The Car Caller at the Leela Hotel
I got up early in the morning to pay my hotel bill and have one last look around my luxurious surroundings. I went to the car greeter and said my goodbyes. He called Ravi over the intercom and let him know I was ready. I was wearing my long black
travel coat and Ravi laughed at me as he greeted me. “Mam you are all bundled up.” “Yes Ravi it will be cold where I am going and I don’t have room in my suitcase for my coat.”
Ravi and I talk on the way to
the airport. And he confides in me “I feel like you are my family madam. I know Ravi,” I respond “I feel like that too.” You are the age of my children and I am old enough to be your mother.” He takes this very seriously and calls
me mom. Oh dear! We sat at the airport for a few minutes as he handed me all the paperwork to sign for all of our trips. I could feel how heavy his heart was as he handed me each bill. My heart was heavy also.
I got out of the
car and walked over to Ravi and gave him a big hug. “Good Bye Ravi thank you so much for your guidance and help I shall always remember you.” I tucked a nice tip in his jacket and told him to take care of his family. He stood stock
still with a long sad look on his face. “Good bye Madam.” I tried my best not to but I cried when I left him, I just could not contain myself. He guided me through this strange land and watched over me with unfailing diligence, giving
me strict instructions to follow his guidance. He stood by the light post and watched me until he could see that I got into the terminal safely. I turned and waved one last goodbye to him. The best of India is undoubtedly the people. I was touched by
so many people because they have such big hearts.
I entered the terminal and prepared for the onslaught of getting through the airport. Reality strikes me at the security checkpoint where there are separate lines for men and women. Women
go behind a curtain and are patted down; it is so surreal for me. My western sensibilities are just not in touch with some things. In India it is not customary for a woman to travel alone without a male escort; another fact I struggle to comprehend. The
dreaded feeling of anxiousness surrounded me, as I made my way through all the lines, I felt vulnerable traveling alone in a foreign country and I just wanted to get on the plane.
I landed in Delhi to got my transfer to go to Paris. May I just say the
worst of India is the inefficiency? We landed, exited the plane on the tarmac and got into a bus. I stood in a line for all transfers from domestic to international flights. They actually hand wrote all my travel/ transfer information
for one flight to another in a log book. One person was writing while another person was watching the whole process. I was stunned as I stood in the long line to get through the process. They gave me a small travel document (not a boarding pass) and
transferred me to the international terminal by bus. I took a moment to go into the bathroom where I get the surprise of my life. I am in the stall with my suitcases piled against the door, as a man starts to enter my stall. I protested loudly
and pushed on my suitcases to prevent him for entering. I heard the woman in the next stall converse to that man in the local language as he opened the door to her stall. My sense of privacy had been eliminated in a few short seconds. I never did understand
what the hell was so important that he had to come into the ladies restroom and disturb his wife. I gathered my things and left.as quickly as possible and made my way to the bus. The bus actually crossed the runway and drove right down the center of
two runways. It took about 20 minutes going about 10 mph. We went through a guarded gate that was opened manually by two guards and looked like a prison gate. When we got into to the international terminal I stood in line to get my boarding
pass to Paris. I got on another bus to take me to the airplane. My passport and ticket were checked by armed guards at least 8 times during this whole process. We boarded the plane on the tarmac. I wondered if this is due to the lack
of terminal facilities or just heightened security. It was a good thing I had two hours to make the connection. At this point, I just wanted to be going home. Air India is pretty nice for international travel. The space for legs was
fairly generous. Chicken Curry for dinner…. again. It was good but after 10 days of curries for breakfast lunch and dinner, I was yearning for fresh vegetables. .
I landed in Paris, went to the ATM for a few Euros, and then got my ticket
for the local train from the airport to the city central. I dropped my passport in the airport and a man came running after me and handed it to me. I was so lucky, I was tired and I had lazily tucked it into my coat pocket while going through customs. Once
I was in the city central I grabbed a cab and went directly to my hotel. I actually told the taxi cab driver exactly how to get to the hotel in French. Ah familiarity, I had made it. I knew where I was for the first time since I left
home. It was cold and I was happy to have my long black coat as I walked a couple of blocks down the cobblestone street to find something to eat. I was craving fresh fruits and vegetables as I have not eaten anything uncooked for nearly three weeks. I
had a salad for dinner and it fulfilled my cravings. On my way back to my hotel I walked a few blocks out of my way to take a peek at the Eiffel Tower and reset my reality.
Before I went to sleep, I dug my “Walking of Paris” card deck
out of my suitcase. I spread the cards over the single bed in my spartan hotel room, and I picked a few of the cards on places I wanted to go. I had been to most of the famous landmarks but there were a few out of the way things and a few more famous sites
I wanted to visit.
I left my hotel at 3 am in India, gained 5 hours, traveled 10 hours and went to sleep at 9:30 pm local time; satisfied and exhausted.