DAY THIRTEEN: Friday March 14
I felt much better the following morning and woke up to a beautiful sunny day. Since the light was so beautiful, I roamed the grounds of the hotel taking photos. The day would be on our own. I spent the bulk of the morning packing before we had to check out of the room. Our flight would not be until the evening.
A few of us went into town where I wound up buying some shoes and having two silk shirts made. Afterwards, I got up the courage to wander into the Pink City on my own. Though I had my camera with me, I did not take a single photo. It was not for lack of compelling subjects. It was more a case of feeling intimidated by how much I already stood out in this forbidding culture. I felt somewhat exhilarated by the experience as I meandered through the dusty, filthy but oddly beautiful streets adhering closely to my map and avoiding side streets , hawkers and beggars. After awhile and not finding my objective, a special savory and sweet stand that is well known, I returned to the hotel. On my way back, a young Muslim student from Dubai who was vacationing in Jaipur while studying in Mumbai, struck up a conversation with me in broken English. He explained that he is studying English and that his father is a cardiologist in Dubai. We parted ways as I arrived back at the hotel.
Our departure time was pushed back, so we had more time to kill, a good part of which I spent waiting for my shirts to be delivered. They finally came with little time to spare before we boarded the bus. The sunset was beautiful as we headed through the newly developed area approaching the airport.
Once at the airport, I had a samosa, something that I expected to eat much of, but had had only once prior during the trip. The reason for this is that samosas are considered snacks and primarily available as street food. We did not sample any street food as a group, though a few brave souls did so regularly. I was just not that brave, especially for something as starchy as a samosa in a hot climate. Others had tried airport snack bar samosas previously without a problem and in general these had the imprimatur of Julie so I bought one for 30 rupees or about $0.08.
We checked in for our flight and discovered that it would be a half hour or so late. I started to become concerned, but not overly so. Once we boarded the short Kingfisher airline flight, I realized that we would be cutting things pretty close. Things became even more urgent as we had a long bus ride to the arrival terminal, waited for our baggage and packed up the bus that would take us to the International terminal. I figured that the International terminal, though a different building, would at least still be within the same airport. I figured wrong. Not only was it a completely different airport, we had to wade through slow, heavy traffic to get to it. By the time we were able to get our bags from the bus and rush through the entrance to the terminal (no mean feet given the airport security), three of us, who were all to be on the same Continental flight to Newark, discovered that the Continental check-in was closed and that we would not be on our flight. Our initial shock led to more aggravation as we had to wait and wait some more for a Continental representative to come and help us as well as a number of other passengers who missed the flight because of major difficulties getting to the airport. In the meantime, I called Julie, who was with her family in Delhi, to inform her of our plight as well as to seek her advice. Though there wasn’t much that she could do for us directly, her advice was useful.
Once the Continental agents came, we could leave the terminal. The Delhi airport security is such that once one enters the departures terminal one can not simply walk out of it. One needs an airline representative‘s assistance to do so, thus the presence of the Continental reps was doubly necessary. The terminal itself, inside and out, was chaos, with little apparent order, so it was helpful for each of us to have the others company and share our misfortune. Once we got outside the terminal we had to go to the Continental office to make new flight arrangements. As with every other aspect of this ordeal, this was not as easy as it sounds. We had to wade through masses of people all the while pushing our luggage carts, a process strangely reminiscent of driving through Delhi itself. The airline office happened to be on the level below, however, the elevator was not operating. Given our luggage, the three of us determined that I would collect all of our passports and make the arrangements for all while they stayed with the baggage. I was not the first in line, however, and I became quite concerned as the other passengers were being told that the next flight was already oversold with only first-come, first served standby tickets available. In addition, Continental would not place us on another carrier as it was not their fault that we missed the flight. Fortunately for me, since I was traveling first-class, they were able to confirm my travel for the Saturday night flight with a first class ticket. My two friends, however, could only be booked standby. With the incredible assistance of a fellow traveler, an Indian from Delhi by birth named Privat, who now lives and owns restaurants in Atlantic City, we got a taxi from the pre-pay area to take us to the Radisson Hotel near the airport. We were fortunate to find three rooms. Once there, I showered and crashed.