Experiences from staying a month in India – Part 1

Recently I have returned to Dhaka after staying almost a month in Delhi, India. I went to India in the last week of December 2020 for my mother’s treatment and now returned in the last week of January 2021. This is the longest I have stayed in a foreign country. I am going to share my experience of staying a month on India.

1. Restrictions for COVID-19

When I was flying to Delhi, I heard of several restrictions and mandatory quarantine requirements. I was little bit doubtful whether these will cause delay my mother’s treatment. However later I heard of an option for online application for exemptions. Under this option, once you have COVID negative certificate from COVID test done within 72 hours prior to your flight, you can apply online at Delhi Airport website for COVID (Air Suvidha). First you have to self-report your personal information and COVID negative status. Once you are done with self-reporting, you will be given an ID under which you can apply for quarantine exemption. Self-reporting is approved within an hour and Exemption is approved in couple of hours. Once you fly to Delhi Airport, you can show this exemption certificates at the health desk counter, you will be given a seal for quarantine exemption which will enable you to leave the airport without undergoing in quarantine. Delhi Airport also have options for undertaking covid-19 test at the airport in case you don’t have COVID negative certificate. You will have to wait around 5 hours to get your report.

Despite having all these tight restrictions, you will not face much of restrictions outside the airport. People are living their live as they did prior to COVID. People are gathering outside the road, going shopping, celebrating life events. It is much like people in Dhaka. However, one thing I have seen that people are very careful to wear face masks. They are encouraging other to keep/ wear their face masks. Every time I took ride on Uber, my Uber Driver reminded me to wear masks in case I slide my mask down for few moments.

2. Separate parking for app-based rides at the airport

When I arrived at Delhi Airport, I called an Uber to go to my Hotel. I was waiting in the area designated for passenger pick up area marked for cars. After waiting several minutes, my Uber driver called me and asked me where I was. I said I was in the pickup area. He asked me to go the Uber parking area where he was. I didn’t understand what Uber parking was. It was a new concept to me. I ask one of the airport security guard for direction and he showed me a mall just beside the terminal area. I wasn’t sure why he directed me to the mall area but as I was walking to that mall, I was a sign that was directing to App based parking area. I was fascinated by this as I understood that all app-based cars are required to park there instead of waiting in front of terminal. As I walked further, I was two more signs; one was showing left indicating OLA Parking area and another showing right indicating Uber parking area. I went to Uber parking area and found my Uber. While I was on my way, I asked my driver more about this parking concept. He explained to me that in Delhi OLA and Uber are prominent ride sharing app. As these are frequently used, Airport authority has designated parking area for both off the app-based cars.

3. Street Cows

I heard so much about India street cows in different TV shows and YouTube videos. But in my previous 4 visits in India, I have not noticed these street cows. But this time I have seen many street cows in the area I was staying. The day I arrived; I saw a very big cow walking by just beside my Uber when I was getting off in front of my hotel. I was surprised a bit but didn’t think much about it since I was focusing more on checking-in to my hotel. Since that day, I have seen at least 8 to 10 different cows everyday walking by themselves. These cows are very large in size and lives of eating grasses and foods people offer to them. Sometimes these cows stand in the middle of the road and causes traffic jam. This was a bizarre experience I had during my India visit.

4. Data driven mobile carrier

In my previous visits in India, I have seen many stalls here and there selling mobile sims and recharge cards like stalls and shops do in our country now. But this time seen a different picture. I have not seen any single stalls selling mobile sim cards or recharge cards. Now you can order online, and the sim will get delivered to your home. You can recharge by your mobile wallet or debit/credit cards. As I neither had time to wait for sim to be delivered to my hotel nor a mobile wallet account, I requested my hotel reception to arrange a tourist sim for me. It took me around 700 India Rupees to get a ‘vi’ sim card which contained a package for unlimited local calls and daily 1 GB data for 28 days. When I saw the package, I was little bit surprised to see free unlimited calls for 28 days. Initially I thought it was promotional offer for new connections but later I found out that it is available to anyone who purchase certain packages which were not that expensive. It took INR 249 to get my package of free unlimited call for 28 days. Due to COVID-19 and home office, people needed data to connect to internet. During this home quarantine and home office, people communicated though app-based call services like Viber, WhatsApp, Zoom, Google meet, Microsoft Teams, Facebook messenger and many others. This reduced the requirement of calling people on their phone. Mobile companies took this understanding and made phone calls free by selling mobile data. These mobile companies have become a mobile internet service provider from traditional mobile network communication carrier. This how our mobile companies now transforming their business. Selling talk-time is no longer their primary product. This talk-time has now been replaced by selling data to cell phone users.

(to be continued in next part)

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