Tony and Amit take me to the bus station. We watch as the earlier bus loads. Two guys are lifting the bags off the pavement and sliding them into the baggage locker, and charging 10 rupees a time.....good untaxed income, if they stay here all day, with a bus leaving every few minutes. Eventually my bus turns up, and my friends, Tony and Amit get to work. It seems I've got too much baggage, and "negotiations", very loud, and joined by many, happen. Money changes hands. I'm not allowed to pay, and the problem is resolved. I'm sitting on a very comfortable "Volvo".
We travel for a couple of hours and stop for food and rest. We park next to an identical bus same colour and model, and are told to remember our number plate..it is one digit different from the identical bus..so very important....
Six hours later, I'm at Delhi airport, after a short shuttle bus ride, before midnight. My check in starts at 1am. It takes about 30mins to get to the front desk. I'm advised to get all my gear gladwrapped for security..I'm happy to.
Back in the queue, and an Indian family of about eight are being extremely pushy and aggressive. They have too much weight and need to redistribute. They won't vacate the chute...it's pandemonium. People are pushing in, pushing past, passing under the ropes. The FlyDubai staff are being hammered. Add an even pushier Iranian family, with a screaming toddler, also with too much weight. Somewhere in the melee, I'm ushered into the mix. I've paid for 40kg, but I've got 60kg. But worse, Fiona, disguised as a washing machine, is too big to go through the hold door. I'm "put aside", while "negotiations" continue in Arabic and Hindi. It's 3.15am by the time they're sent in a hurry towards Immigration, as boarding started at 3am.
A very nice man comes from those "negotiations" to talk through our problem. Fiona just ain't going to fit. I will have to leave her behind.. He's a sometime cyclist, and we chat. After a while..."what if I take the box and padding off Fiona, and just gladwrap her?" "Might work, but be quick." The gladwrap machine runs out of plastic.... Takeoff is at 4am, I'm going to miss the flight.The operator cuts his hand on the chain drive, I leave the washing machine box propped up behind a bin. Glad wrapping has cost me $30.
Yes. My mate reckons it will work. I'm being processed. I have to pay excess weight fees of $US240, in Indian Rupees. I don't have it. They don't take cards. I dash to the money exchange. He is a middle aged Indian bureaucrat, in no hurry, and will not be rushed. He needs my passport. It's at check in. Another across terminal dash. Now he needs three signatures, and have I got a $US1, because he has no change..yes I have. I've got my money....sprint. I pick up my boarding passes, I have my carry on, and my passport. Now I need to follow the porter to excess baggage x-ray...he's in no hurry. The x-ray man is asleep behind some pillars. ...and in no hurry. ...this is India....Yes, it all passes through x-ray....and it's a run to Immigration. The lines are huge, but I've been in India a while. I duck under ropes, squeeze between gaps, crawl between legs, and push to the front. The immigration man I've got in my sights has a problem, and leaves his post. I duck in front of another queue....and get a stamp in my passport. X-ray, for hand luggage. I haven't got labels on the handles for the required stamps...they're in my pocket, but not for long...I'm sprinting for gate 6, 15mins walk away, along the mobile walkways, that previously I've scorned, it's 3.55am. I get to the gate, sweating, just in front of both Indian and Iranian families. My cycling buddy is there, and happy to see me. He scowls at the families. They're late. He sits me down, and calls the baggage dept. Yes Fiona, and all her bits are on board. I'm escorted through the gate. I'm third to last on board, followed by a screaming toddler with his mother in full burka.
The plane is full of Indian, Bangladeshi, and Nepali, doing their three monthly trek back to work in the Emirates. I don't talk to any of them. I sleep.