Life on the streets of Mumbai

1 Jul

So much has happened over the last few days that it’s difficult to chronicle it… and it doesn’t come with many pictures either!

I have a slight problem in that my emergency travel documentation expects me to leave India on the 10th of July…. I will be leaving almost two weeks early. So, first off, a trip to the UK embassy in Kathmandu to find out what to do. They suggest a new ETD at a cost of £100. £100 I do not have, yet. I am now very fed up with buying passports and ETDs, so after an afternoon drinking mint tea, I come up with a new plan. I will go to the Indian Embassy and get a transit visa, which will enable me to travel across India… and then I will pray hard that India will let me out, and the UK will let me in. Simples. Or… perhaps not.

So, Tuesday morning finds me at the Indian Embassy, nice and early, to get my visa. No problem – until I tell them I need it by 1pm. They need to see my ticket so they can expedite it (a refreshing change from everyone else, who seem to need to see my wallet before they will do it). I have no ticket. I have a broken laptop and an e-ticket. So I have to rush down the street, convince a copy shop to allow me to plug into one of their monitors so I can print the e-ticket off. Then dash back to the embassy. All is well, and I pick my visa up on the way to the airport.

A flight to Delhi and then the wheels fall off again. My luggage doesn’t turn up on the conveyor – but, on checking my baggage tag – it’s cleared to Mumbai, so it must be being put on the next flight. I check this with the departure staff. “Oh no, you must collect it here”. There follows a complicated retracing of my steps through the airport, accompanied by a member of BA staff who is accompanied by another member of BA staff, whose sole function seems to be to watch the first member of BA staff. At every lift, every door, every escalator we have to present ID or passports to what looks like a series of identically moustachioed Indian soldiers.

My bag is definitely missing (a fact I had advised them of around half an hour earlier). A check reveals that it is, indeed, on the way to Mumbai.

Then, my UK travel agent have screwed up my flight date and although they have corrected it, the printout I have shows the original date. Without a valid piece of paper, I am not allowed on the bus between Delhi domestic and international airports. I need to take a taxi. One minor problem – I do not have the cash for the taxi. A further complication is that my bank seem to have stopped my bank card.  After a somewhat humorous exchange with the staff, who do not have the facilities to allow me to print off the correct piece of paper, one of them gives me the necessary 20 rupees to cover the cab fare. Off to the International airport…. 

Where, unlike any airport I have ever been to (and I have been to a good few over the last 25+ years) – I am not allowed in until three hours before the flight. So I join a huge throng of Indians in spending the night on the streets of Mumbai. I strike up conversation with a motorickshaw driver on his way to Gujurati, and have a phone conversation with his girlfriend who is, apparently, “very fine”. IN a further show of empathy with my Indian companions, I am hungry and thirsty, an effect of not having any money due to using my last rupees on the cab.

Eventually, I am allowed into the airport, and put on my flight to the UK (which is delayed by a couple of hours following a medical emergency. Time to kick back, enjoy several bottles of champagne, a nice meal, and a couple of movies. I watch the scenery unfold beneath me and think back over the last 12 months.

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We land at Heathrow to an incredible rainbow, which seems to me to be a promise for the future – and a sky lit up in a beautiful sunset. I can only watch in awe of the beauty and allow the feeling of opportunity to sink deep into my heart.

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We’re late arriving – too late to get home, and too late to book a hotel. I spend the night on a bench at Terminal 5, before setting off bright and early in search of breakfast – and the bus to Northampton.

I’m just grateful to be back before the strike by the UK Border Agency starts….

Northampton has the worst bus station I have been to on my entire journey.. but finally I arrive in Kettering, where 6’ 3” of youngest son sticks my bag in the back of his van, and my journey is over.

So, what’s next?

Well, apart from the washing, I am staying with my two sons (and their mother) while David and I get our plans for Edinburgh under way (and while I do my washing). I need to catch up on all the post that my brother has been keeping at bay, and get reunited with clothes that I haven’t seen in a long, long time. I need a bath, as do Tigger and Snuff. And a sleep.

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