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Day Twenty Three - Groovy Kind of Love

At 7:45 Puri, Raj, Devendrah and Kate collected us from our hotel and we went for a morning chai.

There would be time for two more chai stops before our final farewell and as we boomed out along the highway the sun began its daily climb and the walls of Jodhpur stone glowed colours of leather through tangerine and peach as we sailed on by. After a quick chai stop at Devendrah's, the bank manager, house we were put on an auto-rickshaw, fare paid by our hosts, and sent on our way to the airport. It was surprisingly emotional and Laura had a tear in her eye as we said goodbye.

This may very well be our final tuk-tuk ride of the holiday. The airport in Jodhpur was small but pleasant and had a no-rushing air about it. As we boarded our plane, twenty minutes late, I wasn't sure whether we should have read up on India's Air safety record prior to boarding. I couldn't help but notice that our plane had been painted more than once.

An hour after schedule and on an empty runway with only one other plane having been spotted during the entire time, which coincidentally hadn't moved an inch, we took off. India-time, baby. We joked that we were geniuses for booking what had seemed a leisurely three and a quarter hour stopover in Mumbai rather than the speedy one and a half hour quick step.

Very glad in fact. We touch down one hour and ten minutes late. It is 2:30. Our Mumbai to Cochin flight departs at 4:35; check-in closes at 3:35. Time to go. But we're still taxi'ing. 2:40. Some German ladies are starting to panic that they'll miss their connection as we pull to a stand still, they rush past everyone, apologising profusely, I'm not sure if it was for the pushing or for the war. Bit like Jihadhist's who've found Jesus they're desperate to get off the plane. 2:45. Surely the gate will still be open forty five minutes before take-off? We do have bags to check though. Which reminds me we still need to collect them. We get to the baggage carousel which, when we do, is startlingly sparse. Not a bag to be seen. 2:55. Hurrah, the first bag comes out. 3:05. Where are we? Mumbai Airport Terminal 2. I've read that Mumbai has more than one terminal. We'll be flying with Spice Jet next, the Virgin Airways of India. All the sexy ladies in red promising you nothing for one and a half hours of budget air-time. They fly out of Terminal 1b. One fucking B?! 3:10. The one bag we've already seen was an escapee. How in Vishnu, Jesus and the Lord Buddha's name did he get there before all of the other bags? But don't worry he now has friends. 3:16. Just a few little bag friends and none of them are ours but hey we're calm. Really calm. Really fucking calm. 3.18. And at the eleventh hour the Good Lord said 'There will be bags for all. Bags for everyone living on the Indian peninsula. About one billion bags. Or just a few more OK please.' They're all spewing out now. Like a massive daddy seahorse, 1.3 billion bags are now spewing from the carousel's shiny little belly. We're loaded and Somers has already scoped the exit and planned our strategy to get out of the airport, around the airport (and the slums), and back into the airport where we can check in. It's 3:20 and we're dancing like we needed to piss half an hour ago and we're about to go grandma and just do it in situ. We're second in line for the pre-paid taxi. Now I'm throwing rupees across the counter. I need two hundred and sixty and I'm fumbling with tens. 3:21. We're running down the corridor with precisely 37.45kg of checkable luggage on a trolley with average brakes and a carry on bag that is definitely over-weight. We're cornering like a cruise liner as my legs flail sideways; too many curries and too little exercise. The sweating has begun. Down the hall and down the ramps. The long and winding ramps. 3:23. Out the door and into the humidity of a Mumbai afternoon. We find the first taxi driver. "Not me. You need car that registration end 4606." My head says 'fuck me', my mouth says 'Shukriya' and now we're running along the taxi rank looking for a car with a registration ending 4606! 3:24. There he is. A little beat up taxi. Our chariot of fire! Our ticket to sanctuary! But something is missing. That's it, there's no driver. 3:25.

We're loading the car, still no driver but at this rate I'll start driving and beeping myself in the next thirty seconds. 3:27. The man with all the time in the world saunters over to his car and looks miffed that the foreign types are pretty much in it already. "Err Terminal 1b, Spice Jet please." Flashbacks to the nineties for me. No verbal answer from him but a slow raise of the head that suggests he understands. Suggests.

We're mobile! 3:28. We have a chance and I'm on Google Maps working out how long this will take as a military man stamps the taxi out of the airport. 1.4 miles. 11 minutes. We have a chance. Of course we'll make it. But I'm Googling flights from Mumbai to Cochin just in case we don't and as I'm discovering that there is only one, and it will only get us in at midnight, if it's on time, and it's four hundred quid, our driver pulls over, gets out and walks off. At a slow andante he disappears off behind some sort of ticket booth with some other taxi types. 3:29. Getting a little too fine now.

I'm out of the car and round the corner. There's a queue of taxi drivers all waiting to cash in their day's tickets from the Pre-Paid chest of gold. But the man with the money has a system. Check tickets one by one and record in ledger. Re-check tickets against ledger. Count up dosh on a calculator, twice. Count out dosh, twice and hand over to taxi man. Taxi man counts out to check all is well. Sometimes it is correct, sometimes we need to start again. "Next please!" I look at money man and make a praying gesture with a little head shake and eyes like Bambi just as the gun went off. I do the same to slovenly taxi man but with eyes that I hope suggest I will resort to violence if he goes any slower or hand over a lot of money if he plays his A-game. This always seems easier in the movies. Give money, go fast. Bond would have burst through the barriers, physically and metaphorically, though our man does look like he could be a mid range bond villain so I better calm those eyes.

My look my look has done something. Everyone starts speeding up, money man sees my pain, taxi man doesn't know what my contorted expression means. But we're back and moving. 3:34. That desk better still be open. We're praying for more India-time.

Out on the road and we're in Mumbai, and the traffic is as you'd expect at half three on a Thursday afternoon in one of the worlds biggest cities. Mental. Laura asks what the word is for 'quickly' in Hindi and suddenly I'm "Jaldi'ing" the driver and he's speeding up. He's starting to become the man we know he can be. He bullies a tuk-tuk into taking the inside line on a coach at the traffic lights and he performs the impossible squeezing in behind. 3:36. The lights are red and our driver suggests we are five minutes away. The lights turn green and instead of going forward like a fighter jet off a freighter, we've stopped. Ignition off, the drivers door is open and the lights are still green and he's still stopped and he is leaning out of the door as he summons a beast from the depths and the darkest recesses of his throat and the major and minor tributaries of his upper airway. What sounds like a torrent of mucoid green phlegm is heard to begin to move. We hear every millimetre of travel that phlegm made all the way to the tip of his tongue and beyond. It hadn't fully left his mouth and it was already touching the floor. It's 3:38 and I'm wretching whilst Somers is doubled up pissing herself with laughter in the back.

The tall sculpture that is a must-have for every airport comes into view and two minutes later we're pulling up. 3:42. More rupees fly in thanks and a great hope that taxi man can buy some expectorant and rid himself of his innards more quietly.

Surely we'll make it. 3:44. But there is a queue just to get in to the airport, terrorists in 2008 made that measure nevessary; we must show our tickets to another military man to get in. 3:47. Military man likes our passports and is having a good flick through. He's also triple checking our tickets, maybe he's thinking on taking a selfie but we're pleading and Somers is already walking off. 3:50. She's a bolshy one with authority when the situation necessitates. Ninety desks in the terminal, we're outside Desk 18. We need Desks 65-90. And they're off, we jink right and left as Somers creates a passage in the lead and Beamish lags behind steering the liner. Another long queue for the check-in desk and Somers is trying to explain we need some sort of fast track but the guy doesn't understand and there are twenty or thirty people ahead of us. 3:55. Somers is asking her third guy and the penny is dropping, has dropped. Barriers fall and other fliers are brushed aside as we get to check our luggage. Our bags will make it. Now we just need to get through security.

A feeling of relief had begun to seep through our veins; that same relief was dripping from my forehead, my back and chest too. As we got through security (one litre bottles of water are A-OK) we marched to gate A-4 and joined the queue that walked us straight onto our waiting plane. 4.10. Safe.

In all the rush our overweight bags had slipped through the net of scrutiny. That was good. Another bonus was that they'd run out of cheap seats and put us in business, very good; but best of all, as we sank into our leather seats, Phil Collins was singing Groovy Kind Of Love on the speaker system. I almost cried.

We checked into a nice hotel. We swam and ate and slept for three hours. It was home time and we'd be leaving on a jet plane at 4:30am. It had been emotional.

Posted by ibeamish 12:55 Archived in India

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