<<  Mumbai, 18-Feb-2015  >>

Leaving on a jet plane(s)

Not-so-easy escape route from India. India "blessed" us with a generous dose of frustration, that this country is able to deliver so effortlessly

At 21:00 we had a flight from Mumbai to Madrid. But obviously, we first had to get from Jaipur to Mumbai. Knowing that this was India we didn’t take any risk and got a flight from Jaipur at 8:00 so that we would have 10 hours reserve in Mumbai, which would be also enough for the last visit of the city. Or so we thought we didn’t take any risks.
We came to airport really early, but at around 7:30 the flight was rescheduled for 9:00. Due to bad weather in Jaipur (mist), although it didn’t seem so bad to us . At 8:30 it was rescheduled for 10:00. I started to get worried. At 9:30 a flight of a different company which was arriving from Mumbai (just like ours was supposed to) was redirected do Delhi and the passengers were announced that they can go home because there would be no flight to Mumbai on that day. I started to get really worried. There was no other way how we could make it to Mumbai, except flying from Jaipur. Luckily at 11:00 they announced that our flight WILL land in Jaipur and WILL fly back to Mumbai and at 12:30 or so we finally took off. Lovely morning in Jaipur’s mini airport.

We still had some time to kill in Mumbai (or again, SO WE THOUGHT) so we wanted to drop off our bags in a luggage store and go at least for a quick walk around neighborhoods of Mumbai which are not too far away from the airport. Well, not so fast brothers and sisters!
First we had to transfer from a domestic terminal to an international one. “Luckily” there was an airport shuttle. When we asked when does it go the “helpful” guy sitting at its information desk told us that he doesn’t know, because there was no schedule. It would leave when full. In the worst case in 1 hour, he said. I asked him how much is a taxi to the international terminal and he told me he didn’t know. And I was thinking “So why the fuck are you sitting here??? Your only job is to provide information about moving from the domestic terminal to the international terminal, and you don’t know ANYTHING? One doesn’t have to be genius or god-gifted to do this job, but hell, I don’t know what for is this guy employed here”. As you see, my zen was gone and my anger was building up. So we waited. In the meantime he asked me to fill in a feedback form about their shuttle service. Who asks, shall receive: I wrote that it was the worst shuttle service I had ever seen, because airport shuttle service that doesn’t have any schedule is completely useless.
One hour later, there was already 30 people waiting for the shuttle but the guy said that it would take at least another 45 minutes. Fuck this, we take a taxi. We took a rickshaw to Terminal 2, but few hundred meters after we started it turned out that Terminal 2 was not the new international terminal we needed to go to and the rickshaw driver said he cannot go to the international terminal and dropped us of in the middle of nowhere. So we took a real taxi, horribly overpriced. We entered the terminal, passed a usual military control and started looking for a luggage store. We spent more than half an hour looking for it, as everyone at the airport had a different idea whether there actually is one and where it is located. Again, great work from information desks and airport employees. Finally it turned out there was NO luggage store and we also couldn’t leave our baggage with our airline company, because it was too early and none of their check-ins were open. So finally we decided to go out of the airport to at least eat something and have a last chai somewhere around, because it was already way too late to try to go to the town. Going out of airport. Easier said than done. At least in India. Anywhere around the world, when you enter an airport you can of course get out (I mean before going to boarding area, then it is not so easy to leave, but we didn’t even check-in, we were just the public zone). But in India things are different. The soldiers guarding the entrance simply refused to let us out. Once you get in, you cannot get out! What the fuck? Were we prisoners here? The only way to get out was to bring someone from your airline company who can confirm that you actually have some “standard reason” to leave, such as the flight is delayed or cancelled, or you are dying. Again, thanks for advice, but that’s easier said than done. As our flight was still 5 hours away, nobody from our airline company was around. The lady from the information desk plainly refused to go with us, but she promised to call somebody from our company. Almost 1 hour later, still being imprisoned in the airport for already more than 2 hours, I went to beg mercy from some soldier. The soldier called some other soldier and they started performing soft-gay theater before me: as they were discussing our situation they were gently stroking their hands, winking at each other and they told me to come back in 10 minutes and then they would help me. I guess they needed 10 minutes for a quick act in a toilet :-) But before I managed to return and find them again finally someone from the airline company appeared and we were freed from the airport! Yeeees, freedom!!!!

Sometimes India just doesn’t stop to surprise me. After the lovely day in Pushkar with all India’s glory, our last day in India was a spectacle of true Indian frustration. Delayed flight, non-working shuttle service, rickshaw driver refusing to take us for no reason (of course rickshaws could go to the international terminal), overpriced taxis, non-informative information desk, confused or non-existing airport personnel, all mighty soldiers, airport lock-in. Incredible India!

Just around the airport we found a 80’s rock music themed burger pub (wow, we gotta be in Mumbai if anything like this exists here), got a burger and a beer(!), walked around a bit, I bought my last chain and a huge load of bidis, we had one more quick Indian meal, last lassi, tried to find a mailbox (we miserably failed and finally gave our postcards to a rickshaw driver who took us back to the airport with some extra change to throw them in a mailbox), got back to the airport and left India.

Although we had only 6 weeks, we managed to see 4 very different faces of India on this crazy trip:
1. Dirty, loud, decaying, overcrowded but atmospheric, spiritual and grand North India and above all its holy towns such as Nasik, Varanasi and Mathura
2. Beach holiday, beer drinking, hippie-influenced atmosphere of the west coast: Goa, Varkala and Gokarna
3. Relaxed, hot, arid, spicy, bare-chested typical South India in Tamil Nadu and Kerala
4. Grandeur of Muslim Mughal empire in Maharashtra and Rajasthan
The only face of India that we missed was the India of Himalayas, way to the north. Next time.

This last day of full-on Indian frustration made me leave India exactly as I left it 2 years ago: nuts, frustrated and almost hating it :-)
I told to Irene, that if during the next 10 years I get the great idea of going to India again, I beg her to kick my ass, remind me how quickly the Indian frustration builds-up and prevent me from going.
But in reality I know what the story will be. Few days or weeks after I leave it I will start to miss it. No matter how much I promise myself to go somewhere else instead, I will be irresistibly attracted to India again. India is a drug. You might not want it, but you need it. And the addiction will be stronger than anything else. Last time I promised myself to stay away for at least 4 years, and I was back in 2. This time I beg for 10 years, but I know that before 2-3 years pass, I will be there hating the rickshaw drivers, bureaucracy and dirty rooms, but loving chai, bidis, the food, the chants, the gods, the atmosphere of ancient spirituality, the colors and the chaos and the feeling of being in another planet. India is like this. Love it or hate it, it’s impossible to be neutral. I still think it’s one of a kind place.
Goodbye again India. May Vishnu protect you, may Shiva bless you before I return again.

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     MARCEL STRBAK | www.strbak.com | www.facebook.com/marcel.strbak