Delhi Stopover

Delhi Stopover

A Story by alanwgraham
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Interesting stop overs in Delhi going to and returning from Bhutan * the photo shows me on the trek in Bhutan

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Delhi stopover


I felt myself a very fortunate man. My good friend John had been working as a pharmacist in the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan for several years and had invited me as one of his meagre ration of guests to visit in my Easter holiday of 1993. My generous wife Mandy had encouraged me to take up this opportunity of a lifetime to visit this magical Shangri La (but not oblivious to the fact that suitcases of brownie points would accrue!)


Unbelievably, towards the end of the 20th century, normal tourists were excluded from Bhutan.  Television and western dress were not allowed but it was one of the most beautiful places on earth. John had organised a trek for a small group up to the Chomilhari base camp at over 13,000feet. But that’s another story.


My itinerary involved a direct flight from London- Heathrow to Delhi with an overnight stay in Delhi and then a fabulous flight to Bhutan touching down in Kathmandu and a mind-blowing flypast of Everest and Kanchenjunga.

I hadn’t travelled this far on my own before and was feeling a bit apprehensive as having a buddy gives mutual support when these inevitable ‘situations’ occur. All went smoothly to Delhi and I had the advantage of some prior knowledge from a long ‘travels and travails in India’ with Mandy ten years before. From the airport I found the economical Ex Service-Men’s airport bus which would drop me off at my hotel in a side street near Connaught Place.


After some lunch in the hotel I decided to wander the short distance up to Connaught Place, a large circular space surrounded by Georgian style colonnaded buildings and one of the most popular tourist haunts in New Delhi. I had only gone a short distance when a large crowd of youngsters in high spirits appeared round the corner laughing and singing. I became aware that coloured paint and powders was flying all ways and my skin and white Indian shirt were soon as daubed as theirs. Chatting to one of the youths I discovered that they were celebrating the festival of Holi to welcome spring. This is what travel is all about, I thought.


Connaught Place was fairly quiet when I arrived and I decided to stroll around the outside of the ‘circus’. I’d only gone a short distance when a young, poorly clad youth fell in beside me and started going through the usual litany of questions. ‘Which country Sir? What is your profession Sir? How much do you earn Sir?’


I was vaguely aware of him making a peculiar hop and skip and then he stopped and pointed at my shoe. ‘Sir, look. Dog mess!’ Sure enough a piece of dog s**t had somehow landed on my shoe. Within seconds he sat me on a small wooden box on the pavement. Before I had time to open my mouth the dirt was removed and my shoes buffed and polished. The light suddenly dawned - the youth himself had flicked the dirt onto my shoe. ‘Only 200 rupees  Sir -good price.’ I spluttered. ‘Nonsense, I know the proper price is 5 rupees.’


We had gathered a growing crowd by now. They knew there was entertainment to be had and many were feigning anger at the ‘westerner trying to fleece the poor Indian’. I was starting to feel a bit anxious now, still sitting, and surrounded by this irate crowd but I was determined not to be cheated. I waved to a passing taxi. The driver pulled up and I managed to explain my predicament. He scolded the youth fiercely and I handed over 20 rupees - still far too much but I had escaped.


In the afternoon I decided that I would hire a taxi and cross Delhi to attempt to visit the old couple S S Narula and his wife who had very generously given Mandy and I hospitality on our visit 10 years before. I arranged the taxi and was enjoying my journey through this fascinating and bustling city. In the warm sun I sat with my bare arm on the open taxi window. I happened to look down and got a heart stopping fright.  My arm had turned a bright red and I immediately realised I’d got severe sunburn. As I feverishly thought what I might do, another light bulb went off in my head and I laughed out loud. ‘You idiot! Of course, it’s the paint from the kids I’d met morning in the street.


Finding the Narula’s address involved helping the taxi driver navigate but eventually I was standing at the door of their flat. When he answered the door it was obvious that he hadn’t recognised me. I told him my name and said we’d visited before. ‘Ah, you are a friend of Alan Graham. Please come in.’ I had obviously botched my story. ‘No, I’m Alan myself.’ He peered at me through his thick glasses. ‘Ah, it’s you Alan.’ We spent a very pleasant hour catching up and drinking tea.’


Ten days later I was back in Delhi on the way home. Having left my spare money with John to pay for the trek I had 50 pounds in my wallet which I reckoned should cover all eventualities. I remembered that I had to phone Air India to confirm my flight not more than 24 hours before I flew. Contacted them from Bhutan was difficult but I reckoned if I phoned when I arrived in Delhi it would be fine.


‘This is Alan Graham, I’m calling to confirm my seat on the 10.15am flight to London tomorrow.’

‘Just one minute please, Sir.’ A slight feeling of foreboding crept up. ‘I’m extremely sorry Sir, you were supposed to reconfirm BEFORE 24 hours. I’m afraid your seat has been reallocated.’  Oh my god! The whole horrible scenario swam up like a shark smelling blood. My fifty pounds would disappear like snow in a heat wave. I had no access to any other money. I was alone in India, penniless.

‘Is there anything I can do - anything.’

‘You must go to the Air India offices in person in Dehli and ask if they would reinstate your flight.’

‘Oh thank you, thank you.’ I whimpered. ‘There are no guarantees I’m afraid.’




Two hours later I had found the Air India office and entered to find a desk with two employees and around 40 travellers looking very anxious. Some had lunch packets and appeared to have been there for some time. I approached the desk and explained my predicament. ‘You’ll have to take a ticket and you’ll be seen in turn.’ I took a ticket with number 384. I found a seat and spotted the ticket display which showed the current number being dealt with - 117. Ominous! I sat for about twenty minutes and found that ticket 129 had been reached. A quick calculation and I realised that by ticket 384 my plane would be somewhere over Iran! I sat longer, feeling more and more despondent. Another twenty minutes and we had crawled to 143.


 I prayed. Suddenly the display jumped to 265. I prayed more. It jumped on to 364. I sat for a while and after another 40 minutes it arrived at 384. I nearly shouted out hallelujah and went to the desk. ‘Apologies for keeping you waiting, Sir.’ I explained my problem. She checked her schedule and smiled. ‘No problem Sir, I’ve allocated you another seat.’

In the morning I caught the early Ex Serviceman’s Airport bus. I just happened to look out the window as we picked up in Connaught place. There, standing beside the window was my friend, the shoe shine boy, from a fortnight before. He waved to me with a big smile. I could only laugh, and waved back.

 

© 2019 alanwgraham


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Featured Review

This is the perfect length for a travel story, so even tho I kinda missed hearing more about the wild nature aspects of your experience, I can understand why you focused on the mechanics of traveling. I love how your tales often wrap back around to re-visit something from earlier in your story, which has the effect of tying together a string of disparate details. I've had people suggest that my own rambling tales are a string of disparate details, so please don't take offense at this description! I totally believe in the power of relating disparate details! These are often the funniest parts of being alive! This story, as your stories go, feels a little bit "tight" -- as if you've got a plan and you're sticking to it. Some of your other stories feel looser, as if you're just throwing down the details as they occur to you. Either way is fine. Just making observations! Since I haven't done much traveling in my life, I have you to thank for reminding me why it's never had a huge appeal for me! (((HUGS))) Fondly, Margie

Posted 1 Week Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

alanwgraham

1 Week Ago

Thanks Margie. These stories are all very close to the truth apart from the fine detail that I could.. read more
barleygirl

1 Week Ago

Don't you dare suggest that anything I've written could POSSIBLY be the impetus for your fountain of.. read more
alanwgraham

1 Week Ago

Ha ha. Flattery will get you .. everywhere. Seriously, your honesty and openness in recounting stor.. read more



Reviews

Engrossing non fiction, informative objectively and also insightful with subjective perceptions, narration of the experience from memory. It's interesting which of the many details survived over the course of time as dormant this story you lived rested in your mind. My favorite bit is the one where Narula does remember you and it makes it some points warmer. Engagingly written.

Posted 1 Hour Ago


This is the perfect length for a travel story, so even tho I kinda missed hearing more about the wild nature aspects of your experience, I can understand why you focused on the mechanics of traveling. I love how your tales often wrap back around to re-visit something from earlier in your story, which has the effect of tying together a string of disparate details. I've had people suggest that my own rambling tales are a string of disparate details, so please don't take offense at this description! I totally believe in the power of relating disparate details! These are often the funniest parts of being alive! This story, as your stories go, feels a little bit "tight" -- as if you've got a plan and you're sticking to it. Some of your other stories feel looser, as if you're just throwing down the details as they occur to you. Either way is fine. Just making observations! Since I haven't done much traveling in my life, I have you to thank for reminding me why it's never had a huge appeal for me! (((HUGS))) Fondly, Margie

Posted 1 Week Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

alanwgraham

1 Week Ago

Thanks Margie. These stories are all very close to the truth apart from the fine detail that I could.. read more
barleygirl

1 Week Ago

Don't you dare suggest that anything I've written could POSSIBLY be the impetus for your fountain of.. read more
alanwgraham

1 Week Ago

Ha ha. Flattery will get you .. everywhere. Seriously, your honesty and openness in recounting stor.. read more

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Added on December 4, 2019
Last Updated on December 4, 2019

Author

alanwgraham
alanwgraham

Scotland, United Kingdom



About
Married with three kids, I retired early from teaching physics but have always enjoyed mountains. In my forties I experienced a manic episode which kick-started a creative urge. I've written a novel .. more..

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