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India Standard Time turned to my birthday Saturday and I was still on client calls as the US closed out its work week. Fortunately restaurants in India stay open late and I dined at the Grand Hyatt Mumbai’s Indian restaurant.
I had a 45-minute sleep and was up and out for the dawn Jet Airways flight to Aurangabad, Maharastra. Indian flights typically board early and we were set well ahead of scheduled departure time. The captain announced, “We don’t want to leave Mumbai too early. Aurangabad opens up a bit late.” A short flight and I was on the road to the UNESCO-listed Buddhist Ajanta Caves for the morning to be followed by the UNESCO-listed Buddhist, Hindu and Jain Ellora Caves.
I was among the first visitors of the day to Ajanta and in the presence of artistic masterpieces I enjoyed moments of birthday reflection. Up to the viewpoint and the seasonal waterfalls reveal the secluded horseshoe bend of river and the sheltered caves, all the more poignant for the secluded location that allowed them to be forgotten during the centuries and survive the Muslim conquest, sadly something that so many ancient sites cannot do in recent times.
Ellora is more urban, and by mid-afternoon, packed with tourists. The centerpiece is monumental Cave 16, the Kailasa Temple, a Hindu complex carved out of the single rock of the mountain, one of the great feats of world artistic and architectural achievement.
I was running on fumes with no breakfast and little sleep last week; the taxi was in similar shape as it wheezed through the final stretch of gridlock in central Aurangabad, finally giving out when I was within walking distance of the airport. Made the check-in cutoff by 5 minutes and back to Mumbai.
Upon return to my room at the Grand Hyatt Mumbai, the nearest to the domestic terminal of major international hotels, I found a sinful birthday cake to greet me. I am no hotshot Hyatt Diamond. I have Platinum status by virtue of their credit card and my only other stays this year were a night on business in Louisville and a sleepless credit card cert night in Portland, Maine.
I pulled out the card my wife had tucked into my briefcase, set it beside the cake and shared the screen with her. For one day she gave me an unequivocal pass on business travel.
A day to remind how lucky I am and reflect on how I can do more to give back.