2 March 2015
I’m back. My third time taking on the madness that is India.
I’m not going to bore you with the initial travel details; needless to say, these include the usual longish flights, killing time in Bangkok airport and wandering aimlessly from duty free shop to duty free shop.
India is the main event – and my entry experience didn’t disappoint me.
The Australian and Indian governments have recently cemented ties between our two countries, thus permitting Australian residents to use a “Visa on Arrival” program. No longer would I have a pre-departure taste of Indian bureaucracy in my own country, queuing for visas and praying our passports would be returned prior to our travel date. Now our visas would be issued via a simple “online” facility, with the promise of breezing through the immigration process on arrival into India.
After being directed into a long queue, I worked my way to the front where I was informed I would need to join the queue at the desk next door, where I was directed to the adjoining queue and then directed to another desk, and then yet another area. Finally, the “Visa on Arrival” queue. India at its best.
Meanwhile two other flights had disgorged themselves, and their occupants were already on their way to hotels and home. So much for the promised efficiencies of visa on arrival.
I wasn’t angry or short tempered. This is India. Like its roads, it doesn’t make sense, but it seems to work.
My friendly immigration officer took me through the process, finishing with the collection of my biometric details on a fingerprint recognition machine. A machine that he constantly cleaned with a dirty rag. A machine that was sensitive to sweat and grease. Not ideal in a hot country that processes long lines of sweaty travellers.
As instructed, I placed the required digit on the glass screen to have its imprint recorded. I was directed to “leave it, leave it”. My immigration officer became quite agitated as I acquiesced and kept my digits in place. It was then I discovered the instruction ” leave it, leave it” actually meant “remove it, remove it”.
India’s machinations flooded back as we entered the Arrival Hall, clutching our pre-paid taxi voucher in my hand, only to be pestered with offers of assistance by competing cab companies who informed us we were paying too much. Ah, everyone has an angle!
Our 2am journey through the Hyderabad freeway system was a re-anointment of the thrills and chills of travelling in India. Our taxi traversed to a raised freeway, racing along at 140 kilometres per hour. We were sailing above the sleeping city, and I do mean sailing – we were airborne on numerous occasions. Our taxi had an ingenious device that monitored speed. Every 30 seconds of our 45 minute drive, our driver was informed in a clipped British female accent to “Please slow down, you are crossing the speed limit“. Our driver drowned these instructions out with distorted Hindi music, horn honking and calls on his mobile.
This experience brought a nostalgic smile to my face.
I was back. India hadn’t missed me, she was doing fine.