If You Fail To Plan…on August 3rd, 2011 at 5:30 pm
…then prepare to fail and Fail with a capital F.*
Oh, and prepare to walk a long way in the wrong direction.
On Saturday night I got little opportunity to talk to Yogesh due to the seating arrangements but he invited me to join him on one of the photo-walks he does, this time visiting the often forgotten Safdarjung’s Tomb. I’d already seen this place but was happy to go again specifically to take photos, until he said he’d go at 6 a.m.. Due to the time differences and the flight we’d not really seen 10 a.m. up to that point of the holiday so a 6 a.m. start seemed highly unlikely.
Although we didn’t go to bed until 2 a.m. I stirred at 5:30 a.m. and decided “what the heck, I’ll go and meet Yogesh”. With the world around me sleeping I quietly gathered my camera bag, took just enough money for the Metro (Underground) and the entrance fee for the tomb. A quick re-check of the Rough Guide showed me that there’s a Metro station right next to the tomb and it’s on the same line as we’re near. Cool. (Unfortunately I didn’t spot the words ‘Race Course’ next to the Metro symbol on the map.)
At the Metro station there’s no station named Safdarjung so I point to the correct line and say “Safdarjung Tomb” in my slowest, clearest voice. “For Safdarjung you need A.I.I.M.S station”. 16 rupees later – that’s 25p – I get on the metro. It’s just before 6 a.m.
Eight stops later I get off and find a rickshaw who knows the way to the tomb – it’s not far but I can’t see it – for the often quoted price of “as you like”. This phrase basically means “if I quote you a price it will be low but you’re a foreigner who will decide to give me too much money out of embarassment for saying something too low”.
A few hundred yards later and he exclaims “there sir, Safdarjung Hospital”.
“No, I said ‘tomb’”.
A few more yards, “there, Safdarjung Trauma Center”.
“No, I said ‘tomb’, you know like the Taj Mahal”.
“Taj Mahal Hotel sir”.
“No, ‘tomb’, you said you knew”.
(this went on for a while)
“Look, do you know where the tomb is or not?”
“Tomb? Tomb sir? Oh yes, tomb, now I understand. Oh, it’s very far, 400 rupees”.
“But you said ‘as you like’ and I don’t have even 200 rupees.”
“Very far Sir”
“Right I’ll get out here then” – trying to call his bluff as I had no idea where I was.
“Okay, you pay 200 rupees”
“No, you’re trying to rip me off, get lost”
“100. 80. 70.”
Now you’ve got to understand that by this point I’m fed up, tired, I know I’m lost, I don’t know the area but I really hate this scammer.
I jump out and throw him 10 rupees.
“Sir you owe me 70 rupees”
“I thought you said ‘as you like’, so take the money and get lost”
(Ah, the comedy value of telling someone to get lost where in fact I was the only one who was lost.)
He leaves. I’m lost but think I can find the Metro station again. I couldn’t.
I walked solidly for 30 minutes in the wrong direction asking for directions but constantly getting incorrect ones.
Eventually a Paramedic tells me the area I’m after is 4 or 5 kms away.
Defalted, I walk on before running out of water and reaching the end of my tether, I’ve been walking solidly, quickly for almost 90 minutes. It’s hot. I’m soaked.
On reaching Shanti Path I realise I’ve still got a long way to go and when I come across a bus stop I decide to wait for one. Hopping on too late as it pulls away I almost go flying, gasps are heard in the rest of the bus. I hold my coin-filled hand out to the conducter who takes only 1 rupee (under 2 pence) for the 20 minute ride.
I should point out that general advice is not to ride on the local buses but I’ve got to say that it was a very enjoyable 20 minutes.
Arriving at Connaught Place I feel like I’m home as I know the surroundings well. A Metro back to New Delhi and I reach the hotel to find everyone still asleep. It’s 8:30 a.m. and I wish the day would end soon, I’m not trusting my luck anymore.
Later on Yogesh tells me that the A.I.I.M.S. station is only one mile from the tomb. So the guy was clearly trying to rip me off, but then again I should have seen the words ‘Race Course’ against the Metro sign on the map.
Okay, you lot, stop laughing.
*I should say that’s not the only F word that passed my lips that morning.