This is a short segment about my travel to Nepal from US via Delhi Last october.It was a nightmare that i tried to forget but still remember. With the coming october and the festivities begining in Nepal I am now vividly recalling my nightmare.My apologies if it sounds like a monologue..
So it’s october..again.
begining of a festive season, another chance to meet family,Gather with long lost friends ,crisp morning air,hustle and bustle, sound from the temples,sweet fragnance of the incense in the air,women in colorful saree,vendors selling their stuffs in the Footpaths,narrow congested roads overcrowded with people, vehicles and of course animals.I am missing my home..,my kathmandu..
Another festive season and another search for an airline ticket.Browsing through one website after other..i always reach through same conclusion, travelling to Nepal via Delhi is always cheaper. I just dont know why it is..but it is.A few hundred dollars may not make much sense to you , but it does to me..being a student on a tight budget has something to do with it i guess, plus more savings means more gifts to the families and friends back home. I hesitate for a few minutes cause i have heared rumours about delhi airport..but i give in. I buy two- way ticket via delhi,i congratulate myself for overcoming my fear and doing it, i congratulate myself for saving some money.In my happiness i make a list of things that i would buy with that money for my family.. something for my grandma, dad , mom and brother and of course for that special high school friend i havenot meet in 3 years but always end up sending jokes and updates online.
so, the day arrives..i am happy i am going home..i carefully pack my bags..check my passport thrice, check my tickets twice and arrive at the airport.Chicago ..sweet chicago.The airport is huge..but i am used to it.I have lived here for sometime,and i know how it works..if you are confused about something you just need to ask.There’s someone to help you.No confusion..no drama . I locate the airlines counter, check my bags, smile at the lady and ask her to put baggage tags upto kathmandu.She smiles and says she knows nothing about the place.. and i tell her to come visit and relive the experience.
Fast forward… i land in Delhi.The airport seems new.. looks like a world class airport, open spaces , carpeted all around. wow.. india certainly has advanced…i am wondering how airport in kathmandu is? Has there been any new deveIopment since i left?.. i ponder …. but am happy i am one step nearer to landing home in kathmandu……Kathmandu.. here i come .
I have overnight transit in Delhi airport, i roam around the duty free shops..enjoy the sights and sounds.Its afterall india..place closest to home..i understand the language..can speak it with minor glitches.I grew up listening to Hindi songs,watching hindi movies, I eat at indian restaurants in chicago when i cant find a Nepalese one..its almost a ” home ”
I slept for a few hours in the carpeted floor …and then somebody came and woke me up..And then the nightmare started ……………
A guy in suited clothes came and told me to go with him and identify my suitcase.I Didnot think twice ,i woke up, rubbed my eyes and went along with him. we came to a baggage claim area.. i identified my suitcases which were the ugliest color of red..i knew i needed to change the suitcase but i didnot have the money for it back in states..there were other pressing needs.May be while coming back from nepal i can dump these and buy new ones..rambling thoughts in my mind at that moment..I identify my bags and the guy ..lets call him Mr.X told me that they were overweight and oversized and couldnot be transported to the airlines without paying extra.I told him the bag were checked in at chicago counter and the weight and size were ok for international travel.He told me what chicago thinks doesnot matter since i am in india.He asks for 100 $ extra for each baggage.This was before they started asking for an additional price for baggage in states .. i had two.
I am thinking is the bag really overweight? i did check the airlines specifications for baggage online before i came didn’t i ? My bag is Tagged till kathmandu Right? so why are they asking me to pay again.i ponder.. the guy asks me to hand my passport and ticket ..i ask why? He says he needs it for security clearance..i give it to him.He leaves without saying anything.
Another 2 hours gone… nobody comes..i have a moment of panic.. what if they loose my passport,what if i miss my plane? i dont know anyone in Delhi..what if i am stranded here all alone…? Then sanity returns…i have 3 hours more..why panic now..?? I sit in a corner of the carpeted floor.. i am tired..i feel sleepy….
A tall guy comes and calls my name… i wake up again..i check my watch..no i haven’t overslept…still 2 hours remaining for my flight.He comes and speaks to me in hindi…, i answer back in English..i know hindi, i understand it but find it difficult to speak unless i absolutely have to. He tells me my suitcases are overweight..i tell him i weighted it myself at home and again at the airport… he tells me overweight means overweight and need to pay $ 200 Dollars…i tell him i am a student and don’t have $200 dollars.He laughs and says students make a lot of money in US. I shrug my shoulders and say i dont have money. He asks me about my university and all..and i reply. He asks about my parents and home..back in kathmandu…. he asks how can people in kathmandu afford to send their children in US? i pondered about his questions about a second and said they take a loan for their children’s education and think it as an investment. He Laughs..and then starts to go away..i ask about my passport and he says he doesnot have it.
Half an hour later.. another guy comes..tells me i need to pay up or l will be stranded in Delhi.I know my baggage are not overweight,they were weighted properly and i again tell them i dont have any money.I tell them if my bagages are overweight i can shift the load to my hand carry .He looks at me glaringly..says he needs to talk to his supervisor and leaves..
Half an hour later..two guys come along..not the guy who took my passport and ticket , not the ones i encountered above and tell me i have some security issues..they take me to a corner and ask me who packed my bags? what did i do the morning before the flight, what do i have in the suitcase. I reply i packed them myself and that it contains some clothes and et all for my families as gifts.They intensify their questions..i panick.. what the hell did i do wrong? i have sweat popping down my back..i feel a chill inside. They ask me as if i am smuggling something..i tell them to open the bags and see for themselves, i have nothing to hide.I tell them the baggage went through security clearance in chicago. They tell me they will talk to their supervisor and return..
… The airline announces boarding passenger to come forward to the counter.. I am patiently waiting for my pasport and airlines ticket..no-one comes.I slightly panick ..cold sweat pops in, my heart palpitates..i am a nervous wreck..another half an hour goes.. the airlines is announcing the passanger to start boarding the plane again..people are checking their bags.I dont have my airline tickets,i dont have a passport.I have rambling thoughts in my mind…i am pondering ” is it a standard protocol to take away passanger’s tickets and passports at airports?” . It’s been 5 hours since Mr.X took my passport and ticket..does it take so long for security clearance ? I am just a mere research student returning home for holidays..my baggage are normal and i just dont have any life outside of the university.
Another 5 minutes and another guy.He tells me he is the supervisor and says i have some suspicious things in my suitcase and i need to pay $200 dollars for it, if i want to get in that plane.At this point i am so tired of arguing and defending myself..and telling them i have nothing in my baggage that is suspicious.why dont they open it and have a look if it seems suspicious?…i loose my nerve… i realise they were torturing me for bribe all along..i realise i was made a fool …I was angry.. i was hurt with the attitude of delhi officials.I really didnot have the money.. if i did i guess i would have given it to them and ended the torture.So i had enough of this mental torture ….i asked for his name and title .. wrote it down in a piece of paper and told him flat out that if he finds the bags suspicious why doesnot he open it up and have a look himself. i told him i wasnot paying even a cent for bribery.He gives me an angry look and goes away.
I sit there and think… why am i receiving this kind of treatment at Delhi airport.Is it because i am a Nepalese and my country is not financially and politically as strong as india? will a British or an american citizen suffer same mental torture at delhi airport?..My indian friends sometimes ask why we nepalese have Negative things to say about india at times…could it be because of similar episodes..??The final boarding call for my plane..and i am sitting there..looking at the counter…without the ticket and the passport and no signs of my baggage ..i feel helpless.
Ten minutes to the flight…i am still waiting… finally Mr.X returns..hands me the ticket and the passport and tells me i can now go to the airlines counter and board the plane. NO details about why it took so long, no details about the imaginary suspicious item in my baggage, not even a word of apology. I take a long look at the passport and the ticket ,take them slowly from him .Stood there virtually motionless for a minute and then ran along the corridor to the airlines counter. Finally my nightmare had ended….i was happy again..until i remembered my return ticket via the same route..!!!!!!!!!!!!!