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26 December 2007

TRAVEL TALES : Nightmare after Christmas in New Delhi

WINTER CAN be the nicest time of the year: peppy fashion goes in overdrive, hot food is good, and holiday décor is always cheerful to behold. Early yesterday morning, however, the joyfulness of winter was farthest from my mind.

'Twas the night (morning, actually) after Christmas in Gurgaon (outside New Delhi) . . . and I was preparing to travel back to Kolkata on a 6:00 AM flight. At the guest house I checked in, the water taps in the bathroom were defective—and I realized this only when the hot water I was showering with automatically transformed into the Arctic sea. At 4:15 AM. In the wee small hours of winter morning. Oh yes, ouch.

Bones and teeth rattling nonstop, I managed to dress up under two minutes—not because I was running after time, but because I was quickly petrifying from the cold. Moments later, at exactly 4:30 AM, I was at the foyer of the guest house, waiting for the rental car to pick me up for the airport. The warm woolen muffler tied around my neck pacified my rattling bones and teeth. I was eager to fly back home to Kolkata.

Except that the rental car never showed up. The driver, of course, was also missing in action—he wasn't picking up my frantic calls on his mobile phone.

So what's a man to do when he has a plane to catch and no time left in the wee small hours of a frozen winter morning? Walk to the highway and pray for a cab to show up. My sense of humor was quickly freezing with my patience. See, in Gurgaon, the most posh place in northern India, everyone owns and drives at least one car (read: no one needs cabs in this place). To top that, I wasn't sure how long I'd survive the five-degree temperature at the open highway.

After what seemed like eternity, I found a cab two kilometers away from the guest house. Never mind if its dusty seat dirtied my white jacket and trousers and made me look like a shivering refugee from the Cambodian war; I was just ecstatic to get my shaking bones and teeth out of the cold and zoom like crazy to the airport.

I reached my flight in the nick of time, and vowed to make the holiday season miserable for whoever was responsible for the cab not showing up. Fortunately for that person, I was too sleepy in the morning to exact any form of misery. Ah, the thought of my warm Kolkata bed still gives me bliss . . .


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