The Kindness of Strangers

He started at 400 rupees. I countered with 200 Rs. We settled at 300 Rs, and off we went towards central Delhi. According to Google, the drive from the airport to my hotel should have only taken 30 minutes or so to get to. However, we hit quite the spectacle a hundred meters south of Connaught Place. What originally was a fender-bender between a rickshaw and a motorcyclist erupted into bona fide street fight between the two drivers. I caught a policeman arms-length from the scene. He was drinking a lime soda and yakking it up with the locals around him. I watched in amazement as he just stood there, smoking his cigarette, letting the melee take its course.

We eventually arrived at the hotel. I gathered my bags from the trunk and reached into my back pocket for my money clip.

“400 Rs!” he barked. I reminded him of the 300 Rs that we had agreed on before.

“Extra time in traffic is extra rupees, sir,” he said with sly grin.

I returned the smile and placed the 300 Rs into the front pocket of his shirt. I would have placed the bills into his hands but they were too busy gesturing for more money.

As I entered the hotel, I could hear the sound of spit hitting the ground. There were curses muttered in Hindi as the hotel door slid shut behind me.

After a light breakfast of nan and instant coffee in the hotel lobby, I headed out in search of the government tourism office. I needed to make travel arrangements for the next leg of my journey. After spending three days in Delhi, I felt it was time to move on.

It was a few minutes down the street when a suspiciously well-dressed man complimented me on the iPod shuffle snapped onto my shirt.

“Here we go,” I thought to myself, “Scam time.”

“Where are you from? How long are you in Delhi? Where are you staying?” he inquired.

My suspicions were confirmed when I heard his questions. He was sizing me up. Question one would tell him whether or not I was from a “rich,” developed country. Question two would give him an idea on the chances of him getting caught if he were to pull off a hustle. Question three would allow him to figure out, based on the level of my accommodations, the amount of money I could potentially be holding.

I smiled and waved him off. I politely let him know that I had no time for introductions. I needed to get to the tourism office.

“Ah, my friend. That location is closed. I will show you another tourist office.”

Yeah, right. Like I haven’t heard that one before.

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