India is the cradle of the human race, the birthplace of human speech, the mother of history, the grandmother of legend, and the great grandmother of tradition. Our most valuable and most instructive materials in the history of man are treasured up in India only.
Whilst my motivation for coming to India might not have been influenced by the noble sentiments expressed by Mark Twain above, I couldn’t help but feel that the country which gave us the numerical system, trigonometry, calculus and chess, must harbour a deeply ingrained sense of sadomasochistic wit and I was determined to find out as much about it as possible.
With that in mind I left behind the “Indian summer” in London, for the far warmer Indian autumn in Delhi. Having spent the last 12 months travelling and on my 27th flight of the year, it was strangely refreshing to be sat next to a 55 year old who was embarking on his first flight ever. He immediately took out his IPhone and pressed it to the window at the same time explaining to me in some detail how this wondrous piece of technology was able to not only make calls but also take pictures. Given this is the sort of technical wizardry I have come to expect from the majority of IPhone users I nodded along to his explanation.
The Flight itself was relatively uneventful my new friend having explained to me that drinks were free on board insisted I join him in a couple of whiskeys. He informed me after 3 drinks he would have no trouble sleeping and he was right, I was about to explain that given we were on a midday flight it was probably best not to sleep when he pulled his blanket over his head and immediately did just that.
About an hour from Delhi my companion awoke and asked me if I could complete his arrival document for him as he was unable to understand the form properly. Since all I was doing at the time was watching a rather bad remake of Clash of the Titans, I agreed to help him out. When I got to the question of nationality he produced his Indian passport and showed me that he had a visa which granted him permanent residence in the UK, I told him if he was entering on an Indian passport he should just put Indian down as his nationality but he was insistent that I needed to make reference to his permanent residence somewhere on the form. I tried to point out that there was not enough space on the document but he rightfully pointed to the fact that there were 15 spare blocks next to flight number since it only took up 5 of the 20 spaces. I agreed with his keen observation and filled in “English Res” next to the IA116 in this section.
I have decided should I ever open my own airline I will definitely make sure my flight numbers are all 20 digits long not only to justify Indian immigration in the sizing of their form but also to mess with that irritating woman that keeps banging on about the last boarding call 45 minutes before the flight is due to leave.
Unfortunately my companion was transferring on to Amritsar so I was unable to see the look on immigrations face as he proudly showed them his residence stamp. Indian immigration is a pretty smooth and painless process and Delhi Airport at 3am is not exactly packed so I was able to get through and out of the airport in relatively quick time. The airport collection I had arranged only the day before via email was waiting exactly where he said he would be which took me a little by surprise, and so within 30 minutes of landing I was on my way into Delhi.
I turned my mobile phone on and got a text from my friend Dizz suggesting we should meet for drinks before I left for India, this brought a smile to my face, as anyone who knows Dizz will testify this is exactly the sort of timing one would expect.
Despite it being 3am the journey into Delhi, reminded me of one of the reasons I had loved my previous trip to India. The sheer unadulterated chaos of the place is mesmerising, I saw things on the main road into Delhi that I am still at a loss to name or even describe, vehicles of every known description, humans, domestic animals, wildlife, other organisms and various inanimate objects litter the road, all of them co-existing in a strange sort of harmony. I eventually arrived at the aptly named Smyle Inn my home for the next 5 days, and whilst it’s not quite Frodo setting off from the shire as beginnings go I was most satisfied with my first day’s adventure.