2 Apr 2005
Before I separated from the rest of the departing group, our tour organizer had talked to the tour operators on the possibility of them taking care of my accommodation for one night given the fact that I arrived India one day after others and did not effectively occupy a hotel room in Mumbai. They agreed that they will give me hotel accommodation for one night free of charge. Mr. Combelas (tour organizer) was visibly surprised to learn from me that Gopal (tour operator) had requested and received from me the sum of $40 “for transport to hotel and from hotel to airport”. This was certainly another fast one from the calculative Gopal.
The following day (March 18) I decided to make a tour of the sites that we could not visit due to time constraints. I contacted the hotel receptionist to arrange a taxi for hire. He told me that it will cost 650 rupees (approx $13) for eight hours per 80kms.
My driver had a Sikh name Singh but he was a Christian from Kerala.
We first drove to old Delhi to visit the red fort. Constructed by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan (same emperor that built the Taj Mahal), this fort bears some resemblance to the Agra fort. We next visited Qutab Minar and her stone tower of height 72.5m, diameter 14.32m at base and 2.75m at top. Later, the Bahai centre commonly known as Lotus temple was one of the most captivating places I saw in the Indian capital. With sitting capacity of 1300, this uniquely designed building constructed in the form of the lotus flower comprising of 27 petals is surrounded by nine pools. According to a leaflet I obtained from the temple, the Bahai faith “upholds the unity of God, recognizes the unity of His Prophets and inculcates the principle of oneness and wholeness of the entire human race.”The building and its aesthetic surroundings is a success story for modern architecture. After briefly making a stopover at the Birla Mandir (Hindu temple), we headed for my hotel located at an area called Karol Bagh in New Dehli.
(See photo of the Lotus temple at the following link)
After liberating the driver, I went out for shopping in the neighbourhood. I met an elderly shop owner in his sixties by name Gulab Bhai that offered to “help” me locate Mahatma Gandhi T shirts that I needed from his shop and he hadn’t. “I like making friends with people from all over” he said. “I will take you on my scooter to the whole salers” he said with fatherly assurance. I mounted his motorbike (a thing I will hardly do in Cameroon) and with dexterity he maneuvered his way through the busy streets of New Delhi. On the way he tried to talk me into buying a “Nehru attire”.
I told him that I need nothing but Gandhi T shirts. When he finally stopped in front of a shop, I quickly realized that it was the same shop my taxi driver of the morning tried to coax me into buying something from there. We got into the shop and there were no Gandhi T shirts but he kept on convincing me to buy other brands. It dawned on me that I was in the hands of a commission agent and I had to play ball. I bought 2 T shirts (not Gandhi) for the price of 4 or 5 and told Gulab that we should go right back. When we got out of the shop, Gulab was handed a piece of paper. I knew it was his commission voucher for bringing me there but I pretended as if I knew nothing. Sometimes you have to play the fool to get out of a tight situation. On our way back, Gulab requested my help to fuel his bike which I did for $1 and he later asked me to purchase him cigarettes for about half USD. When I separated with Gulab, I told myself that this was one final rip off as they say in Cameroon “for the road”.
I returned to the hotel, parked my things and boarded the car sent by Gopal for Indira Gandhi International airport. Our night flight to Mumbai took one and a half hours. I arrived Mumbai around midnight and caught a 3am connecting flight for the five and a half hours flight across the ocean to Nairobi.
Copyright ã 2005 by Njei Moses Timah
Njei Moses Timah [e-mail]