“Dan’s Diary from Delhi & Other Places that Don’t Begin With ‘D’” (Vol. 3, #2)
It was supposed to be just a “three hour tour” aboard the charter boat, SS Minnow, but as every person over 50 knows, the five passengers and two crew members ended up shipwrecked on an uncharted Pacific Island. So began the 1960s Gilligan’s Island and its 98 episodes.
My three hour tour, or rather flight on two domestic airlines, was supposed to go without a hitch as well . . . but it ended up being 23-hours.
Right off the bat I need to admit that it was not a harrowing experience. I was not stranded in some “Forgetabad” Indian city and this was no life-or-death situation. I was fairly calm and collective during the ordeal, with no uncontrollably crying . . . okay, I got close to a tear or two. But thanks to my tremendous prayer team holding me up before the Throne of Grace and my wonderful wife some 8,150 miles away but accessible by phone my survival was guaranteed. It was, I must admit, a bit disconcerting when I saw the plane I was to be on, next in line on the runway to take off as our 2-hour delayed flight was landing. It became more disturbing when I learned that there would be no more flights to my destination until tomorrow at that time.
There I was with all my bags, including a huge duffle bag for the orphanage, wandering the airport trying to figure out my next move. The 24-hour delay was unacceptable because I’d miss an entire day teaching the village pastors (the reason I’m here). I was to teach on Friday and they leave Saturday afternoon for their own churches. It was Thursday late afternoon.
Between Vonnie and I we charted a course of action and contacted just the right person in the city whose airport I was in. Despite being at a wedding, he answered his phone and, quick as a whip, booked a hotel room for the night and volunteered to drive me to the village the next day.
That trip started with great aplomb at 7 am. We negotiated the rush-hour traffic through Hyderabad (wasn’t so bad at that hour) and then got onto a highway to the major city of Vijayawada. The village is about an hour north of the city. Everything was going swimmingly until nearing the city I was asked to read directions from a text from the village ministry leader.
“Take Karakatta road at Yanamalakuduru temple towards Avanigadda. From there it is 50 Klm's to our village. There are lots of speed breakers at every junction. When you see sign for Challapalli, take left turn and you are in our village.”
Do you know how many temples there are in India? — 43,000 just in the State we were in (Andhra Pradesh). How in the world would we know which Temple it was? Few, if any, have names on them. So, I began looking for Temples at street corners. Do you know how many Temples are at street corners? Oh, and do you think they would have the names of the streets prominently placed on street signs? Not a chance. So, my driver, God love him, who was doing the best he could do, stopped along side the road at least 35 times to ask people where this street was (that is no exaggeration).
Finally, after making progress in approximately the correct direction (we never made any u-turns and didn’t see anything twice) a phone call to the village ministry director and a few more stops to ask directions got us on a small road that got smaller as we winded our way thru tiny villages, sugarcane fields, goats on the road, to Karakatta road, where I told my driver to take a left. “Are you sure?” he asked as if I was one of the 35 from whom he was seeking directions. I was and what was a supposed to be a 5 hour journey turned into a 7-hour one. But we are no worse for the wear. After immediately eating a lunch of rice and curry (what else?), I taught three lessons to the men.
What can we learn from this?
First, do better planning when having multiple flights. I could have taken an earlier flight from Mumbai landing in Hyderabad with several hours to spare, thus assuring I’d be there for the next flight.
Second, suggest to the Indian authorities they number all their major roads. Can you believe it, they still use landmarks for directions. The Temple mentioned in the directions sits on a very high hill overlooking the city. Everyone in Vijayawada and surrounding communities knows this religious place of worship and use it as a landmark for directional purposes. But my driver was from Hyderabad and I from another planet. We had no idea this was “the” Temple. However, if they had us get onto Rt. 437 going north and then turning left (or going west) on Rt. 13, it would have been a breeze and I would not have had a tour of Vijayawada. They will never get GPS going at this rate. No wonder my phone cannot find me.
Third, stay off any boats whose crew include both a skipper and a guy named Gilligan.
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