Monday, February 18, 2008

Escape from Noida

The hunt began in earnest on a cold December morning. Though the vague intent had been sown many weeks before, it solidified with the help of several stiff shots of vodka. The time was right. Yes, it will finally be as it was intended. The escape was inevitable. And now I had friends to help me and welcome me to my new place of refuge.

Along with my comrade-in-arms, Venu, the hunt for a home in New Delhi began. And with much thanks to a dear friend, Vikas Sood also from New Delhi, we landed quite a decent home near his locality. The rent was settled and we were to move in that weekend. The plan was made, the truck was hired and the packing started.

The truck arrived at Venu's place at 3:30 pm and at my place at 4 pm. We were done loading by 4:30 and we set off for Delhi and for our new home. There was, however, a tiny detail that the truck driver forgot to mention when we booked the truck. What he forgot to say was that from 5pm to 9pm, no commercial vehicles are allowed to ply on the roads of Delhi. We, the poor out-of-town people were quite ignorant of this fact. Perhaps the driver hoped to cross the Delhi border by 5pm, we would never know. But, what happened was this. At 4:45 pm, the driver pulled into a small side road off the highway and said he would go no further. And we were to wait there till 9pm.

To say we were pissed would be an understatement. We called the truck owner and gave him an earful. After screaming at him for about half an hour, and several conversations between the driver and the owner, the owner tells us that he is sending another truck. As to how this would help, we had no clue. But, something was being done atleast. After numerous arguments over where to meet, the other truck finally arrived and the luggage was transferred. The owner had come along with the truck. We asked the owner why he had sent the other truck and would that be of any help. He said, unfortunately no, but it was breaking his heart that he had sent such a big truck. Hence he had sent this smaller truck to take its place instead. The way he said that it was breaking his heart was so cool and unconcerned with our plight that it made us want to smash his head with a rock lying on the roadside. But, we controlled our anger. It was as if he thought that since we had already paid him part of the money, he could do what he wanted. It was just too bad for him that we hadn't paid all the money. He asked Rs 1750 and we had paid Rs 1000 upfront.

So, we were stuck in a place called Kichripur, near Gazipur. If you have heard of this place, please accept my sympathies. So what to do for the next four hours was the question. After bitching about the truck owner for about half an hour, we got tired of that. Then, we hit upon an idea. We asked the truck driver if he knew of a liquor shop nearby. He said he didn't. So, we set off in search. Asking every pan-wallah for the next kilometre, we arrived at a shop. We bought six large cans of beer and chips, returned to the truck and me, Venu and the driver enjoyed the beer in the truck. In the middle of our drinking we set off on a random conversation on what the best flavour of chips was with the truck driver. At the end of our second beer, we arrives at a consensus that Bingo, Nimbu Chatpatta, was the best. Thus throughly satisfied and pleasantly drunk we were when the clock showed 8:45 pm. It was time to head out.

We reached our new home with little incident. After we unloaded the luggage, we called the truck owner. We told him that since he had screwed up so badly, we wouldn't be paying him the remaining money. And since we had bribed the driver with beer, he didn't say a word in protest. The truck owner was furious and told that he would collect the remaining money from Venu's room-mates as the owner had come to Venu's house to check the amount of luggage. I told Venu of this threat at which he started laughing. He told me to tell the owner, best of luck. I told the owner that. After much exchange of words, we told the owned that we would pay him Rs 250 and that he could either take it or leave. We paid the driver the money, he thanked us for the beer and he left. At which point, our dear friend Vikas Sood, brought out two bottles of Royal Challenge whiskey from the bag. And the three of us, along with the broker who was a good friend of Sood, we had a sweet house warming party.

Hunger at 3 am is not a pleasant feeling. It becomes distinctly more unpleasant after copious whiskey. We needed food. So, we head to the ISBT, Kashmere Gate. We reached a small outdoor place at 3:30 in the moring and feasted on Pharathas. And we asked for tea, with ginger. When the tea arrived, the ginger was missing. When we asked about this, we were told that he was out of ginger. That was the last straw. We told the tea fellow that we would give a ride to the nearest sabzi-mandi where he could buy the ginger, and add it to our tea. After a much prolonged exchange, we finally settled for a 50p discount on the tea.

We finally returned at 4:30 in the morning and promptly passed out.