BACK IN DELHI - MATRABHOOMI JANMABHOOMI BHARAT, SARZAMEEN-E-HIND, MY BIRTHPLACE INDIA, AGAIN!!!
We were asked to put our bags outside the room before 6, and leave at 6:30 am to the airport.
The bag pick-up person could only take one of my bags, story of my life. Anyway, I wheeled the other one to the reception counter. As usual, there were three persons from the travel agency who stood and stared but nobody bothered to offer support or service. When I asked the hotel reception guy what I was supposed to do with a bag I have dragged from my room, he rushed out to talk to them and finally I found out that my second bag needed to just sit there outside the hotel and wait to be loaded. Why??? And where was the bag they picked up from my room???
When I came back after breakfast, the second bag was still sitting outside, the first bag still nowhere to be seen. People did not know where their bags were, and Swarn announced that they would check the rooms to make sure everything is picked up. This incomplete logic was infuriating, especially in light of yesterday's chaos. I had to put in my tuppence again - I was not going to budge till I saw the first bag that had apparently been loaded since it is nowhere to be seen but nobody could confirm that - there is no clear handshake, and I did want to see my second bag get loaded before I boarded a bus for the airport. Why is service not given till the customer asks for it??? A couple of others like Sriniji said too that they needed to see their bags before boarding the bus. Shrestha people pulled the bags they had loaded for the passengers to make a visual check. Luckily my first bag was there, and the second one was now loaded into a car, and we were off to the airport.
Another round of chaos at the airport as people unloaded any bag from any car/bus and put in any cart and started pushing. My gigantic military green bags stand apart and I was able to put them in a cart and start pushing. Within fifteen minutes, there were people going crazy because they didn't know whose bag they had and they didn't know where their bags were, and someone had put their Manas Sarovar jal - water, in their carry-on luggage, etc etc. The security at the door checked my passport and said, Neeraja-ji, aap Kailash gaye the? - Did you go to Kailash? The "apnewale" pyaar - love for "my own people", had started again, this time from the Nepali officers and staff. The security guard at the escalator was warm and affectionate and all this stopped when I reached the Jet Airways ticket counter and the lady wanted 5000 Nepali rupees for the extra weight in my bags. This was when I realized the people at Delhi had let me travel with the additional weight. So 5000 Nepali rupees it was to get to the next step.
Off to the pretty invasive manual physical check and then the manual hand luggage check where the security woman pulled out all my camera equipment and started counting all my currency from Nepal, India, China and the US. I had to admit it looks pretty fishy to be carrying so much photography equipment and cash in so many currencies but her supervisor who came running over to inspect the proceedings was very friendly. He suggested I should have said I was Nepali to avoid all this pareshani - problems, and told the security lady to put everything back. He said I looked Nepali, nobody would question me if I said I was one. The final check before heading off to the plane, and the very final check on the plane just before entering - again warm and friendly people wondering if I am Nepali and finally, I got to sit in the plane.
The hospitality of Indian carriers is legendary in this day and age. Already, we had water and juice while the plane was on the ground, and now free beer!!! This is Shiva's brand of humor - free alcohol was being served when there were six Swamijis on the plane, and everyone down the aisle modestly refusing to drink. Luckily I can look at beer without temptation. Besides, I had stopped taking any alcohol in April because of my gratitude at getting the chance of going to Kailash,
Finally, I was back in Delhi - matrabhoomi janmabhoomi Bharat, sarzameen-e-Hind - motherland India again!!! The immigration officer squinted at me a few times but then smiled and let me go - I was entering the country for the third time within six months, - I am glad the immigration officers stay on top of these things.
My bags came fairly quickly. A successful two-week trip and four days of sheer joy sealed with a hug and a kiss - don't know if we will ever meet again, and many Namaskars and Pranams and Hari Oms later, I was out of the airport into the hot and humid Delhi air, going to Jyoti's to unpack and pack some more for my 36-hour visit to Haldwani by train. And then unpack and pack again for Ahmedabad.
Soon, it will be time to return to my karmabhoomi - land of action, America where the immigration officer will squint at me quite a bit and ask me where I have been and why, and take my picture and fingerprints for the third time this year, before welcoming me home.
Aum Namah Shivaaya!!