Monday, December 11, 2006

I believe in angels

The pictures above are ones I took in New Delhi during the couple of days I spent there visiting with the USEFI personnel before flying on to Tirupati. The gentleman in the splendid outfit is the doorman at the Hotel Grand Sartag where I stayed.

I should begin by defining what I mean by angels.

OK, angels are people who appear out of the blue and help you get to where you need to go, often without any expectation of reward. On Thursday (Dec. 7) I met a couple of angels in Delhi and I simply do not know what I would have done without them. I met another one yesterday (Dec. 8) in Tirupati whose place in heaven is secure.

In Delhi, the day I was to fly to Tirupati, I fortunately got up earlier than necessary and arranged to be taken to the airport with lots of time to spare. If I hadn’t, I would most definitely have missed my plane because the dumb taxi driver took me to the wrong airport! Ironically, I’d been chatting with him while he navigated the absolutely chaotic Delhi traffic. You know me, I like to be friendly an’ all. I asked him to teach me some Hindi words, and one of them was “achowa” (my spelling—that’s how it sounds). It means “Well done!”

Well, guess what my last words to him were after I paid him his fare, along with a handsome tip, and before I realized that he’d dropped me off at the wrong airport?

You guessed it: “Achowa! Well done, mate. I really appreciate it.”


So there I am, with close to 200 lbs of luggage loaded on a cart, blissfully unaware that I was essentially stranded. An airport official guided me to the entrance to the terminal, where a security guy checked my ticket. Imagine my dismay when he told me I was at the wrong airport; that the correct airport (the domestic airport) was 10 kilometers (6 ¼ miles) away.

That’s when my first angel appeared at my shoulder. I can’t believe this guy was just standing there waiting for me to show up; but who knows? Maybe a putz like me shows up all the time. Fact is, I was so amazed to see him beckoning me to follow him that I was immediately skeptical (yeah, I know, it’s sceptical in British English, but I’m wearing my US citizen hat these days). I was convinced I was about to be the victim of a rip off; maybe I was about to be led down a dark alley and bopped over the head with a blunt instrument. I actually looked at the guy as if to say: “Are you kidding me? You think I’m an idiot? C’mon, this is obviously a scam. Whaddya take me for?”

He wanted me to go with him into an elevator, which further heightened my suspicions. When he realized I was suspicious of him, he walked me over to a balcony and pointed down to where there was a bustling taxi rank below. He didn’t speak English, but somehow he knew exactly what my predicament was. He whisked me down to the lower level, directed me to the prepay kiosk, waited while I got my ticket, escorted me to the designated taxi where the taxi owner, who did speak English, loaded my luggage on board and told his driver to take me to the domestic airport.

Long story short, I was the last passenger to board the plane with 5 minutes to spare. I gave my angel what he considered a really nice tip (R50; that’s 50 rupees, not much more than a dollar), but I’m telling you, I was ready to empty my wallet into his pocket.


This posting is getting too long. I’ll put you to sleep if I tell you about my other angels. Maybe I’ll keep their story for when I write the book (*smile*). Suffice to say that my other angels were equally unexpected and a total godsend for this beleaguered traveler (yeah, yeah, I know it’s “traveller” in British English…).

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