13 November 2010, Delhi International Airport, Terminal 3, New Delhi, India.
"So.. u miss India already, huh?" Flipping through my passport, the man over the immigration counter looked at me through the upper half of his bifocals lens.
"Hmm... last trip was a business trip.. " I understood where he came from. I could've said "OH YEAH INDIA IS SO WONDERFUL THAT'S WHY I CAME BACK" but I decided to keep the friendly-joke to myself. Basically, one is not allowed to re-enter this country for his 2nd and 3rd visit within 2 months time; and my situation right there right then in front of the immigration officer was: he was flipping through my passport and looking at the date I last checked out from India, which was about 2 weeks ago.
I really wished he figured out that my visits were valid and legal: first on a business trip visa, this time -- the 2nd one -- on a tourist visa. Both I paid, Jaan.
"Those hand signs.." out of a sudden he put down my passport and lean forward to me, pointing to the giant hand signs popping out of the wall of this magnificent arrival hall, "... are called mudra, and they have different meanings.."
I turned my head up, looked at those mudras. Amie and I were talking about those beautifully sculptured figures before we entered the immigration counter, and obviously this Mr officer noticed that.
"... and this one..." he showed his hand making one of the mudras, "means 'good luck'.. erm.. sort of. " He smiled. And put a stamp on my passport. Passed. He welcome me. I thanked him.
My other 3 comrades -- Amie, Coco & Ijol -- were already waiting for me.
The 'Good-luck' mudra did not work on us, at least for this time.
After a long stare on the conveying belt, from the moments it carried many luggages, many hopes, then we happily picked up Amie's red rag sack, till the moment we gratefully picked up Coco's bulky backpack, to the moment where most of the luggages, or hopes, were taken, up to the final moment we saw only belt conveying nothing, but a message:
My rag sacks and also Ijol's, together with the other tens of luggages of the same flight, were left behind purposely by our dearest Malaysia Airlines, due to the cabin-overloaded issue.
"Sir, we apologize on the proo-bhlem, jour luggage will be carried from Malaysia to here via ou next flightt." The officer repeated his script for the n-th time to the n-th unsatisfying guest.
"When will it arrive?" I needed to raise my voice despite of the very noisy and chaotic background.
"Tree in the morr-ning, sir." The local officer has a very thick indian accent, I really needed to listen carefully and tried really hard to not get distracted by his head's movement.
"That's not possible -- I'm leaving New Delhi tonight..." I almost shouted this time.
"Wha dis jour next des-tinay-sion, sir?" Argh, skip that head-shake please.
"Shimla -- -- "
"In that case, jou can fill up this form, and jive us jour contact num-behr and jour addrrress -- we vill send jour luggage to jour place -- " then a form was handed over to me. The officer turned to the next panic guest.
Contact numbers? Address in Shimla? I just hoped that the solution will be as simple as filling up the right details -- but our situation was a little bit complicated here: as MAS officer told us that if the given address is not in New Delhi, then they'll need more days to deliver our luggage, depending on where is the location -- so to Shimla, 2 to 3 days.
Problem was, 2 days or 3 days, Jaan? Cuz if it's 2 days you need, then at Shimla we'll be waiting; or else, I'm going to give you another address, depending on our transport arrangement later on.
I gave up explaining to any of the officers -- obviously they only think that foreigners who travel to India will only stay in their highly-secured stars-rated hotels, with precise hotel address, and won't be wandering around. Sigh.
I looked at Ijol -- being a very chilled-out type of person and always settle with an 'OK' with most situations and demands, he's filling up the form with all the details required.
.. and I saw Amie sitting with the luggages we had so far, sketching, planning, routing out all possibles alternatives -- I believe she's doing what she's best at, she's the master-mind of our trip.
... and Coco -- now where is this buggle!?!!
We decided to stick to our original plan: Delhi - Kalka - Shimla route. The only change in our plan was: Ijol and I will be wearing what we were wearing now, until we meet back our rag sacks.
Travel to Shimla was already one of the highlights of this trip. I'm talking about the Toy Train ride, traveling northward on one of the oldest rails in India that was listed as world heritage by UNESCO.
Got out of the chaotic airport we headed straight to the Old Delhi Train Station. My last visit to this place gave me an impression of pathetic -- poor ticketing system, poor counter service, and one can easily get lost in this ticketing building.
We needed to quickly figure out how the ticketing system work here, but there's a really long queue in front of the one and only information counter, with someone behind the counter shouting at each and every inquirer through a mic. So, with the help of a real loud speaker, from far you can already know someone is being scolded or given instruction in a not-so-friendly way.
Amie and I got into the long queue, joining the rest of the helpless faces -- felt like we were in the queue for a prosecution, scary somehow; Coco and Ijol were browsing around, looking for another solution, maybe the right ticket counter for our Kalka trip, the right signboard for us to follow, or --
-- yup, the right hot chick.
Coco and Ijol had found a really hot, maybe German, young lady who had the perfect solution for us: There's a special ticket office for the foreigners.
"Upstairs." Ijol pointed up, and looked back to his girl, asking confirmation. His girl nodded. Positive. Out of a sudden I thought Ijol was from German too -- oh whatever, bottom line was, the things that happened next, was 5 of us rushed to the office via a very dark stairway and some narrow corridors, and found the golden cave filled with lovely wind flowers, oh and also equipped with air-cond, waiting benches, Japanese with weird traveling gadgets etc etc, and of course --
4 tickets from Old Delhi Train Station to Kalka, depart almost midnight.
I forgot how we left the office, maybe or maybe not after a farewell kiss by Ijol to his German girlfriend.