Continued from part I
So the afternoon after my holdup in JFK, I headed back up to New York. It was a beautiful, clear, warm, early autumn afternoon. A day like that two weeks later in the year would be called Indian summer. I wonder how much confusion this causes for Indians from the subcontinent that Americas also use the term “Indian” to mean “the aboriginal people of the Americas”. The 360 view from the Verrazano Bridge of Manhattan, Brooklyn, New York Harbor and the Raritan Bay all the way out to Sandy Hook and Atlantic Highlands was magnificent, as was the drive along the Shore Parkway. Check in and clearing security in JFK was smooth. The flight left on time and the fancy on-demand video system in the Delta Airlines 777 had more things to watch that I had the time to in the 15 hours it took to go from New York to Mumbai.
Then I arrived in India.
The international arrival hall in Mumbai’s international airport has a similar quant, run down feel as the old Bangalore airport. I could not figure out where I needed to go. The Delta agent in New York told me that I would have to check in again with Air India in Mumbai and that he could not give me boarding passes for the entire route. So I ignored the sign reading something to the effect of “domestic connections” and walked out the exit. I asked a policeman with a rifle where I had to go to check in with Air India. He directed me to go out the exit and around the corner. As I started out, a man in a white button down shirt with a security card hanging from his neck asked me where my destination was.
Oh you need to go to the domestic airport. That is a 20 minute drive from here. You’ll need a taxi. Come I will take you to one.
Great I thought. This airport employee can direct me to the taxi stand. But if it was a 20 minute drive, then why were there no shuttle busses? I asked about the fare. As I only had 200 Rupees in my wallet, I wanted to have a metered fare and wanted to avoid the unmated Taxi rip-off.
Oh the driver has a fare card that he can show you.
He then took me PAST the taxi stand and a non-descript Tata Sumo (a small SUV that is ubiquitous here) pulled up.
He will take you.
I climbed into the back seat. The man that I had thought was an airport employee then climbed into the front passenger seat. After driving out the airport exit, the driver handed me the fare card… 1950 Rupees, plus a 30% after dark surcharge. I had a heart attack. That was $60. They nicely rounded the two thousand plus 30% to 2500. I was angry, but I was also committed. What was I going to do? Get out onto the streets of Mumbai, not knowing where I was or how to get back to the airport?
As we drove through the city, I was thinking over how I had been scammed already. I hate this having to be constantly on guard. Were they even going to take me to the airport, or would there be another “fee” after they have driven me around. They nicely took me to a cash machine. The “airport employee” stood outside the cash machine’s kiosk. Behind me in line were two Americans. They were young, physically fit men with short, military style haircuts; not the usual middle aged yuppie types on business trips, or the hippie types doing the Goa or ashram thing.
Hey, isn’t that our taxi driver from last night?
Yeah. He scammed us. Shall we kick his ass?
They were actually debating beating the “airport employee” up. Apparently, they decided against it. As I turned to leave, one of them asked me
How much is he charging you? Two thousand?
You are being robbed. That trip should cost no more than 200.
I know, I replied grumpily.
Well, the same thing happened to us. Live and learn.
They actually took me to the airport without further trying to rob me, big surprise. Later, while googling around, I discovered that the domestic and international airports share a runway and are in effect different terminals of the same airport. There is also a shuttle bus that should cost 50 Rupees.
If I ever see these guys again, I’m going to kick their asses.