Ah! Hanuman’s Tomb! I lost my wallet there!
Actually, I didn’t lose my wallet there. I thought I lost my wallet there but I didn’t. I was staying in Paharganj, that time for just a single day. Shortly after arriving from Agra and Varanasi before that (and overland from Kathmandu before that), I immediately went to the train station to buy a ticket onward, exactly whereto I hadn’t decided yet. In line to buy the ticket, I was talking to a couple behind me telling them I was likely headed to Rajasthan. They replied that, as luck would have it, they were going to the same place. When I approached to the counter, I decided I didn’t want to gab the entire way to the same place with anybody else, so I instead bought a ticket for Rishikesh, on a whim.
Startled, they said, “we thought you were going to Rajasthan.”
“I changed my mind.”
I walked outta the ticket office with a sense of freedom that only being in India in your 20’s can give you. I immediately went to a bicycle shop and convinced them to rent me a bicycle even though it technically wasn’t on the menu. I would pay 1/2 now and 1/2 upon my return and I left Paharganj and spent an incredible day in New Delhi, no map, no schedule, just a bicycle and a camera. I saw all the sites, including Red Fort and Hanumans tomb, as well as Akshardham, India Gate, and others, was invited into home for lunch, mixed it up as best I could in that crazy new Delhi traffic, then after cycling what may have been close to 100km, I went back to return the bicycle only to find I had lost my wallet somewhere along the way.
It was actually a little bundle of things, a moleskin, my passport, my wallet, with a little message in it that said “as a reward if found: 2000 Rupees, a peace sign, a heart, and the words “Instant Karma” and it was lost somewhere in Delhi, New or Old, I didn’t know. The bicycle shop owner called his tuk-tuk driving cousin to come pick me up and retrace all my steps. I quickly gave up hope of catching my evening train to Rishikesh and began to surrender to the idea that I would be stuck in Delhi indefinitely.
He drove back to the Red Fort, spent a fruitless 1 hour in the police box adjacent Hanuman’s tomb. What had taken me an entire day to ride and see, I was seeing all again in lightning fast speed zipping in and out of cars to recover my little bundle. Finally we had retraced all the steps and it wasn’t to be and we began to head back to the shop. Suddenly I recognized a small stadium of sorts and told the driver to take a left “Sir, this road doesn’t lead anywhere, its a dead end.” “Turn right, left again, I think I came this way! There’s the place!” I jumped out of the moving tuk-tuk and rushed to a little kiosk where I thought I had bought a bottle of water earlier in the afternoon. “Did I leave anything here earlier. With a little head bobble and a smile in the corner of his lips, from behind the counter, the man produced my little travel bundle. “HOLY FUCK!” It had every penny I had left in it, from which I drew 2000 rupees and threw it at the man, blowing him a kiss as I raced back to the tuk-tuk, “BACK TO PAHARGANJ! I just may be outta this mess yet!”
He drove me to my hotel, I grabbed my backpack and paid the doorman. I asked him to give his cousin some bicycle money and get me to the train station as soon as possible and that I could still catch my train to Rishikesh. We got to New Delhi station with just enough time to pick up some local fare before hopping on the train.
“Excuse me,” I asked the station attendant, “Which train goes to Rishikesh?” Puzzled, he replied “that train leaves from Old Delhi station, not here. This is New Delhi.”
OH. MY. GAWD.
I ran outta the station. Praise Shiva, my tuk-tuk driver was still still right there. “How long does it take to get to Old Delhi station?” “About 15 minutes!” “Get me there in 5. GO GO GO!!!”
Like the challenge of a lifetime, he rose to it and throttled his way outta the station and into traffic dodging dogs, cows and people along the way, no regard for sidewalks or noise pollution with his liberal use of horn. After a pulsating 7 minutes, he had me there at the station. I simply jumped out throwing him some money, plenty with no time to barter.
I rushed into the station and called out into the air “Which train goes to Rishikesh???” Somebody shouted “the train at the last platform, leaving now!” I ran up the stairs and across the walkway above 8 tracks of train and scurried down to the ninth platform with the train already in motion. I shouted at the train itself “DOES THIS TRAIN GO TO RISHIKESH?!? I could see the last car approaching and I started running along side the train. “PLEASE, SOMEBODY TELL ME, DOES THIS TRAIN GO TO RISHIKESH?!?” I could see the end of the platform approaching. “RISHIKESH??? YES OR NO???” It was now or never. Somebody on the last car nodded an affirmative yes and at the end of the platform and onto the very last car, I jumped, hanging on for dear life.
A couple of freeloading hobos pulled me the rest of the way on. Although I had a seat somewhere on the train, the door to inside was locked, so there I sat on the caboose watching Delhi fade into the distance. The dirty brown orange sky setting. Northbound.
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