Fog and Wait

As a precursor to our destination, “hurry up and wait” so typical in India, our flight out of Logan was delayed four hours. The last flight to leave the airport that night, we hung around the gate, tired and impatient. When the gate counter started handing out snacks I began to fear we were going to spend the night in the terminal. “We’re waiting for the crew and will board as soon as they arrive,” we’re told. I imagined them hanging out in the Seaport Hotel over drinks. “We’ll fly when we feel like it.” Finally, we take off.

There’s something exotic about Turkish Air – whether it’s the paper cups of Turkish Delight served at take off, or the limited ability of the crew to speak English. Our neighbors include a young American going to Tel Aviv and a Pakistani traveling home. Istanbul is a connecting hub for us all. Our lay over is shortened to one hour. Thank God. Istanbul airport is crowded and congested. Waiting, we watch the activity at the neighboring Gate for Flight 911 to Casablanca. (I find the number ironic). Before India became our travel destination we made many trips to Morocco. We loved the colorful country and Moroccan people, but now, post 911, everything is changed. The expressive gesturing and guttural Arabic of a group of young Moroccan friends, make us nostalgic for a time of innocence, before terrorism when Moroccans welcomed us and we did not feel uncomfortable to be Americans.

I’ve already written on what we love about India, and why we keep returning. Why India…Again  There was a time when arriving in India was intoxicating – exotic, unfamiliar and full of mystique. It remains exotic and the mystique is still there, you just have to look a little harder. Maybe that’s because India has become more familiar. The newly built airport is like any other international hub, sterile and bland — except for the smell. A smell that manages to seep in from outside; a familiar combination of burning dung, incense and dust that is distinctly Indian. Elements of Indian bureaucracy that seem designed to confuse also remain. The custom official asks for my boarding pass…why? I’ve already arrived? He pays no attention to my explanation that I discarded the pass on the plane. The question is enough, he doesn’t need an answer, and he stamps my passport.

Outside, fog laden with pollution, typical of this time of year, greets us. The traffic at 5.30 am is still relatively light. A prepaid taxi takes us a couple of miles and then stops under an overpass. The driver politely addresses Gerard, “Sorry sir, just five minutes,” and gets out of the taxi. If it had been our first time in India, we might have been concerned. Were his friends going to descend on and rob us…or worse? But this is typical Indian behavior. He had picked up another passenger, (despite the fact we’d hired the taxi) and is dropping him off. He’s not going to leave the man (who may or may not be a friend) until he’s met. No point in complaining, we just wait. Gerard gets out and buys chai for everyone from a street vendor, his saucepan of tea on high boil as he pours in plenty of milk and sugar. Hot and sweet in its little paper cup, we enjoy our first chai.

Dinner with our Indian family

Dinner with our Indian family

The night before we’re scheduled to leave Gurgaon on the 5.30 am train, our friends order an Uber taxi. Excited that the smart phone app is so simple, Kamal by mistake makes the order twice. At 4 am her phone is ringing repeatedly, announcing the two taxis. She cancels one, but an hour later, there is still no taxi.

Finally, the smart phone announces the car has arrived — but there’s no sign of it. The driver calls; he’s lost. In the maze of surrounding streets, it’s easy to believe. Uber is new, dirt-cheap and does not yet have GPS. Kamal tries to guide him on the phone, and eventually the driver arrives…on foot. More talking until he takes off and returns with the car.   Hurried farewells and we’re on our way. Only to be met by a thick blanket of fog, much heavier than the morning we arrived, its density rivals the fog of London in a Dickens’ novel.

Finally, the smart phone announces the car has arrived — but there’s no sign of it. The driver calls; he’s lost. In the maze of surrounding streets, it’s easy to believe. Uber is new, dirt-cheap and does not yet have GPS. Kamal tries to guide him on the phone, and eventually the driver arrives…on foot. More talking until he takes off and returns with the car.   Hurried farewells and we’re on our way. Only to be met by a thick blanket of fog, much heavier than the morning we arrived, its density rivals the fog of London in a Dickens’ novel.

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Visibility is almost zero as the driver crawls along, struggling to stay on the road. When he misses a turning, he drives against the traffic in the wrong direction…in thick fog. Everybody is driving so slow it ‘s not as scary as you might think. Finally an eery glow from the railway station sign emerges out of the fog. We’ve made it with one minute to train time. But of course the train is delayed and we wait on the platform another half hour. Gerard tries to get information from the stationmaster but he can’t be found. A helpful fellow passenger tells him in very broken English, the train has been cancelled. But not to worry, we should board the train just arriving in the station instead. Frantically looking for our carriage, A1, we jump on to the next closest thing (AB1) and plunk down on some empty seats. But where’s this train going? Will we have to change somewhere to reach Ajmer, our destination? Most of the passengers are sleeping; among the few awake, no one speaks English.

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Finally the ticket collector arrives. Ticket collectors don’t get paid much but make up for the lack of pay by asserting their uniformed authority. (Uniforms are big in India). The collectors tend to yell at passengers, force them out of their assigned seats if they decide they want to sit down themselves, and so on. This collector sternly reads our tickets and tells us we should be “backside”. It takes a while but we figure out we’re on the right train after all and our seats are far away at the other end of the train, about 15 cars behind us. It’s impossible to get ourselves and our bags all the way back, so we stay put, hoping other passengers won’t arrive and claim their rightful seats.

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Fog lifts over Rajasthan

 

15 thoughts on “Fog and Wait

  1. Aha ..a small nutcase across India ?? You don’t want to be in the fog .You want to be here in the sunshine (written from Eldfra bar and restaurant .) The one -eyed cat winks or is it an illusion ? Dominic says you will be here 25th January .If so lets go out to dinner then .I am here till 28th then hitting the London freezer …unless of course I put that off Meanwhile I am taking the opportunity to have a root canal done in Chaudi I shall order a masala dosa for you at the prestigious hotel there Michael Date: Sat, 9 Jan 2016 05:30:55 +0000 To: goldingmichael@hotmail.com

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  2. Welcome to India…have a great stay..always pleasure following your blog. Any plans to visit Hyderabad. Good snaps and nice to see Bhushan mamaji, Kamal mamii…also Ravi uncle and aunty after a long time

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    • Good to hear from you. The tour guide has unfortunately not scheduled a visit to Hyderbad this year. Must speak to him about that. We’ll be in HP for the month of April. Perhaps you could join us there. Best wishes to all the family.

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  3. Bobby, you write beautifully. Arthur liked hearing about your travels too. Last night I watched a program about India on PBS, and how it has changed for the better in the last 25 years.. poverty is half what it used to be. On Monday I’m off to London for a week. We’ll see if it has changed much since my trip last year.

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  4. What a lovely way to keep abreast of your travels…the great verbal descriptions and pictures, especially of the fog…Turneresque. Looking forward to the next one.

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  5. Thank you for bringing me along. Audrey arrived in Valencia, Spain today for her semester abroad. First time traveling alone, plus overseas. They lost her suitcase, and she should be reunited with it tomorrow. Lots of people on the move! Happy Travels!

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  6. OMG
    I’m with you!
    Amazing how you are familiar with India and the calm you acquire from familiarity. Bravo my brace lovely friends. 😘🙏💖👏👏👏👏

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  7. Hey:
    Enjoyed reading your first post. Sorry I didn’t get a chance to wish you a wonderful new year and good trip. Ended up in NH with Tim and family for Christmas. Had the Orrs too…dont think I ever had that many people at one time stay over. Will travel with you through your posts. It was beautiful reading and quite engaging. Happy trails!

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  8. Glad you arrived and are on your Path again..wishing you much pleasure and playful surprises along the way…..looking forward to the episodes as they unfold…best to you 2

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  9. Glad to see that things never get any easier no matter how many times you go to the same place. We look forward to following yet another action packed, patience testing adventure with you both. Xxx

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  10. Hi Roberta, what an exciting start to your India trip 2016. As I’m reading your post I’m reliving India and it all makes much more sense to me. And I have to say I’m feeling more tolerance and understanding toward India than I would have reading your entry without having been there. Did you fly into New Delhi? I can’t remember.

    Have fun, be safe, and write a new entry soon. Happy journey, Didi

    Diana Laird 21 Cumberland Street #4 Boston, MA 02115

    c: 1.207.318.3274 didilaird@gmail.com

    >

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  11. Hi Roberta and Gerard ! It’s going to be great to follow you across the planet again in 2016 ! But why did you have to fly to Istambul to end up back in Morocco ? and from Casa where did you fly in India ? Mumbay or Delhi or… ? what’s the plan this year ?
    Love and Happy New Year.
    Christian

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