Our plane touches down on schedule at Bangalore’s airport at 1:30 AM Wednesday morning. We deplane quickly and I am one of the first in line at passport control.
“What hotel are you staying in?”
“What hotel are you staying in? How long are you here? When are you leaving? Have you purchased your ticket to leave?”
Two hours later I am still sitting in immigration, left alone and convinced I’ll be put on the next plane back to Frankfurt. When an older gentleman finally decides he can see me, I tell the story once again.
“I don’t know the name of the hotel. We’re in Bangalore until Friday. I can show you the entire itinerary, I just can’t show you the name of the hotel.”
It’s unlike me to be so unprepared. To not know the answer to an obvious question. How could I have let this happen? And why didn’t I lie? Surely it would be so simple to say that we’re staying at the Marriott. But what if we’re not? What would the consequences be?I begin to plead.
“He’s downstairs waiting for me. Can’t someone just go downstairs and ask him the name of the hotel?”
The reply is gruff. “I can assure you he’s not downstairs.”
As it happens, Ben is indeed downstairs enjoying cups of tea with his driver. I don’t know this but he has already spoken to Lufthansa, who have assured him that I am upstairs. He is told about my problem at immigration and provides the name and address of the hotel. The message is never delivered.
By 3:30 AM I almost see the humor in the situation.
I’m kept company by two young immigration officers. We try and fail to force my phone to connect to Ben’s. I remind them again that Ben is on the ground floor and if they only called for him on the courtesy phone or the loudspeaker or held up a sign with his name on it he would arrive and I would be released from captivity.
“Are you certain he’s here?”
“Of course I am. He’s here.”
One of my two companions takes the iPhone I’ve been clutching and tries to reach Ben through WhatsApp. It doesn’t work. For some reason Find Friends does and we are finally able to confirm that Ben is where he promised to be. A few moments later – and by that point my brain is so tired it’s impossible for me to know how it happened – a text comes through from Ben with the name of the hotel. My immigration companion writes the information down on the form and sends me on my way.
My processing, however, is still not complete. I need to return to the starting point. There are fingerprints to process, bioinformation to gather and a passport to stamp.
“So you are a yoga teacher?”
The details are easily available on my visa application.
“Tell me, how can I lose weight?”
Is this a trick question? I’ve been traveling for twenty-six hours and have been held captive for the past two. Do I have the cerebral energy to formulate enough words to deliver the answer she wants to hear?
“I don’t really think yoga is about losing weight.”
I find the strength to mumble something about Patanjali and pranayama, about right living. They nod.
“But can you give me some tips? How can I lose weight?”
I give up.
Downstairs my suitcase is delivered and I’m escorted through arrivals. Ben and his driver greet me with a garland of exquisite flowers and a bouquet. The heady scent is overwhelming and beautiful. It surrounds me as surely as the soft chatter of loving reunions and the relentless barking of car horns.
Welcome to Bangalore, India.
An hour later, at 6:00 AM, we arrive at our hotel.
It’s the Marriott.