I swear, there is a mischievous side of India that likes to play games. Like the lover who likes to play hot and cold, India forces you to have a sort of love hate relationship with her, as if to intensify the already steaming, fragrant, colourful experience. I swear, every single time.
Now let me tell you her latest game in reverse order. Lets start from the end, where she almost had my love for her killed, head to toe. It was like going on a date for the third time. The first two times were, well, fun, but there was something missing, like you never quite got her. Then, as you were about to give up, and sitting through this third date feeling like, “OK… I’ll give it a last shot,” she surprises you pleasantly, reveals a side of her that you never thought was there before. So you start feeling butterflies in your stomach, start falling for her… and then she disappears! Stops returning your calls! And you think, “What the fxck?”
I was at Delhi airport on my way back to Hong Kong, heart fluttering with joy from the wonderful experience I’ve had with her, and heavy with a sadness for leaving. I was even starting to think that maybe I should come visit her once a month every year. Coming up to security check, I picked a random line to queue as my mind continued to seep in past and future. However, I slowly sensed that something was terribly wrong. The line I was in happened to be twice as long as all the other lines going through security. I waited out, thinking that I had plenty of time to kill, but forty minutes down the line, I started to panic. When I finally arrived at the front of the line, I discovered a further throng of female passengers jammed up at the metal detector in front of our line! Apparently they had a pooling system, and all female passengers from the multiple lines were supposed to put their bags through the scanning machine and come here for body screening.
That was exactly what I did, but when I came back to line up for the metal detector, I was told that I needed my boarding pass.
“It’s in my bag and its gone past the scanner over there.”
“Well, go get it then,” replied the security, expressionless.
“Do I have to line up all over again?” I was getting very anxious now.
“Yes,” and he wasn’t even looking at me.
“Well, you should have told me beforehand that I needed my boarding pass then, shouldn't you?” I barked.
“It’s your problem,” he said.
So I ran to collect my boarding pass and seeing that it was now five minutes to the gates closing, I asked the four women in front to please let me through first. They all kindly agreed and hurried me forwards. However, when I got to the female officer who was supposed to screen me, she refused to service me, pointing to those four women.
“My flight is leaving in five minutes! They let me through!” I yelled. It took another 2 minutes of screaming before she reluctantly stamped my boarding pass.
I went to collect my bags at the scanning machine, where a hoard of men were piled up against the end of the conveyor belt trying to collect their belongings. I grabbed my bags and ran, only to discover midway towards the gate that I had left one more bag behind.
I rounded back to the scanning machine, and to my horror saw my duffle bag lying on the officer’s table, and not at the collection bay at end of the belt.
“EXCUSE ME! Can I collect my bag now? Excuse me, sir, please….” I was completely ignored. For the first time, I felt helpless (and you know I’d usually like to think of myself as a savvy traveler). I felt like I was traveling alone in a foreign land where nobody spoke my language.
With only a couple of seconds to spare, I squeezed through the collection bay, grabbed my bag and ran for dear life. Obviously, I was called back (or more accurately, screamed back). I was told to open every single item in my bag, one by one. And he checked, slowly, thoroughly, opening every packet up and sniffing here and there. I swear he must have taken pleasure watching my sweat drip and face wrench as the clock ticked. Then he went back to work on the TV screen for a while, casually drifting back to my opened bag at my interchanging cries of accusation and plead. I was told to open the plastic packaging of a brand new candle I had bought as a gift, and he scrapped a piece of wax off it, sniffing. Seriously, has he never seen a candle before? Everything that happened during those couple of minutes seemed to me like a scene from a movie now. The officer playing around my bag in slow motion, a hysterical me screaming and arms waving, my cries muffled out, symbolizing its fall on deaf ears.