Saturday, 1 October 2011

A trip to Meghalaya- Day 1

As planned, we all met at Doha International Airport and we were the last among the group of five to reach the place. Umer, Sajid and his brother Shahid had some snacks in the airport and I think it was their last day of Ramadan fasting.
Fasting ends...
Happy time, food time...
How about this? ;)
Wine, Vodka, Rum, Whisky... name it, you have it ;)
Smoking is injurious to health?!!! ;)
Thinking which chocolate to buy ;)
His phone doesn't stop ringing...
Umer buying a phone
Umer buying a phone
Posing as if it's his own!
See the passion in his eyes!
Our flight departed on time and we reached Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport in Dum Dum, West Bengal, at 4.10 am.
Doha seen from the flight
Doha seen from the flight
Doha seen from the flight
Kolkata seen from the flight
Kolkata seen from the flight

Originally, the airport was known as Dum Dum Airport and later renamed in the honour of Subhash Chandra Bose. It is the largest airport in eastern India and a major centre for all flights to North-East India, Bangladesh and Bangkok. Sorry to say this, the first impression of the airport was not at all good. It looked rather like a railway station. No wonder it is considered to be one of the busiest airports in the country in terms of overall passenger traffic.

As we had booked rooms in Hotel Trimoorti, which is supposedly 10 km away from the airport, we hired two taxis from the airport – Rs 260 each. The reviews of the hotel sounded good and the location seemed convenient to go in and around the city. The driver of one of the taxis was fast asleep and when we woke him up, maybe he cursed us for disturbing his sweet dreams ;) Umer, Sajid and Shahid went in one cab and I and Vij went in another. We told our driver to follow Umer’s taxi. Let me not forget to mention that taxis in West Bengal are yellow coloured Ambassador cars. Yes, Ambassador cars still exist!

The early morning cool breeze and the wet roads, yes, it had rained the previous night. The air was fresh and free of dust and smoke. The roads were empty, and there was hardly any traffic, just amazing. After so many months, we were seeing the early morning. These hours are so peaceful, so quiet and so endearing… I was reminded of the Dalai Lama’s statement: “Everyday, think as you wake up, ‘today I am fortunate to have woken up, I am alive, I have a precious human life, I am not going to waste it. I am going to use all my energies to develop myself, to expand my heart out to others, to achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all beings, I am going to have kind thoughts towards others, I am not going to get angry or think badly about others, I am going to benefit others as much as I can.” Don’t ask me if I was remembering his words because I’m on a North-East visit, and you know the answer ;) The morning breeze whistling through my hair and we can hear some birds chirping. The heat waves that were scorching Doha for the past couple of months, and suddenly a comfortable chill in Kolkata… The town had yet to switch off the streetlights as it was still quite dark and the rays of the sun were yet to illuminate the valley. What more to ask for? Oh, wait, wait… We had to be on high alert as the driver was half awake and half asleep, literally us giving goose bumps. Maybe the cool breeze was lulling him to sleep. We could see his eyes fluttering in the rear view mirror. So we pulled him to our conversation to wake him up every now and then.

On the way, we found some people sleeping on footpaths and police checking vehicles as part of their night patrol. At one moment the driver got impatient because we did not have the phone number of the hotel. Only Saji had the details and their car was much ahead of us. Even their driver tried calling the hotel, but in vain. All I could hear from the conversation was that the hotel was on Ray Road.

After five minutes, Saji’s car stopped as they also couldn’t find the hotel. But our driver was so impatient that he didn’t even bother to stop the car. He just took a right turn at a junction and kept on driving despite us requesting him to stop the vehicle. We were worried and he was very rude and started yelling at us. Then he started telling that he would drop us there and we can find our way to the hotel. We were shocked at his response. Meanwhile, we saw night patrol cops and we shouted at them to stop their vehicle. They stopped their vehicle and asked us if there was any problem and we told them that we were searching for Hotel Trimoorti and it was on Ray Road. The cops saw me and thought it was a family and were ready to help us. They said the hotel was just nearby and they told the driver to follow their vehicle. It was just a road behind the junction where we stopped the cops.  

What a relief! They took us till the hotel and the road was so narrow that there was a lorry parked right in front of the hotel and our car couldn’t move ahead. Even Saji’s car had found the place and they too were stuck there. Thanks to the cops, they immediately got it removed from the road and we easily parked the car in front of the hotel. We thanked the cops for helping us.

After getting the taxi money, Saji’s driver asked for tips and Saji started bargaining. The driver asked for Rs 50 so that they can have Rs 25 each and Saji was still thinking, and our driver sarcastically asked Rs 50 each and I felt like laughing at Saji when he agreed and paid Rs 100. Had he agreed to his driver’s demand, we would have given them only Rs 50, but at the end, we paid them Rs 100 as tips!

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