HOGMANAY IN DELHI – a ticket hunt that leads to mice at Ma Calaco’s, 1976

[It’s Hogmanay but Delhi is a long way from the Isle of Skye.  Nikki and I are on a search for tickets home, existing on coffee and toast and running out of money.  It’s going to be a long last day of 1976 …]

Nikki on the bus

FRIDAY 31ST DECEMBER, 1976 – Part One

“Both woke early and checked out.  Wandered around Place, nowhere open.  Found hotel so had toast and coffee there.  Then got rickshaw to Post Restante (one of million that we got that day!) 

At P.R. bombshell hit us – no chit saying we had registered mail.  (Got letters for Di and Rob).  I asked if could check reg mail – sent to a different building.  Asked again at big school where to go – nice priestly looking men; boys playing cricket.  Found place eventually.  Asked to see reg. mail – bloke wouldn’t listen because we had no chit from the post office.  Both broke down and cried!  So he relented and took us up to nice middle-aged man in charge of the mail.  Let us look through the book.  Nothing come the whole of December for either of us (although Asian Greyhound had telexed Kathmandu that Nikki’s had arrived and mine on its way 2 weeks ago).

Told to come back at 4.  Decided to check p. restante under name Asian Greyhound – wouldn’t let us when got there.  Decided to go to British Airways and see if booked with them.  Nice [Sikh] man very helpful, sent telex to A.G. asking for details of tickets – we don’t even know the company flying with, let alone the date!  Told to come back later.

Went to Ariana [Afghan Airways] – but they’d moved.  So trailed over to new building – asked if booked with them – had no record of it.  Went to Iraqui Airways – sent upstairs (like following clues to a riddle!)  Nice man but no record of our tickets, said would telex on Monday if not arrived.

Exhausted, fell into restaurant and had coffee and omelette.  Hardly spoke felt so miserable – both on verge of tears all day.  Set off again – tried Indian Airways and Syria-Arab Airways but no luck – tickets don’t seem to exist!

Decided to find accommodation.  Shirley had given us address of Mrs Calaco’s, Janpath Lane.  Booked in – she turfed 2 weird blokes out [of room] and gave us their beds.  Filthy bare room, dark, with 4 beds in and nothing else.  Beds made of huge frames and canvas strapping for mattress.  Given 2 grotty sleeping bags because had nothing.  Both lay down – Nikki had sore throat and headache.

Watched mouse running over opposite bed and onto window ledge by bloke’s food etc.  Both burst into tears!  Never known such despair – and on Hogmanay too!  Funny Dutchman came in and brewed up some tea – said there were loads of mice and proudly showed us a trap he had made!”

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PATNA: RETURN TO INDIA – chilled beer and rickshaws but no Rolling Stones, 1976

[After the emotional farewell to Nepal, Nikki and I flew to Patna en route to Delhi.  A chilled beer, a rickshaw ride and pleasant people in Patna lulled us into a false sense of holiday.  We laughed at a mad American searching for the Rolling Stones and a cautionary tale that Swaggies had been left stranded in Delhi without tickets home …]

THURSDAY 30TH DECEMBER, 1976 – Part Two

“Soon left the hills and below was the Plain of India.  Air hostess in sari said, ‘Namaste’ as we boarded.  Given nice snack and free Carlsberg beer! (chilled!)
Landed at Patna.  Met up with driver of Encounter Overland – cheerful hot-tempered Aussie.
Nice middle-aged Indian man – well travelled, amusing and very polite treated us to coffee then put us on a rickshaw and told the driver to give us a tour of Patna and drop us off for lunch then back for next flight.

Lovely day – felt on holiday as jogged through wide streets lined with trees and attractive bungalowsStrange to be in India with no Swaggy bus in sight!  Familiar sights of men in loincloths; millions of bicycles and rickshaws pouring across traffic lights and mad drivers again.

Stopped and talked to funny American guy who’d missed the plane to Kathmandu because they had lost his luggage.  He asked our driver if the Stones were playing tonight in Patna!  He couldn’t bear the idea of New Year in such a place! 

Went to bank then dropped at incredibly posh hotel – had a coffee!  Man was complaining behind me because he got cabbage and not carrots, just the limit because this morning he got orange instead of tomato juice!  What a fuss!

Back to airport – plane to leave at 2.55 – didn’t leave until 4.30!  Talked with Encounter guy – he’d heard of Greyhound [Asian Greyhound] people having no tickets waiting at Delhi post restante!  Airport stood us sweet tea and gritty butties!

Air India flew us out – Indian music, bigger plane, hostesses in saris.  Gave revolting mango juice.  Landed at Lucknow then off again to Delhi.  Tiny snack and coffee.”