Flying into India for the Rickshaw Run, we arrive into Indira Ghandi International Airport, Delhi is a gleaming, air conditioned, marbled wonder of modernity – peace and tranquillity reign… but looks can be deceptive it has prison potential. Our adventure starts!
24 hours earlier, Jet Airways rescheduled our domestic flight from Delhi to Guwahati to have us flying out just 5 minutes after our plane touched down from London. Some hope! No other flights were departing that day for Guwahati and the only other option was to fly to Calcutta that evening, hang around in the airport until 6:00am the following morning, then catch another flight onwards. No thanks. We opted for staying over in Delhi and flying out on the 09:50 the next morning. Jet Airways would email through the new tickets.
Landing in the arrivals terminal and still no sign of our tickets, we head to the Jet Airways desk to pick up them up. Following the signposts to departures we come to a barriered off entrance through which absolutely no-one is going. We explain to the security guard our need, after a lengthy inspection of our papers he directs us through. Another security guard in departures inspects our papers again and lets us in. The Jet Airways lady quickly checks our flights and with a conspiratorial smile, gives us our first Indian head waggle and hands over our new tickets. Perhaps she knew what was to come…
We quickly suss out that the only taxis to leave the airport are in arrivals, so head back the way we had came. “No”, the security guard who we had spoken to 5 minutes earlier, “not possible to leave this way, go to gate 2”. Gate 2, another security guard, another rejection. The outside world is tantalising close, a couple of glass doors, we can see people arriving, taxis expelling passengers. Another gate, another guard, another try… “why are we in departures if we have arrived and are not leaving today?” Exit barred.
We try the information counter, who directs us back to the first security guard who had already stopped us. Another long walk across the marbled floors and another potential exit, the guard leaps to his feet at the incongruous sight of two girls with luggage aiming for the exit. We want to leave the airport and go to our hotel we explain. “Not possible” he replies. “Go speak to your airline”.
We return to the lady who issued our new tickets. Another two desks and redirects, we eventually reach the supervisor at luggage check-in, we explain again the change in flights and our desire to leave the airport. She nods and directs one of her subordinates to escort us to one of our previously rejected exits, at which a female security guard perched at a high desk, requiring no explanation very slowly fills out our details into a thick ledger seemingly filled with names of previous escapees. Our passports are returned and we are released.
“Free!” we cry out as we go through the glass doors into the sweltering heat. “Free!” responds the guard who previously stopped us, with a beaming smile and a laugh.
Welcome to India.