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I Think I Saw This Marx Bros’ Movie

Published on October 21, 2006, by in Delhi, India, Trains.

I had spent too much time shopping in the Karol Bargh Market and the other in Paharganj, followed by a final afternoon enjoying rest of the fantastic Delhi Metro system, that I  did not get back to the Megha Sheraton, to pick up my bags, until 5:10pm, almost 1/2 hour later than I had been advised.

That put everything at risk. I was to pay the price, literally, in sweat and rupees.

Mr. Bahkti’s assistant John, in the efficient manner I had come to expect, already had a taxi waiting for me. A bike-rickshaw or even an auto-rickshaw would have taken too long. John had even prepaid the 100 rupee taxi fare and had my luggage sitting next to the taxi.

I pressed a generous tip into John’s hand and threw my purchases into the bag, forced the zipper by sitting on the bag while the hall-boy tugged at the other end. Our efforts closed the bag but opened the seam next to the zipper. However, it would hold (I hoped.)

Into the taxi – luggage, carrybag and me – were poured all into a heap in the back seat. After I seated, the driver leisurely walked around the car cleaning the windows and mirrors and headlights whilst I had visions of the train leaving without me. Then he got into his seat and asked me what airline I was taking. I called out to John.

He must have heard the panic in my voice because he came at a trot. Knowing how late I was already, he immediately sized up the cause of my distress. An angry burst of Hindi bombarded the driver. He wilted like a man hit with the stream from a fire hose.

As he pulled away from the curb, his resentment and hurt pride filled the taxi with a dark, sullen cloud. I realized I had to rescue the situation or he would sulk slowly, oh so slowly, all the way to the Delhi train station where I imagined they were already starting to mark possible non-arrivals. We  stopped at a red light he might easily have made with small effort and no risk.

I dug into my bag and pulled out two new crisp 100 Rupee notes. I leaned forward into the front seat and showed him the notes. Then I pointed to the time on his dashboard clock and, with elaborate, almost vaudevillian sign language, made clear that if we got to the entrance of the train station within 15 minutes, the 200 rupees were his; 16 minutes or more, no tip at all.

It was a bolt of lightening up his ass. We surged through the red light, horn bleating, across 6 lanes of traffic. Cars, bikes, rickshaws and even buses let the crazy taxi through – but I am sure that some of the things I heard shouted at us are four-letter words in any language. It was like one of those speeded-up moments in a old movies where everything moves at a relentless, herky-jerky pace.

We got to the gate of the Delhi Train Station in 10 minutes. I gave him the two hundred plus an extra 100 rps.

As I stepped from the taxi, the real ordeal was about to begin . . . see the next posting for this same date.

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