approximately $2 million were directly across from us. But diamonds can never disrupt an old fashion pizza party. With one press of Rahul’s “magic button” conveniently placed under his desk, we (and the diamonds) were feasting on thin crust pizza, sodas, bottled water, and cookies.  This was unbelievable and we soon found out that Rahul was in charge of Shaneel Services, a company that designed jewelry, manufactured it, and distributed it to companies like Zales and DFS worldwide.  It was a pretty cool experience. 

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