Back to India… For real.

The morning after our day from Hell did look better. A nice sleep in, a beautiful, sunny morning, what could be better?
We wandered down the main strip to find breakfast. We sat at a little mom and pop owned restaurant. The place was empty apart from the lady who owned it and one young waiter.
We ordered poached eggs on toast and some fruit juice.
The waiter came out with a tumbler glass half full of whiskey.
“We have to get rid of the last of the bottle,” he said “so here you go!”
Whiskey? It was not even 9:00am. You know it’s going to be a weird day when you get served whiskey first thing in the morning. We took a sip and nearly gagged. This was the last thing on earth that I wanted right now.
The lady who owned the place was setting up flowers on all the tables.
“You like yellow?” She asked as she placed a flower down on ours.
“Yes, we love yellow!” We said as we admired the pretty yellow flower on the table.
“Hmmm, I like purple” she said in a sad voice. “My husband liked blue… But he died”
We looked up as if we hadn’t quite understood what she said.
“I’m so sorry” I said to her
She continued as if she hadn’t heard me, “Electric shock.” She said “He was holding a metal pole, and was in water. Just died of electric shock”
We sat there, unsure of what to say. I took the glass of whiskey and took another excruciating sip. I’m gunna need this if this conversation continues.
“You see my hand?” She said pointing to her hand. There was a lump on the side of it. “Can’t move it anymore” she motioned how her thumb no longer moves. “I crushed it. With wood. Now it doesn’t work.”
We looked at each other. What’s going on? The lady wandered off as we mumbled confused apologies.
I shouldn’t be surprised, I often have random people coming up to me and telling me intimate or horrific details about their life out of nowhere. But sitting in Sri Lanka, having a glass of Whiskey at 8:30am and an old lady telling me all the sad details of her life was strangely surreal.
So we just sat and waited for our breakfast, politely sipping on our whiskey.
Breakfast took an hour to show up. Maybe they were waiting for the chickens to lay the eggs, I’m not sure. Either way, that made us late for our Tuk Tuk to the airport. Not this again!
We showed up to the airport late once again. Other than the Vancouver Airport, I am pretty sure I’ve now been to the Colombo airport more than any other airport in the world. We rocked up like pro’s: through two security checks, exchanged money with the same exchange guy and up to the Sri Lankan airways desk.
“Two to Chennai!” We said with smiles as we handed over our passports and day packs.
The ticket lady checked me in first, them she turned to Kelsi.
“Where is your Indian visa?” She asked.
“I am getting one on arrival” said Kelsi.
“India doesn’t give visa’s on arrival” she said, staring at us blankly.
Hmmm, I’m having a sense of déjà vu.
We sighed. “They do for New Zealanders arriving in Chennai. Trust us. We went through this all yesterday, we talked with the embassy twice and we’ve gone through a huge process to rebook flights. They will give us a visa on arrival.”
She stared blankly some more then turned to a lady next to her. They discussed and shrugged, then brought over a supervisor.
“I have to call the embassy” said the supervisor.
“No problem” we said.
While she called, we looked at each other with ‘oh please, let’s NOT go through this again’ looks on our faces. A couple minutes on the phone and the lady turned back to us.
“No problem, they can do visa’s on arrival.”
Thank god!
They processed our tickets and sent us on our way. We had no problem with immigration and then hopped on our plane with no issues.
While we were on the plane we laughed at the ridiculousness of the past 24 hours. Only in retrospect can a situation like that be funny. Sri Lanka was incredible, but it was time to continue on in India. Kelsi had a list of 21 cities she wanted to see in the three weeks we had left until Mumbai. Oh god. We were already one day late, so we couldn’t waste a second!
Our plane landed after an hour and a half and we safely cruised into the Chennai airport for a second time that month.
Side note: Sri Lankan Airways, SO much nicer than Spice Jet.
When we pulled up to immigration we saw a big sign on the wall that read: Visas on Arrival for the following countries… New Zealand was one of them.
We looked at each other with giddy joy.
“Yaaaaaaa!!!” We cheered. We even went as far as to do a little happy dance. I went through immigration first.
“What’s going on with your friend?” He asked as he watched Kelsi leave the line and walk towards the visa on arrival room.
“She’s getting a visa on arrival” I said.
“Oh. Hold on a minute!” He yelled to Kelsi “I’ll be over to process your visa when I’m finished with this line.”
“No problem” she said with a smile.
“Kels” I yelled to her “ill meet you at customs downstairs with our bags!”
“No worries”
I went down to find our bags. When they didn’t show up right away I chuckled to myself. That would be the icing on the cake, we finally make it to India but our bags don’t!
In the end, they both showed up, and I sat down against a pillar on the floor to wait for Kelsi.
Everyone collected their bags and moved along through customs. I was left on my own, sitting on the dirty airport floor. The airport staff kept looking over at me and laughing.
“Can I ask, what you are doing here?” Asked an official looking lady finally asked on her way past.
“I’m just waiting for my friend to get her visa.
“Oh okay” she said, as she went to tell the rest of the staff who were probably making bets about what was going on.
Twenty minutes later my ass fell asleep and I moved to a chair I found next to the Chief of Customs office. The chief himself made sure to come over and hit on me.
I was sitting reading a local Indian newspaper
“You like reading the newspaper?” He asked
“Yes,” I said “when I get the chance. I haven’t seen many newspapers in English here” I replied
“You are smart. I like smart women”
Great. I put in my headphones and ignored his smiles and waves from the corner. He came over a few more times to ask me what kind of music I liked to listen to and if my husband listened to the same kind of tunes. I rolled my eyes.
“Can I go back up to Immigration to see if my friend is okay?” I asked
“No” he said, all of a sudden serious “once you pass through you can’t go back. Your friend will be down soon, I promise”
“Okay” I said as I put my headphones back in and went back to reading.
Side note again: the Chennai newspaper is probably the most interesting newspaper you will ever read. Albeit depressing, every article is full of murders, suicides, fatal car accidents and all that horrific stuff that the media is full of. On top of that, they don’t have any censorship, so all the gruesome details are explained in full. It’s terrible of me to enjoy that, but reading “police incident: details confidential” in all our newspapers at home drives me crazy. I want to know what happened, or don’t mention it at all!
Before I knew it I’d been reading the paper for over an hour. And waiting with our bags for an hour and a half. Okay guys, our ticket counter closes in 45 minutes for our flight to Madurai. What’s going on?
I was almost starting to get worried when the lady that I spoke to before came up to me.
“Hilary?” She said calmly “Your friend is being deported from the country, if you’d like to say goodbye, come with me now please.”
My heart sunk again. Shit.

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3 thoughts on “Back to India… For real.

      • Seriously though…reading about the adventures you guys have had to go through is something. Oh gosh! How can they not tell you about the stupid 2 month visa rule? (I just read your latest post by the way). Well that’s how it all works in India I suppose. Sigh

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