Hijacked in Delhi India! (Delhi Hell?)
This is part two of my first day back in New Delhi…
I woke up from my nap, and my neck was hurting again, plus I had a headache. I though what better way to spend my last night and my last rupies than to get a massage where a full body massage is between $12 and $20 (as opposed to $65-$85 in the USA). Plus I wanted to go out and get some Vitamin C for my cold.
I dress, go down to the front desk, and ask where the pharmacy is. Then I ask about massage. In the ever-so-helpful Indian way, he gives me all the information and even says he can arrange a moto taxi to take me to both for 50 rupies ($1). I agree. I get the Vita C, get to the massage place, and realize massages are more expensive here in Delhi than Manali, and I don’t have enough money. (On my Central America and South America trip I learned to carry a second wallet, with just a little cash and some ID and not too much else–just enough to get around and whatever amount I was wiling to risk getting stolen or lost.)
Don’t know what a moto taxi is? It’s a three-wheel job with a motorcycle engine and a bench in the back for passengers. It is also enclosed. I guess they call them tuk-tuks here…
Back into the moto taxi, back to the hotel, grab more cash, drop off key at front desk, and the clerk offers to have the moto taxi take me for a tour of the market after my massage, as he did earlier. I say I’ll see, but I don’t think so, because I don’t feel well. I get into the moto taxi again, and he takes me–a different way–to the massage place. I ask him to come back in an hour, and try to pay him (THAT should have been my first clue), he deflects, says he’ll be back in an hour. Ok great.
AT the massage parlor they keep trying to up-sell me into a full-body massage, I keep saying no. Sheesh, all I want is someone to work on this kink in my neck for an hour. I get my massage, at the end I DO let her up-sell me into a head massage because it all feels so wonderful and I never want it to stop, and voila’! a greasy and relaxed me emerges onto the street and yes, the moto taxi is waiting for me. We go yet a different way back to the hotel, but when we don’t reach the hotel, I get a little nervous and ask where we are going. He says to the market and this tour, this, that and the other. I say no, I only want to go back to the hotel (as my head starts to pound). Well, he says, it’s only a little ways further, this that and the other, I say no, I only want to go back to the hotel. He says the hotel told him I want a tour. I say I don’t care what the hotel said, I don’t want a tour, I only want to go back to the hotel. He says it’s really quite inexpensive, this tour, only 450 rupies ($9). I say no, I only want to go back to the hotel. He is quiet, then talks in Hindi to his driver-helper friend, then tells me only a quick stop at the Bazaar then he’ll take me back to the hotel. I say no, I only want to go back to the hotel. He says this that and the other, and complimentary, no fee, he’ll take me to the Bazaar and then he’ll take me back to the hotel. I say I only want to go back to the hotel. take me back to the hotel. Now. More this that and the other, me saying take me back to the hotel, me considering my options of jumping out of the moto taxi and taking my chances on getting run over in the traffic, more from him about the Bazaar, more me telling him, more and more vehemently, to take me back to the hotel (meanwhile I am also calculating my rupies and wondering if I survive jumping out will I have enough money to cover another taxi since I have no idea where I am but luckily I had the good sense to bring a card from the hotel with me). More this that and the other from him, a slight change in navigation so things are looking up, yet I still keep insisting that he take me back to the hotel. The he starts talking about just ten minutes at the bazaar, get the dinner coupon, then he will take me back to the hotel. I say I hate shopping (TRUE!) and just want to go back to the hotel I don’t feel well. More about the dinner coupon then it finally occurs to me that this shop has a deal with drivers: if they bring a tourist and the tourist spends just ten minutes in the shop, they get a voucher for a dinner somewhere. Aha! But still I say no, I just want to go back to the hotel. Round and around we go, and finally he wears me down and I say to him “ok, here’s the deal: I will go to your Bazaar, look around for ten minutes, then you will take me back to the hotel, and I will not pay anything for this horrible ride.” He says ok, ok, bazaar. We pull up out from (funny how that works, we must have been circling it) and I say you agree? he says yes yes yes. I say, you agree that I will go inside for ten minutes, you will get your dinner coupon, then you will take me back to the hotel? yes, yes yes, you agree that you will take me back to the hotel and you will get your free dinner, but I will not pay a single rupie for any of this when we get back to the hotel? yes yes yes.
I shopped for 12 minutes (two minutes over his required 10 minutes!), oohed and aaahed while three different sales people very nicely followed my every step and pulled everything off the shelves and had me look at things meanwhile my head was pounding and all I could think about was how this nice relaxing evening was a horrible mess and how really awful it is how as a tourist here you have to be constantly on guard for people taking advantage of you, and how easy travel in India was with Buddhi, etc. Generally feeling sorry for myself and hoping like hell they were really taking me back to the hotel. (No, it didn’t occur to me during this whole debacle that I could just hire a taxi back to the hotel and then have them wait while I retrieved more money from my hotel room–that’s what travel stress does to you–keeps you from thinking and that’s what crooks recognize and take advantage of!)
Anyways, it felt like we were on the right course back to the hotel, I was silently fuming in the back of the moto taxi, and then they pull over in the middle of nowhere. Oh.My. GAWD. I am thinking. I just sit there calculating my options once again. More Hindi, more hands raised, more general consternation, then finally my hijacker says to me in English “flat tire”.
I don’t believe it. I look for myself, and yup, flat tire. SHEET!
I sit there, again, re-calculating my options in the dark street, not really understanding what is going on, but not feeling truly scared for my life (yet!) and then I see the guys trying to hail another moto taxi, several say no and ride off, again I don’t really understand, but then when they get one to agree, motion for me to get into the other taxi, and the hijacker driver (not the helper) gets in the front, and the meter starts, several things click into place.
- The original guys were not legit. If they were, their meter would have been running. That also explains one argument they had along the way with someone. (They were recommended by my posh hotel, so I figured they were trustworthy!)
- The hijacker is a good guy, albeit dishonest. He says it is his problem and that he will pay for the ride back to the hotel.
- The hijacker guy is an honorable guy. He could have just left me there, but instead he chose to accompany me back tot he hotel.
- Ah, and typing now THIS just clicks: perhaps not so honorable as forced to ride back here to the hotel with me so he can pay the driver. I saw them offering money to other drivers, the ones that said “no”.
What the hijacker-driver DID NOT see was the meter, since it was facing me. That ride cost him over 100 rupies. (I’d originally agreed to pay HIM 50 rupies for him to just take me up the street.)
When we got back to the hotel I immediately hopped out of the moto taxi, said thank you (again, WTF, Alisa?) and walked the other direction to the pharmacy and bought some aspirin and 2 liters of water for my splitting headache.
Welcome back to Delhi.