Lucknow Part 2 – Delhi

There was a specific reason for our choice of flights – our host, the bridegroom, had told us to pick flights that arrive in the T3 terminal which he said is really awesome, huge and like a shopping mall. The airport was definitely huge – plenty of gates one after the other, long moving walkways between gates and a clean environment. We’ve heard a lot about air pollution in Delhi and I was expecting to see black clouds; but i couldn’t spot anything through the windows. Maybe I’d see it in the city.

We went past numerous gates in T3 (no shops or anything around these) and reached the baggage collection area – there was a Hamleys toy shop but beyond this was the path to the exit! Just before the exit there was a perpendicular corridor with a few shops and a couple of eateries (one was a Subway).
“This has become an anti-climax”
We thought we will spend a couple of hours in this “mall”!
“Why don’t they have anything here?”
We reasoned, “This is the arrivals section of the airport. People who arrive will want to get to their home or hotel or the city; who will want to spend time in the airport shopping?”
Good point that we had not thought about earlier.

It didn’t feel all that chill outside; one of our gang members was in shorts and another, Rijesh, was in a thin t-shirt. I on the other hand was in 5 layers including the sports rain jacket since i wanted to reduce the weight of my backpack!
“Shall we go to the city and eat or have something here?”
Outside the airport there was a small building that had a food court with 5 restaurants.
“Let’s have it here while the others arrive.”
The poori and curry tasted pretty good though it was expensive – everything always is in airports. But Krispy Kreme donuts in Delhi airport were priced lower than Chennai airport.

Where are the black clouds?

One person in the gang flew in from Bangalore while 10 came from Chennai. We headed to the metro station connected to T3; there were a couple of queues occupying the 2 counters. The ticket options weren’t listed on the boards; since we were a large group we had a lot of opinions – we had a mini-discussion on what ticket to buy – a day pass or a single trip token or a card.
2 people from our group stood in the queue.
“Why are you also waiting?”
“In case there is a limit on number of tickets one person is allowed to buy.”
The rest of us were chatting on the side while our guy reached the counter.
“Ask him if we can get a pass.”
Our guy spoke in Hindi to the staff and relayed the response to us, “This pass cannot be used in the city. We can only get tokens for the trip here.”
“Ok.”
New Delhi station was our stop. The metro line can be confusing because the airport line (orange line) is separate from the other metro lines in the city; so things like 1-day passes cannot be used across the two.
“How many tokens?”
“11”
“12”
“How many?”
“12,” someone shouted out and he made the payment for 12.
We started counting heads and found there were only 11; the 12th person is the Delhiite who hadn’t yet joined us! Being in a group this big you definitely have lots of such moments and our trip had just started!

The station was clean and so was the train. Once the train started we realized why; there was a lady who sweeping the floor across compartments. Food and drink were prohibited within the train. When the train first went above ground, i was searching for the pollution that Delhi was infamous for – but not a sign of black smoke as we neared the heart of the city.
We got down at the last stop and enquired with a staff on how to switch to the yellow line.
“Follow the yellow steps.”
The way the lady dismissively replied made us reluctant to ask her what she was talking about? Did she says steps? Whose steps?
We looked around and thought of asking someone else when we noticed cartoony yellow footstep stickers on the floor. We followed it but it suddenly disappeared when we reached a staircase that was descending.

Lo behold – it was like a fish market below; a cacophony of noises and people packed in clusters around various counters. Each counter had something different written on top of it in Hindi; seemed like tickets for different prices; there was a central counter as well around which there were stickers about a tourist card and a travel card. A couple of folks went to the counters, a couple went looking at the map to see how much the ticket to Qutub Minar station cost and a couple of us hoped to get assistance from some staff – we found a guy in a black suit but he acted as if we didn’t even exist! We had a mini-debate regarding whether to buy the 1-day tourist pass (unlimited rides) or buy the travel pass and top up based on how many trips we would take. The person from our gang waiting in the queue had reached the counter but we were still debating which one to take by calculating the amount of top up we would need with the travel card and whether that would be more than the tourist pass. There was a huge queue and the guy at the counter was also impatient; at crunch times it is the leader who takes over and our leader, Rijesh, said, “Tourist pass” and 11 tourist passes it was!

People didn’t wait for passengers to step out when the doors opened; everyone rushed in while some people were trying to get out – we managed to get in and we could see Krishna and our leader run in opposite directions to get into the neighbouring compartments. Krishna was lucky to avoid being caught between the closing doors as he jumped into the train; the doors did catch his shirt but he pulled through. We gathered together inside the train and only after a couple of minutes did we discover that our leader was missing! “He is having some other plans.”
“A secret meeting with someone.”
“Sent us off first and then makes it seem as if he missed the train.”
“A good leader ensures the safety of his team and puts his team first!”
We were having fun at the expense of our leader. This was a really long ride.

When we got off the train, a smartly dressed young lady in a blazer accompanied by a couple of men in suits came hurrying towards us. We joked, “They’re going to miss the train like our leader”.
The trio went past us towards the next compartment. But instead of stepping in, they stopped a passenger who had just stepped out. What ensued seemed like an argument.
“Oh. That guy was sitting on the floor in the train.”
And there was a sign in the train that said no sitting on the floor. It was not a sign that you usually see elsewhere and I wondered if everyone would understand what it meant; in a country where public transportation runs packed to the brim and people tend to sit wherever they could find space.
“They must have been monitoring the train. They knew exactly which compartment he is coming out from.”

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