Monday, May 23, 2005

The Picture of Gandhi in the Trash or Hiding Somewhere in My Bag

May 8, Delhi International Airpot
You may have seen me a few minutes ago digging through the trash in the international departure area here at the Delhi airport. I suppose I should explain.

I had been in the check-in line for my flight to Bangkok on the way to Cambodia when I checked all my pockets thrice and realized all my money was missing. There wasn’t much money to miss, just one 500 rupee note actually, but given what I’d gone through to end up with one 500 rupee note I decided it was worth a slightly soggy rummage through the bin where I had tossed an empty envelope that may have been less empty than I had hoped.

I shared an autorickshaw to the airport with a nice nineteen year old English girl who was on the way to the airport to take the second flight of her life. Her first flight, the first time she’d ever left home, had been to come to India three months ago. There’s a distinction between incredible bravery and blind stupidity but there’s no sense teasing it out here. Anyway on her way to the airport she was carrying 160 rupees, which is the equivalent of $3 and constituted her entire net worth. “Actually if I had to I could transfer eight pounds from my savings account to my checking account and withdraw it if I had to,” she said. “I tried withdrawing 100 rupees today but it said I had insufficient funds.”

After paying her half of the 200-rupee fare she would be left with 60 Indian rupees for her flight to Kuwait, the five-hour layover there and then the trip to Heathrow where her sister will be waiting, hopefully. She told me she had budgeted her expenses so that her money would just barely last to the end of her trip. She is apparently a precise young woman.

So when we paid the autorickshaw driver he of course didn’t have change. I owed 100 rupees but only had 70 rupees in small currency and the 500 rupee note. He couldn’t make change for the 500 so eventually the English girl contributed an extra 30 rupees to go with my 70. These 30 rupees made up half of her money.

When she got held up entering the terminal (because her flight is still hours away) we were split up before I could pay her the 30 rupees I owed her. Part of me thought I should just give her my 500 rupees but I was rather fixated on the money myself because I’m trying to take one crisp bill from each country I visit and when you’re paying for those last few things on the way out of a place it can be hard to budget correctly.

Five-hundred rupees (about $22) is a big note to put in a scrap book so I was thinking I’d buy a souvenir and a drink at the airport and pocket a 100 or 50. I was thinking about this when I rummaged through my pockets for the 500 rupee bill which wasn’t there. Having lost and found countless things in the last four months I have a clear theory on finding them: You need to stop looking and then they’ll appear. So I’ve stopped digging through my bag and re-checking my pockets. I even resisted the urge to go back to the trashcan and have another dig. I’m just sitting here outside Gate 9 waiting for them to announce boarding so all the Indians can give me one more Indian show and scrum around the entrance to the gate as if the terminal were on fire.

In Bangkok I won’t have any baht and when I get to Phnom Phen I’m unsure if there will be any ATMs or even if they’ll let me into the country without an onward ticket. These things are concerns. But that damn 500 rupee note with the etching of Ghandi and the little pieces of silver foil woven into it is what I’d really like to find. Not that I’m looking.


At 9:35 AM, Anonymous Akshay said...

"But I w" um.....try the cut-n-paste again....

At 9:41 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You have to assume Brook was trying the same technique he used after getting into that minister's office to see about tsunami aid.


At 1:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

...ould have rather cut off both arms and eaten them.

At 2:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

as too busy thinking about nailing her.

At 6:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

as startled by a guy in a wheelchair who pinched my butt.

At 11:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

orried that she'd think I was really a rich kid from Rhode Island posing as a backpacker

At 1:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said... starting to wonder if im getting too old to bone 19 yr olds?

At 1:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said... really hoping to keep saving money until I could regroup on my "backpackers fantasy" furlough with my parents in Greece.


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