Excess Luggage

January 23, 2009

Excess Luggage

I am very impressed by the Rajasthan State Road Transport Corporation. They are much more efficient than Air France.

As usual, when I flew back from Paris about two weeks ago, I slightly overpacked.

I always pack with a scale, but this time I just didn’t have the heart to leave behind in Paris a few vital items like Austrian dirndls and Speculoos paste.

The cold-hearted, love-deprived, stiff-lipped women from Air France were giving everyone a hard time about cabin luggage. Weighing it, measuring it, all that rubbish. I spotted an elderly couple waiting outside the line for their son to finish check in. They had his small hand luggage with them. Oblivious of the commending message going on and on through the airport speakers Do not accept any luggage from strangers, Do not, Do not, Do not, For security reasons, blah blah blah, I asked them to keep my cabin luggage too while I was checking in. They happily agreed and on I proceeded with check in.

It all went well until immigration, where again, these over-eager Air France people insisted to weigh my little suitcase. I begged and cajoled and they let me go with my suitcase in one hand, and in the other one, a transparent plastic bag containing my laptop, a pair of platform shoes and two Tampax packets. Slightly embarrassing, it was nonetheless better than paying 36 euros a kilo.

Now, it became a little complicated after my visit to the Gourmet food shop. On top of my handbag, my suitcase, and the transparent bag, I was now carrying two bottles of champagne as well as a shopping bag containing seven cheeses, two saucissons and a tin of foie gras. It was heavy, and it was smelly. I was panting. Luckily, people – and especially Indians – waiting to board are always an entertaining sight. This time, the Oscar went to a woman removing lice from her husband’s hair. I swear.

I reached Delhi alright and met a friend who was coming to spend a few months in Jaipur. The next day, we took the bus to Jaipur. We showed up at the station with five suitcases piled high on two trolleys. Hanging from every possible hook were shopping bags, magazines, duty free bags full of champagne and cheese. An interesting sight at Delhi Bikaner House bus station.

The guy put our luggage in the boot and asked for money. Rs 2 per suitcase is the going rate. I gave him a Rs 10 note.

“No ma’am, you have excess luggage”

“You bet I do, I said, guess why I’m not flying?”

“Ma’am, you have to pay. You give me Rs 100, Ma’am.”

And so I paid, for the first time in my life, excess luggage on a bus journey.

Shampoo

November 14, 2008

In India, women spend hours getting ready for a party. They go to the beauty parlour in the afternoon to get their hair and nails done, and depending on the needs of the day : shoulder massage, threading, facial, etc. Women take great care of themselves.

What I find interesting is the total lack of sex-appeal in the places that create sex-appeal.

Delhi does have a couple of plush posh parlours, like the one at the Oberoi, but mostly people go to their local joint, which usually looks like a dirty launderette.

For years the best parlour in town was in a private house in Defence Colony. Not only was it totally illegal, but it looked more like a small factory than an upscale beauty salon. Bare walls, plastic buckets, cheap creams and faded towels. Everyone sat together in the big living room turned beauty factory, faces covered in mud packs and hair dripping with oil. It was called Shampoo but since it wasn’t written anywhere I wonder whether there was a name at all. It got shut by the authorities but it reopened in the garage. A little too small to accommodate a big and eager clientele, but still, everyone went. Finally it shut for real, and Delhi suffered from hair-panic. Where to go? Where to gossip in the comforting smell of nail polish?

The grapevine has located a couple of the Shampoo girls in a new beauty parlour in Khanna Market but I haven’t checked it out yet.

And to think that when I arrived in India I was a manicure-virgin.