Hell is not other people. Hell is the International Transit Desk at Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi, India. Nearly a month has passed since my first encounter with the charming (not), helpful (certainly not) and efficient (hahaha) people staffing the International Transit Desk, and I am still in awe of my mind-boggling experience there. It was not an isolated incident, either; two weeks later I was obliged to go there again--same story.
I won't bore you with the details of my 30-some hour trips to and from Nepal; after all, I chose to go halfway around the world to see the Himalayas (more on that later). But I offer this as a cautionary tale.
Briefly: Americans need a visa to actually enter India. People who are merely changing planes in India en route to another country (say, for example, Nepal) need not get one. Instead, they simply go to the Transit Desk where their baggage is checked through to their outgoing flight, and pick up their boarding passes. Simplicity itself, right?
Um. No. Fresh from a 16-hour flight from Chicago, we walked briskly through the airport and found the International Transit Desk with no problem at all. As we had only carry-on luggage, all we needed to do was pick up our boarding passes for our flight to Kathmandu, and be on our way.
Um. No. There was no line at any of the eight stations, so I picked one and approached, itinerary in hand, and told the woman behind the desk what I needed. She looked at me coolly and said, "Yes. Go sit down." This didn't seem to be a good answer, so I thought perhaps I hadn't been clear (after all, it had been a long flight). I politely restated my request. She exhaled sharply, stared coolly and said, "Yes. Sit down. I will call you." To which I smiled and replied, "Oh, I see, thank you, but I didn't give you my name yet." "Yes," she said. "Go sit down."
You probably think I am making this up, but I am not. If I were making it up, I would have made up something significantly more plausible. Anyway, after about thirty minutes, I went back to the desk, to another station, and asked for our boarding passes to be issued. The man listened passively until I finished, and then said, "Didn't you go to the other line first?" I nodded and he replied, "Then you must go back to her." Sheepishly (though now a little frustrated), I returned to the first line, where I was told (of course) to go sit down.
Sitting there, trying to remember the plot of Waiting for Godot, I began to fear that the 18-hour layover before our onward flight might not be enough. More than two hours later, (and for no apparent reason) they deigned to give us boarding passes. No explanation for the delay, and most certainly no apology. Counting ourselves lucky to escape, we got the hell out of there.
Two weeks later, on our return, the story was much the same. Oh, except for the fact that they originally wouldn't let us even enter the airport because our destination was Chicago, and due to Hurricane Sandy, they said, "America is closed." Um. No.
Can't wait to go back.
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