BRITISH EMBASSY WASHES ITS MANICURED HANDS OF DIRTY TRAVELLERS, 1977

[Having been euphoric the day before with promises of tickets home, it turned out to be false in my case and complicated in Nikki’s.  The British Embassy were as helpful as a chocolate fire-guard.  We spent precious money travelling out to the luxurious area of New Delhi where our diplomats lived to be told by a brusque officer that he would be out of sight and out of mind over the weekend, so not to bother him.  It was a day of hassle – and my last one as an eighteen year old!]

FRIDAY 7TH JANUARY, 1977

“New telegram for Nikki – she must go to Ariana [Afghan Airways] for ticket!  Went and saw a very unhelpful young bloke – ticket has to be blacklisted in Kabul before a new one issued!  My ticket not here.  Nikki decided to ring home that evening – felt better for it.

Also went to British Embassy to collect Nikki’s money that father had arranged – very unhelpful – would give nothing, no money for travellers.  They would only fly people home if destitute – if there was no one at home to pay; they would disown then repatriate! [This meant having your passport revoked]  Any money leant had to be repaid before left the country!

Taxi took us to the wrong post office, so nearly had stand up fight with driver because we refused to pay full fair.  No tickets again.”

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!”