I’m on the plane, heading to Dehli. N’Shallah.
At the airport, within 10 yards of each other, I pass three checkpoints where I am told to open my luggage.
One police officer would not let me advance to the ticket counter until I showed him “my International I.D.” International I.D.?! I never heard of one. He said everyone had one and I needed to call someone at ACKU to bring me one. If I didn’t produce one I couldn’t leave the country.
I gave my phone card to Nazir, my translator, thinking I wouldn’t need it. I was trying not to show my panic, but I wasn’t successful. Suddenly like an angel, Janice, a short-haired attractive blonde CBC correspondent, with designer glasses, whom I met briefly at the Gandamack, sidled up next to me and laughed to the cop and said, “I know this guy. He’ s great, fine,” and she escorts me through the gate.
I am dumbstruck that it is that easy. She whispers to me, “Don’t let them get to you. You are such an easy target. Once they see your fear, you’re finished.” We parted company, I thanked her profusely. I would never have gotten on the plane if she wasn’t there. I never thought you could tell a cop to go fuck himself, which is essentially what Janice did, but in a really sweet way.
As soon as she left me I was besieged by a group of men who told me if I didn’t tip, I would never see my luggage again. Just get me out of here. I don’t know what my face is saying but I am pissed, frustrated and scared because I don’t know how to maneuver the constant stream of petty thieves, obviously sanctioned by the authorities because we are in a high clearance area.
I only had $10’s and $20’s. I gave a $20 to one guy and told him to split it with his “friends,” which I knew he would never do. The others would target him after I left and seek a portion of the $20. The corruption at the airport is a mirror for the corruption plaguing the country. No one trusts anyone in a failed state.
It’s all behind me now. We land in Delhi.
The father of a woman, Nikitha, who works for me at Columbia arranges a car, driver and guide to take me around Delhi in my brief time there. We have lunch at the delicious a bit south of the city. It looks like a strip mall, but I found some decent contemporary Indian clothes to bring home for my family.
When I return to my New York apartment, it’s 6 a.m., my partner is Upstate. The apartment feels so peaceful what God is but I am so grateful for this raw, expansive, challenging, terrifying experience. I have been able to travel the world and bear witness to some amazing stories that add so much to my daily life. It’s what life is about, eh?