I had just given him a choice - either we can go for a ride somewhere, or we can go to see the Kumbh mela and explore a bit out there. I had won a stay at a resort in Panna Tiger reserve as a prize in a photography contest, and wanted to use that and see new jungle. Also, Panna was very close to Khajuraho, and I had been eager for years and years to see the great temples of Khajuraho. I had tried to get Bharathi to come to Khajuraho but she just sneered at the thought of an Indian holiday.
'I have seen all of India when you were just pissing in your pants re...' she would say. 'Now I do only phoren holiday. I spit me on your feeble plans. How dare you make plans so late in the day? I have already made plans for 2019, 2020, 2021,2022....and you are making plans in Feb for Feb? Tchee...thooo...'
An ugly fat bawa was not the ideal companion to see the sensuous carvings of Khajuraho....but hey, he must have been thinking the exact same thing.
Anyway, I digress. What wasI saying? Ah yes...Bawa in an agony of decision, vibrating fit to burst... and finally he said 'Kumbh! Let's go to the Kumbh!'
'Oh?' I said, raising my e.b.s 'Really? Are you sure? You don't want to take your Thunderbird 350....or your Thunderbird 500....or your Triumph Tiger...for a ride?'
'AAAAAARRRGHHHHHHH' he shouted, like a strong man in agony. 'Noooooooo...we can go on ride anytime! But Kumbh comes once in so many years! We will go to the Kumbh!'
'Yeah?' I looked at him disbelievingly. 'In that case, YOU book the air tickets. So if you bail out, then you will pay for the tickets.'
'Gah!' he was stung, and immediately pulled out his credit card, like a duellist pulling out his epee. (No...not his peepee...epee is a kind of duelling sword) and booked off 2 tickets for Varanasi. (or Benares. Or Kashi. They are all the same )
I flapped around doing a lot of bookings for the trip, which much amused SWMBO. It was like a small baby playing with his doll kitchen in front of Gordon Ramsay. She looked at me indulgently and told me that whatever i was doing was wrong, and what was the need to do any bookings in India anyway, and it was so amusing to see people making bookings a week before travel - but it was good that I was doing something at least, and not sitting on my gargantuan fat butt as usual.
Finally the day dawned - D day. We were flying to Varanasi. Luckily it was not an early morning flight, so I had a relaxed breakfast, and Bharathi had ample time to tell me that I had overpacked and what was the need to carry such a big pack and that I was not carrying enough warm clothes and that I would freeze to death in the jungle and that I was WRONG WRONG WRONG...Oh, your taxi has come. Bye! Have a great trip! MUAH MUAH SMOOCH SMOOCH
I called up Delzad and told him to get moving! He is well known for cutting things extremely fine at the airport and rushing to the check in desk at the very last moment and demanding boarding and scaring everyone there.
'Chill dude.' he told me smugly. 'I got this. I am already in the cab, and might even be there before you, enjoying a cooling drink and flirting with the pretty ladies.'
'Yeah?' I replied, impressed. 'That's good. I have done a web check in for both of us and am carrying the boarding pass print outs.'
'Not required bro....but thank you kindly.' he said 'I shall reach well in time. toodle oo now....I am going to catch a refreshing nap in this taxi.'
'Tell the cab to come by bandra and not by SCLR...' I started to say, but he had already cut the call.
'Go by Sion Bandra and the highway' I told the Uber driver.
'But sir, Google is telling to go by SCLR Andheri...' he said
'Balls to Google. Google can be full of shit. They have dug up that road and the traffic is out of this world. Go by the highway.'
I put on my headphone and went into screensaver mode. The ride was uneventful and fairly soon we were at the airport.
I called up bawa 'Where are you dude? Should I wait for you outside to hand you the Boarding pass?'
This time his voice was tense and funereal, like a bandwala on the Titanic.
'No man....I am stuck in traffic...I am in deep shit.'
'Eh? Where are you?'
'Arre, I fell asleep in the cab and this idiot came by SCLR and we are jammed in traffic. I can't even open the door of the car, they are packed so close together!'
'Shit! What will you do now?'
'I don't know...You go ahead...I don't think I will be able to take this flight...Let me see what are the options.'
I went ahead and checked in and cleared security and made my way into the security well and called again.
'Where are you now?'
'I haven't moved much....'
'Why don't you move out of that silly road and move into BKC and towards the highway...'
'Listen... is Aurangabad in Bihar?'
'Eh?' the sheer inanity of the question caught me off guard. 'What?'
'Aurangabad...where is it?'
'Where...it's in Maharashtra of course. Ajanta, Ellora and all that...why?'
'I am getting a cheap flight to Aurangabad.'
I clutched my head. 'What?'
'Yes...spot ticket to Varanasi is very expensive. flight to Aurangabad is cheap.'
My head was reeling. 'But why would you want to go to Aurangabad?'
'Google Maps shows that Aurangabad is very close to Patna.'
'Abey IDIOT. That might be some other place. Some ersatz Aurangabad. Definitely won't have an airport. The fare you are seeing is for Maharashtra.'
'Oh really?' I could just feel him deflating like a Chinese balloon. 'Are you sure?'
'Of course I am sure. Anyway - why are you doing this? Call Bharathi and ask her for options. She will have a spontaneous orgasm at the thought of making a last minute travel itinerary and criticise you at the same time.'
After some time he called back, even more morose.
'Bharathi laughed at me.'
'Well...what did you expect?'
'Then she told me that the best option was to take a flight from Bangalore to Gorakhpur.'
'Yes...she said that I take an overnight bus to Bangalore and then catch a flight from Bangalore to Gorakhpur, then take a bus to Kanpur and then take a train from Kanpur to Varanasi.'
I started to laugh out loud.
'Don't laugh fucker!'
'HAHAHAHAHA HOHOHOHOHOHO HEEHEEHEEHEEE'
'Oh fuck off.'
By this time I reached the departure gate. It was now less than 20 min to the flight, but the gate was closed and everyone was just standing around morosely.
Hey, what's going on?
I went and checked and sure enough, the flight to Varanasi was delayed. Very interesting. I went and caught hold of the Indian Airlines guy and asked him. he admitted that the flight was delayed but we should be on our way in a few minutes.
'No no no..' I said and explained the situation to him. How long would the flight be delayed by? Was there enough delay for my friend to catch the flight?
The dude pursed his lips, unwilling to commit himself. But then he told me 'Look at it this way...the incoming flight has just landed. It needs to deboard passengers and luggage, get cleaned and serviced and then load all the passengers. Say half an hour. could be a bit more.'
Well! Looks like there is hope!
I called up Bawa 'Where are you?'
'I have just gotten out of the jam and am heading towards airport.'
'Listen...the flight is delayed, so if you can make it here - as in to the boarding gate - in under half an hour, you can still make it.'
The poor guy sounded like the guy with his head on the block and the executioner saying that he has to go and take a pee before the next chop. A stay of execution!
In the meanwhile Bharathi was in hog heaven, churning out idea after idea. Every 2 minutes she would call me
'Arre...Tatkal ticket available for Mumbai to Varanasi on train. only 8K.'
After 2 min. 'Arre... tell him to fly to Ahmedabad and then take train from Ahm to Benares'
After 2 min 'Arre - Tell him to fly to Delhi, open the emergency window and parachute down to Varanasi.'
After 2 min 'Arre...Tell him to fly to Dubai and take flight from Dubai to Benares'
After 2 min 'Arre - there is a horse and cart here...'
I had a relaxed cup of coffee, while the bawa nearly gave himself a heart attack sprinting through check in and security and what not. It's a good thing the CISF guys didn't shoot him or something.
But his karma was strong! He made it!
Gasping, purple faced, winded and mortally chastened - but he made it in time for the flight!
Just then Bharathi called.
'Arre - tell him to fly to Kolkata and take a boat to Benares...'
'No no...It's alright. He made it for the flight.'
'He did? Oh Damn! Er...that is to say... I mean...that's great!'
All praise to Air India! May they always be late at the right time!
Baba Vishwanath ka bulawa aaya hai! We are on our way to Kashi.