Yesterday was our final day in Delhi. Captain Clarke and I started the day with a leisurely breakfast in the Executive Lounge. Captain Clarke had pancakes which turned out to be more like American pancakes than European ones and were thick and served with maple syrup. I opted for some more local dishes – Pav Bhaji, a Maharashtrian dish of bhaji cooked with mashed vegetables that is traditionally eaten with bread, and Choley Kulchey, a street food dish from Delhi of chickpeas cooked with mango powder, chat masala and coriander which is traditionally served with a bread called Kulche. There wasn’t any bread there so I just used baguette instead. They were two of the most delicious dishes I have tried … ever! I kept going back for the Choley Kulchey and have now found a recipe for it. It transpired, as we were leaving, that I could have asked for the Kulche bread which they would have prepared in the kitchen! Oh well, you learn something new every day!
After our breakfast we decided to return to the INA market. We have discovered on this trip to India that foods served in traditional dishes (called ‘Handi pots’) keeps much hotter and better than simply using a bowl. We guessed that, if were going to be able to get them anywhere, it would be at INA market. Sure enough we found them easily enough and, in the end decided to purchase four to take home. Unimpressed with my new found negotiation skills, Captain Clarke took charge of proceedings. Wow, did he show me how to do it! On a purchase with an initial value of 1,600 rupees, he managed to get a discount of … wait for it … 40 rupees!! His reasoning was simple – there was a price marked on the dishes. This, of course, was true, but then everything is marked with a price – that’s what’s called the starting price! Oh well, I’m guessing we won’t be making a career as professional negotiators after all.
Returning to the hotel we had a couple of hours to sort ourselves out before checking out. Captain Clarke had negotiated a late checkout of 4pm without any additional charge so, once we got back off the metro, we began packing and sorting out the cases before getting a final shower before we started our journey home. Checkout was simple enough and a hotel car was procured to take us to the airport. We would have happily used an Uber but it didn’t look like the hotel would even let an Uber in! We left the hotel and, typically, with very little traffic we were at the Indira Gandhi International Airport within 20 minutes. Having arrived at quarter to five we discovered that the checkout wasn’t yet open. We have now, by the way, worked out Indian driving. It is a very simple concept – ignore all lanes or even direction of flow of traffic, spot an empty piece of tarmac/road/track and aim for it. Do not stop at any cost and never give it up to anyone else! It’s a bit like driving on the M25 at night but more of a game of chicken too!
Indira Gandhi Airport is totally devoid of any seats landside and it isn’t until you are airside that seats become available. We did find somewhere to perch though and it was only about half an hour before a queue began to form. Checking eventually opened at 6pm and although there was a significant queue it didn’t take long to drop our bags off (we had already checked in online). The queue for security was, of course, very long. There were several ‘Bubas’ to keep happy (check previous missive for a description of a Buba) – firstly, there was the Buba who checked your entry visa, confirmed that you were leaving and then stamped your passport to let you out of the country. Then there was the security Buba who checked your boarding pass to make sure you were going somewhere, gave you a jolly good pat down and then stamped the boarding card. Next there is the security Buba himself who decides what you must place in the tray and what is OK to keep with you. He’s a nice Buba. Then there is the Buba on the security scanner – he doesn’t communicate with the security Buba with the trays, so he decides if there are different things to go in the trays like shoes or belts … but not for everyone, he decides on how you look if your shoes must come off. Finally there is the inspection Buba who randomly decides to inspect your tray to see if there is anything in it.
Our flight didn’t depart for Dubai until 9.25pm so we had a fair wait before boarding although all our engagements with the various Bubas had taken about an hour and a half so we didn’t have quite the amount of time in the lounge that we had thought. There was one good thing though – my lounge pass said that we would have to pay for alcoholic drinks … since I had some rupees left and they are pretty useless outside India, I went to procure a drink anyway. It transpired that this information was wrong and the young man behind the bar asked if I would like doubles (which of course I said I would) and he then proceeded to use the double measure to pour the drinks meaning we had double doubles! Even Captain Clarke could only drink one of those!! Once the flight started boarding we made our way to the gate and waited for our zone to be called (we were zone F which turned out to be the last to be called but the nearest to the front of the aircraft which made sense). We boarded our Boeing 777-300 and to my absolute horror discovered that there was a young child of no more than about 2 years old in the seat in front of me. Then I noticed that there was another child of a similar age across the aisled from us. Then I noticed that there was another child of a similar age in the row behind us. We were surrounded! I just knew it, I knew that they were going to scream in unison as we climbed after take off and again as we descended before landing. I get this, I understand that they find it difficult to clear their ears and it can be quite painful. But three of them at once! Oh boy, was that a sound to behold! It was truly dreadful and piercing to have to endure!
The screaming did, thank goodness, cease in mid-flight and the four hour flight back to Dubai was uneventful. That is, other than the rather unhelpful announcement by the Captain before we departed. “Ladies and Gentlemen this is the Captain, we are expecting smooth flying conditions for our flight to Dubai this evening and with no delays we are expecting to be able to land directly which will get us slightly ahead of time. We are, however, expecting some lumps in the air in the first couple of hours so we may have to switch the seatbelt sign on from time to time, we’d be grateful if you would respect that and return to your seats when that happens. When we get to Dubai we may circle for a while as the airport can be quite busy which may mean a slight delay in arrival.” What? What on earth did that mean? Talk of covering all bases!!! As it was we did have some pockets of turbulence through the flight, although nothing serious, and we did circle for a while at Dubai meaning that we did arrive about 20 minutes late!
One good thing happened on the flight from Delhi to Dubai – I won a million pounds! Well, actually, that isn’t strictly true, had I been playing the real ‘Who wants to be a millionaire’, there is a possibility that I might have won a million pounds. As it was, I was playing the inflight version of ‘Who wants to be a millionaire’ and, although I have played it many times before I have never got all the way to the million pound question. And the question was? What was Abba’s second number one hit in the UK. I mean please? You’re asking me an Abba question? Of course I know the answer!! “Mamma Mia, Here we go again!”
In Dubai we went straight through the ‘flight connections’ path and back to more security. Once finally through security we decided to make a quick pit stop at Duty Free before going to the lounge. Did I say quick? Oops! Silly me! We picked up a couple of bottles of scotch (despite the hotel staff’s protestation that duty free in Dubai does have Black Dog, it doesn’t, so we decided to wait until Dubai to pick up some duty free!) and went to pay. But our boarding cards wouldn’t scan for the man on the till. Oh no! Another Buba is needed to come along and override the till so that our flight number can be put in manually! By the time we got to the lounge we were all Buba’d out!!!
Having encountered many Bubas and countless pieces of bureaucracy at both Delhi and Dubai, we had a couple of small drinks in the lounge before transferring to the gate for our final flight back to Gatwick. We boarded with no problems (zone B which was the last to be called because it is upstairs on the Airbus A380 and they board downstairs first) and took our seats. One might imagine my sheer horror at what I discovered in the very front row – another child of no more than 2 years old! This one, however, was different, very different. It screamed with all its lungs could muster before we departed, during take off, during the climb, throughout the entire 7½ flight, during descent and when we had landed. The high pitched screaming will always be with me!! The only time the child stopped screaming was when airline staff paid it some attention. The parents seemed oblivious to the screaming and just let it get on with it. Nobody within a range of about 20 rows got any sleep on that plane last night. It was horrendous!!!!
I am now of the firm opinion that there should be a special ‘zone’ on aircraft for parents with young children either babies, or children under a curtain age, and my preference for that zone … down the back of the plane where the sound won’t travel as much or, better still … in the hold! It is not the child I blame for last nights horrendous noise, it is the parents. It was all that Captain Clarke could do stop me ‘going and having a word’ with the parents! The mother sat in the centre row with the screaming child and the father sat on the side of the aircraft watching films! They displayed zero parenting skills whatsoever!
The good news though is that despite some quite dramatic turbulence on a couple of occasions, we arrived into Gatwick on time, procured a taxi which delivered us to our front door with a very friendly driver and didn’t even cost the earth! But now it is time for Rudy to return to his slumber and, right now, that is very badly needed! Goodnight and until the next time, Rudy!