(Friday, Feb. 4 – New Delhi – 12:02am)
Fourteen hours en route between Newark and New Delhi and we are “stuck” in the airport in India. We have over 15 pieces of luggage, most of them large, and we are trapped in the terminal with them waiting for our next flight.
Landing at about 9:00pm we were instruction to check our bags through for our domestic flight to Raipur in the morning before heading to the hotel. That required a trip up an elevator and another passport/itinerary check.
Once in the departure area we were told that we couldn’t check in or check our bags until two hours before the departure time of 5:50am. OK, no problem. We checked with our driver Mr. Duggal and he was coming to meet us. Easy enough, he had a big vehicle and we would just go downstairs to the arrival area to meet him.
No go. An armed guard told us we were not able to take the elevator down between the two floors, though we had come up just fine and he had let us through. He instructed us to stay at the airport until our flight check-in.
Anticipating Mr. Duggal’s arrival we decided to go outside and were told we needed to go to another exit. We went to that exit and another armed guard told us we could not leave the airport, he said the accommodations in the guest lounge would be quite nice. We were then instructed to go to the information desk at India Air if we wanted an exit pass.
The people at India Air sent us to the “information” counter. The information counter person sent us to a different India Air counter. The diver was waiting outside but we couldn’t get to him.
I called Dr. Anil Henry and he said there is no way the officers could keep us in the airport – that we should ask to speak to the airport manager and demand to get out and to our hotel for a brief 5 hour rest before coming back in the morning.
Asking why they would keep us here, Anil replied, “Sheer laziness. They don’t want to go through the trouble of checking your bags twice… Welcome to India.”
We do have a TON of baggage, at least 600 pounds with personal items.
Kelly Brill asked if we were willing to tough it out. We headed to the guest lounge but were turned away. Kelly said, “So much for an extravagant welcome…”
If it was just me, and because this is a working trip, I would have made a stink or paid a bribe and gone to the hotel. As it is, we are all sitting here waiting for our check-in to open, catching a few Zs on the airport benches. It is a nice airport, I’d just rather not be spending the night here.
As Americans we take a lot for granted. Freedom of movement being one of them. The other is that authorities are always looking out for our best interests. On more than one occasion I’ve come to know these two “givens” are anything but guaranteed in many countries and cultures. It is a good reminder that they may not always be true at home.
Other than this little snafu, everything has been great. We all sat in the same row on the way over and I think everyone was able to sleep on the plane. Food was OK and customs was a breeze, even with our caravan of luggage carts.
We are all in good spirits and are eager for the next leg of our trip – the flight to Raipur and the ambulance ride to Mungeli. We will arrive Friday and meet other Global Ministries (UCC/Disciples of Christ) representatives in Mungeli for the dedication of a new church. The Rev. Geoffrey Black (UCC), the Rev. Sharon Watkins (DoC), the Rev. Cally Rogers-Witte (UCC/GM) and Veejay V will be there for the event.
Hoping to get some shuteye on the flight and try to rest on car ride to Mungeli. Heading to look for some strong chai and a latte. Namaste.