666

12
Jan
2015

I really don’t know where to begin describing how fucked up this travel day was, so I will begin at the beginning of our travels. Ken and I were traveling to Amritsar today, to see the Golden Temple. Since there are no direct flights to Amritsar from Mumbai, we had to fly through Delhi to change planes. As fate would have it, the flight number of our Air India flight to Delhi was 666. This was clearly an omen that we ignored at our peril.

We were already running slightly late after a wonderful, whirlwind morning spent with Rittu at the Dhobi Ghats and then at the best thali restaurant I have ever been to. Our flight had already been delayed by 40 minutes, due to leave at 4:15, and we left for the Airport at 2:15. After getting through a few traffic jams, we arrived with about an hour to check our bags and get through security. We made it to the bag drop counter where I foolishly thought this was going to be a breeze. The guy weighed our bags and told us that the allowance was only 15kg, not the 20kg of every other airline in the civilized world I have ever been on, so we would have to pay a supplement. I sent Ken over to pay the supplement while I waited for our boarding passes and bag tags. Ken seemed to be taking an inordinate amount of time, and it turned out their credit card machine was broken and we had to come up with the cash. Once that was dealt with, we ran over to the security screening checkpoint and tried to get through but alas I had forgotten that I had a bottle of whiskey for my friends in Delhi still in my carry on. They obviously weren’t going to allow that through, but they told me I could go back and check it. I didn’t think I had time to wait in that long Air India line again, and I didn’t want to pay for any more baggage, so I told them to just keep it. They refused, and made me go outside the screening area, open and completely pour out that nice bottle of whiskey in the trash can, right in front of them (and a number of horrified onlookers), then made me go through security screening all over again. Slightly exasperated, we made our way to our flight only to find out it had been delayed yet again, this time by another 35 minutes. That meant that we would only have 35 minutes to make our connection in Delhi, and so I asked an Air India guy at the counter what we needed to do. He looked at my tickets and literally scoffed at me that we shouldn’t have been so stupid to buy tickets so close together. When I pointed out to him that we bought them from his employer Air India with nary a warning, and that before this flight was delayed we would have had plenty of time to make the connection, he merely waved his hand and walked away. What a total douche. We got on our flight to Delhi and Ken and I were completely unsure if we would make the connexion, and started playing the “which would you rather” game involving us making it to Amritsar without our luggage vs being stranded in Delhi with our luggage vs Delhi and no luggage at all.

Once we arrived at Delhi, we (and the other nervous passengers heading to Amritsar) were briskly escorted by an Air India official through a kind of obstacle course of doors, hallways, past angry officials that needed to approve of our very existence, and then, strangely, to the International Departures area, where we had to go through customs again as if we were leaving the country, and then had to go through security all over again (but the more stringent international kind. This was really starting to remind me of my trip to Melbourne via the International Terminal in Sydney). The clock was ticking and we thought we would miss our flight to Amritsar, but they were apparently holding the plane for us, which was good because the security area of the Delhi Airport resembles nothing so much as a Keystone Cops film. After our amazing race through the gauntlet of transfer, we finally arrived, sweaty and unhinged, to take our seats on the plane to Amritsar.

We actually made it to Amritsar. Things were looking up and we could not believe our luck. That was until we waited and waited and waited at the baggage claim, until there was no one left but us and the other transfer refugees who had also failed to get their bags. We formed a chaotic line to get a not very believable promise from an Air India representative that they would deliver our bags to our hotel when they arrive on some future flight tomorrow.

So whatever, we left the Air India reps and walked out to find a cab. Days earlier I had emailed our hotel to ask about a pickup from the airport and how much it would cost but they never got back  to me. So we ordered a taxi at the airport and while we were waiting someone came in and said they were from the hotel and waiting for us. So we got what turned out to be a very expensive (about double local costs) ride to our hotel, zooming through what can only be described as a series of sets from the TV show “Homeland”.

We are finally settled in our hotel, and it reminds me of a lot of the places I have stayed in India in the past. That is to say, everything has a stain on it and seems vaguely fungal or carcinogenic. It is also freezing in Amritsar at the moment, but that was to be expected. Tomorrow we will go to see the Golden Temple. We were going to go for the 5am ceremony, but we just found out it is actually at 4am, and after our ordeal today we decided we would be in better shape to see the evening aarti instead.