Announcement at the tulip garden. Pretty well describes the way I feel.
We had a perfect day on Thursday. The mountains ringing Srinigar were clear and cloudless all day.
Temperature went up to about 75 degrees. It rained all week prior to our arrival and clouded over
today as we left.
Security for departure from Srinigar was stringent and chaotic. We arrived a couple of hours ahead
of schedule but you need three hours at least (remember to pass this advice along to your Kashmir
Lines of anxious Indians are no laughing matter. Actually, to describe what we experienced at the
airport, "lines", is a joke. You have to plunge into the middle of amorphous crowds and establish
a space by wiggling, pushing, shoving and stepping in front of people and then you must maintain
the space by arranging your body and bags to prevent end runs, squiggle-bys etc.
If you hesitate for a moment, you lose your ground. In true Canadian mode ( "you go first....no, you go first"), I would have been there for days, cycling round and round and back to the end repeatedly.
An expeditor got hold of us when we found ourselves waiting in the wrong line for twenty minutes. He and the guards pointed to the back of a line?? about 100 people long. The expeditor grabbed our stuff and we moved swiftly to the front of one line, then another and another. There were about six or seven long, long lines involved. We admired the tight security but found the bribing expedition amazing. Except when we thought again .....and realized we were profiled: Americans, seniors, confused with plenty of rupees. The guards know we're hardly a security risk, so everyone gets a little harmless baksheesh by passing us through. The Indians in the lines don't complain...they likely assume we're handicapped in some way and they are used to the skids being greased. It's the way India works. Despite the smarminess, it was the best twenty bucks we've paid in a long time.
Landing back in Delhi is like coming back to a different planet. Our driver was waiting with his shiny clean car and nice white shirt. Traffic was light because they started the odd/even license days today for another two week trial. It was actually pleasant out on the streets. Nice to be drinking wine at Le Meridien, eating a Caesar salad, re-uniting with life's little comforts. Even if it's 100 degrees at 11:00 p.m.