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02 November 2005

swiping innocuously at the air

today i'd be leaving the hyperstatic of mumbai for the peaceful tranquility of goa. i'd slept in the sheetless beds of the hotel volga for six nights, give or take a night due to insomina induced by the diwali celebratory explosions, and as is the case with most of the private rooms i've stayed in for a few nights, my belongings were scattered about the room. it took me an hour to organize and compress everything back down to transportable size. although i like the privacy and security of private hotel rooms, it takes far more effort to meet other travellers; i do miss the family type environment of the european hostels a bit.

my flight was leaving in the afternoon... i grabbed my last meal at leopold's and then checked out of the volga, leaving my pack unattended in their hallway. progress or regression? at the beginning of the trip i never would have left my back unattended. and in india? i should take care not to become lax with security, although the pack only contains replacable items such as clothing, toiletries, and sleeping sack and oftentimes (usually while walking between a train or bus station and the next hostel or hotel) i silently considered the thought of a stolen pack as a potentially liberating experience.

after spending some time in the internet cafe doing some last minute writing, i walked back to the hotel and stopped in the entranceway to make a quick call to a hotel in panaji, goa, to reserve a room. room secured. up the stairs to grab my pack... back down... and one final pause for final check and inventory. check. check. check. the plane ticket is missing. [crisis mode: all systems to full alert.]. i'd stuffed the plane ticket in my india guidebook and had just used the guidebook when calling to reserve the room... the ticket must have fallen out. it took only a few seconds to locate the ticket sitting on the stairs in the entrance [where it wasn't uncommon to see several of the street people milling about]. disaster averted.

back on the street. one billion taxis located.

me: 'i'm going to the airport.'

driver: 'get in.'

me: 'how much?'

driver: '400.'

me: 'no, 350.'

driver: 'okay, 300.'

[?] i was certain he said 300.

me: 'sure, 300.'

i put my pack in the trunk and hopped in.

me: '300, right?'

driver: '350.'

situations like this were extremely common in mumbai. at a restaurant, for example...

me: 'two pieces of toast, please.'

waiter: 'two pieces, okay.'

waiter... reading back my order after i'd finished: 'one piece of toast.'

me: 'no, i'm sorry... two pieces.'

waiter: 'okay, two pieces.'

i'm sure the language barrier is causing some of the confusion, but in some cases the other person is speaking flawless english, so apparently there are other issues at play.

the domestic and international airports are not connected in mumbai and i believe a free bus service is provided to shuttle passengers back and forth. the driver dropped me off at the domestic airport upon my request because i was in fact flying to a destination within india. upon presentation of my ticket to a security guard at the first check-in station however i learned that all air india flights depart from the international airport. the guard told me to take an autorickshaw to the international airport for 35 rupees ('don't pay more than 35.'). i'm sure i could have waited for the shuttle, but i didn't want to waste more time than necessary.

the driver of the rickshaw at the front of the pack motioned me over.

me: 'i'm going to international airport.'

driver: 'okay, get in.'

me: 'how much?'

driver: '50 rupees.'

me: '35.'

driver: 'no, 50.' i began to walk to the next rickshaw in the line. 'wait, wait... okay, 35.' now, 15 rupees is the equivalent of about $.25 us and i truly don't consider myself a close-fisted miser, but something within me had snapped... i'd grown tired of the beatdown and wanted to press the issue. i'll comment more on this in a later entry i'm sure.

i only had a rs100 note. perfect. i should make sure he has change before i get in.

me: 'do you have change for a 100?'

driver: 'yes. get in.'

me: 'no, let me pay now.'

of course he didn't have change for the 100. i began walking to the next rickshaw in line.

driver: 'no, i'll get change.'

fine... in. we proceeded to drive around for the next fifteen minutes, stopping at various shops to see if he could get change. he continued to ask me 'do you have a dollar?' i'm not kidding... at least 10 times. to the first eight, i responded nicely, 'no.' on the ninth time, i tapped him on the shoulder while he was driving and waited for him to turn around... i then looked him squarely in the eyes and with a very firm and elevated tone i said 'NO. I DO _NOT_ HAVE A DOLLAR.' on the tenth time, i reverted back to the simple and nice 'no.' i was in perfect position to strangle him and only through willful determination was i able to restrain myself.

he finally got change, but only after stopping at a gas station to fill up. we arrived at the international airport approximately 25 minutes after i'd stepped in the rickshaw... it was at that point that he handed over my change... 50 rupees.

'keep it coming.'

he handed over another 10.

'five more.'

he smiled and said 'come on... it's five.'

my hands reached out to grab his neck, but my legs were faster and i was outside of the rickshaw when my clenching hands came together... swiping innocuously at the air.

and once again i've spent far too long commenting on the ridiculous travel intricasies and left the fun part lacking in substance. i'll do my best.

i sensed goa's gentle pace during the taxi ride from the airport to my hotel. the bright red sun was an intense fire in the sky. the owners of the hotel were so incredibly nice. the goan dinner at a nearby restaurant was delicious. and all of the mumbai frenzy had disappeared. this is exactly what i needed.

[there's a chance i'll expand on my goa arrival tomorrow, but i need to get out of this net cafe right now.]

posted by paul on Wed 02 Nov 2005 at 00:00:00 est (-05:00)

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