Standard Operating Procedure

As far as Yours Truly is concerned everything was S.O.P. until we hit the ground. Let me explain. There was none of this floating down the runway hoping to grease down into a barely felt landing. First there was a proper hard crunch, one of those get-it-down-now landings, after which the beast bounded back up into the air and I knew we were in for another coming together with the tarmac. I haven’t felt anything like that in a long time but then again we were only a half hour late on a flight where they practically promise you to expect an hour or more delay. You know, I recall the plane had painted over logos, no markings, as if it was a rental. Still, the middle of the night is the middle of the night and we still managed to walk up the jetway.

S.O.P. means dealing with India’s strange visa requirements, ATM for a pocket full of Rupiahs, and lastly we play the sim card game and of course India has added a few new wrinkles. It seems one needs the phone number of one of your Indian friends willing to vouch for you, and a photo. We’re tourists, we don’t know anyone in India.

Normally you have to sift through many cleverly worded packages but here they only have one deal. Marce didn’t like the deal but strangely, there were no other phone companies at the airport. I went outside to find better competition but there was none to be found. On my way back in I heard someone shout, but you must never make eye contact with Tuktuk drivers or they glom on to you like a pickpocket in Barcelona. Suddenly someone had my arm firmly in his grasp and I decided to follow. He had a nice purple turban, an upturned mustache, and a well used assault weapon slung over his shoulder. I’m not good with Hindi but I understood that I was not going back inside with Marce.

By this time another flight must have landed and through a large window I could see quite a large crowd had gathered at the beleaguered Airtel booth. It was not going well. I was outside with the luggage watching a keystone cops silent movie featuring a half dozen airtel employees having great difficulty photographing dozens of impatient potential customers, and one pissed off Marce who naturally had my phone. I had to stop her from coming out to get me a couple of times. There are no signs and she didn’t know about the guy with the gun. Finally the manager came out but he didn’t know about the guy with the gun and he had to talk his way back inside. Eventually one of his crew came out to photograph me. First he held the camera up about a foot from my face and wiggled his head side to side like Peter Sellers in “The Party” and said, “blink.” I could not keep a straight face. Apparently it’s an app that triggers the camera shutter after you blink, but there was no amount of blinking that would get the thing to work. Blink…no BLINK. Twenty five minutes and countless blinks later I think they just gave up.

At least now we can call an Uber. There’s only one thing more terrifying than New Delhi traffic, and that’s middle of the night Delhi traffic. Eventually we wound our way through dark back alleyways running into gated streets that blocked our way. Sometimes we had to stop to push aside wires hanging down from somewhere above us all the way to the pavement, just to get past. Our driver would ask us if this was the way but naturally we’d never been here before.

Lit up like Christmas on the darkest of nights, I could see ahead the last building in the narrowest of alleyways and prayed that it would be our hotel. Not exactly S.O.P. but we made it just the same.

We understandably slept in a little but who can sleep when there is all of India to see. Five feet from our front door we ran into this.

I wonder if its purpose might be to keep people out, or is it to keep us in? The hanging wires are not so intimidating in the daylight.

We’re told that the Metro station can’t be missed and all we have to do is cross a dusty abandoned field and Bob’s your uncle.

A fellow field trekker showed us the way and Marce sussed out the ticket machine. We found the Metro clean with reasonably well maintained Metro cars, nuts-to-butts with people of all shapes, sizes, and shades.

It was a long ride and a bit of a hike to the famous Red Fort from the next to last metro stop. Without a clue where we might find the entrance to this massive fort, we headed toward where the most people were coming from. S.O.P. for us Escapees.

After a mile or two, walking along the fort wall, we ran into Deirdre and Rose, two Irish lasses who were touring India.

The consensus on the inside of the fort is meh, the juice is not worth the squeeze. What you want is the Amber Fort! Now that’s a fort!

We walked the wall a bit further and then struck out towards two huge towers that look like I.C.B.M.s.

Turns out it’s a massive mosque with a half kilometer of crazy outdoor market to wade through just to reach the bottom of way too many stairs up to the mosque entrance where I’m pretty sure I’ll have to take off my shoes, walk barefoot, and wrap some anonymous ladies ridiculous moo moo around me. No photos please.

I rarely go inside mosques. They’re basically empty but I’m told this one has a tower where you can climb up a claustrophobic spiral staircase and take photos of Delhi. I’m in. Jama mosque is one of India’s largest and was built in 1644. Let me tell you they did things differently back in 1644. Quite posh with three domes and a courtyard that can hold 25,000 worshippers.

Just as I was about to climb the tower, of all things, they closed it for prayer.

Next up is a long hike to something called a Step Well, built in the 14th century.

Marce says you might consider wearing a hat at this step well. She moved to the side to avoid the sun and a pidgeon hit the target dead on.

Is it just me or does this well look Roman?

After another long slog we made it to the India Gate. I suppose it’s more of a memorial than anything else.

It’s big!

Mercifully the call for an Uber was made and we found a safe place to sit and wait.

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One Response to Standard Operating Procedure

  1. Suzy O'Hanlon Capenos

    Are you sure you weren’t in Paris? Tomb of the Unknown, or Washington Square? All those steps! You must be in good shape. The flight and entry to India sounds scary. My niece made India one of her trips after college grad. She met an Indian classmate there. ( Ireland on way home) . Almost 15yrs ago. Seems scary. Glad you located your hotel. The subway looks so clean compared to NYC. Busdriver in NYC told my husband to avoid subway. I missed that advise. Where are you this week? Thank You.

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