11 September 2013

Buffalo Roaming

I am on yet another pressurized metal tube flying at a very high speed at more than five kilometers above the earth’s surface. This time the winged tube in which I am sitting is an Indian one, the earth that is below is the sub-continent of India - and mercifully I have no one seated next to me. I am on a domestic flight from Delhi to the city of Chennai where I will spend the next two days attending frenetic meetings at our expansive and rapidly expanding office.

I was very fortunate to make my flight on time. I am often just-in-time for my flights as I dislike waiting in airport lounges and I tend to generally time the drive to airports to check-in, walk at a brisk face to the departure gate and then board the plane with just minutes to go before they take off. I have missed quite a few flights with this methodology but I don’t really mind. 

There is always a next one or better still I return to the luxurious comfort of my Company paid five star hotel and wait until the next day.

Meetings are made to be delayed or cancelled and I have so many of them nowadays that missing a few doesn’t seem to really matter.

My very frequent travel and Australian passport has made me eligible for something known as an APEC card. I can’t even recall what this acronym stands for but it gives me pre-arranged visas for more than fifteen different countries. More significantly it allows me to use the Diplomatic Immigration lines on arrival and departure. I can therefore avoid the abominations of long and often painstaking queues. 

I dislike both waiting and queuing 

In equal parts.

Unfortunately India is not one of those countries where my APAC card is recognised however I use my gall and White Anglo Saxonism to use the Diplomatic or VIP lanes anyway. I quite often flash my Singapore National Library card at bemused Indian Officialdom and they just wave me through.

I cut it very fine indeed though getting to the Delhi International airport this evening. After a full day of mindless and energy sapping meetings I went back to my hotel and showered and changed before checking out. In my schedule I had allowed 15 minutes for the traditional review and argument over the hotel bill.

India has more taxes than most nations. There are four types of taxes that are imposed on international guests at hotels including the recently introduced ‘luxury hotel’ tax of 7%. I don’t really mind these as my Employer picks up the tab and I get to keep the Frequent Flyer miles that are earned on my Gold Corporate American Express Card. Quite often though in India there is an inclination to slip in Room Service charges for meals not taken or secretarial fees for secretaries never seen.

Once my bill was scrutinized, argued over, amended and ultimately paid - I jumped into the awaiting hotel limousine and we plundered our way into Delhi peak hour traffic. With a population of more than twenty million people, the peak hour in Delhi is more peaked than in most cities. No problem, I had allowed for this as well. However within sight of terminal three of the airport our progress was thwarted by a herd of meandering buffalo that had wandered onto the roadway. Although this is common in Delhi and in most cities of India I cursed myself for not factoring in a roaming-buffalo-delay into my very tight timetable. Traffic had come to a complete halt and the air echoed with the deafening din of horns blasting from aggrieved motorists. The buffalo were unmoved – both figuratively and literally.

I demanded that my driver get out of the car and shoot the beasts but he muttered something about holy animals and refused - so I was forced to shoot him and make the last leg of the journey on foot. I arrived at the airport with only minutes to spare and flashing my Singapore National Library card at every Uniformed Officer that I encountered and tried to stop me I managed to board the plane just before the doors were closed and sealed.

So I sit here now on the plane writing this. As I have already mentioned the seat next to me is mercifully empty. I say mercifully as I am in no mood for casual conversations. Business class on the domestic flight that I am on is only two rows deep and the only other occupants in the section are two squirrel-looking middle-aged European women who are seated directly in front of me, and an Indian lady to my right.

I suspect that the European women are Evangelists of some description. They have both the air and the dress of such beings and I have seen their type many times before in this country - and quite often on this leg between Delhi and Chennai. There must be some sort of Christian missionary centre there that has been established in an optimistic but inevitably doomed crusade of converting more than one billion Hindis to a different path. The squirrel women could well be Jesuits.

One of the women keeps turning around endeavouring to make eye contact and start a conversation with me but I am refusing to look up. I have also put on my BOSE headphones to prevent even hearing what she might have to say.

What sort of charitable Christian movement would allow for travel on Business class anyway? These missionaries should be seated at the rear of the plane where they could at least try their conversions on the working classes. Their parishioners should be outraged at such a lavish extravagance. I may surreptitiously take their photographs whilst we are disembarking the plane and send a letter of complaint together with their images to the Pope.

I will in fact.

Whilst I normally enjoy talking with strangers, engaging with such zealots is sometimes a little disconcerting for me. I think that their devout Christian eyes can often see right through me and into the blackness of my soul. Without doubt these squirrel woman would be able to determine that I have only today committed countless acts that in their view would be considered sinful – including the demand that I made of my driver that he shoot the holy roaming buffalo and the slightly lesser sin of shooting him when he refused.

I am going to feign sleep now.

Tomorrow is another day and I have more meetings to attend and more sins to commit. 

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