I took a few more games from the Malaysian. Either he had gotten too stoned, or I was starting to understand his playing style.
“Tomorrow, we will play again?” he asked me as I stepped back from the board.
“Nah, I have to go trekking tomorrow,” I said. “Need to redeem your reputation, losing against this youngster?” I say, half-joking. He had handily taken the majority of games from me. I knew he was the better player.
“Don’t flatter yourself,” the Malaysian said, looking down. “You are not that young.”
“I’m only 23!” I protested.
“Exactly,” he said. “That is not that young.”
I stepped back, slightly offended. He was probably right. He seemed like the sort of man who was usually right about things.
As my layover in Delhi drew to an end, I worked my way back to the gate. It had filled up significantly since I had last been here: full of hippies and fortune-seekers looking to find inner peace in the high mountain sanctuaries of Nepal. Backpackers, families, mountain climbers— these were my people. Still, the nervousness was starting to set in.
I didn’t have confirmed lodging in Kathmandu, and the flight was scheduled to get in around 11 p.m.
When I finally got to the counter, I told the agent I’d lost my ticket.
“What’s your name?” he asked, bored.
I told him, and he handed me my original boarding pass. Someone must have found it and turned it in.
“Try and hold on to it this time,” he told me without inflection.
I took it without further comment.
I was out of excuses. Nepal was back on.
[This is a chapter from my travel book. There are lots more chapters posted on the blog, but if you’d prefer to read them all at once, sign up for my e-mail newsletter and I’ll be sure to let you know when they’re available in a condensed form!]
I spent about 30 minutes sitting there, blackly depressed and feeling sorry for myself.
Eventually, I realized that although fate had intervened to bring me here, it probably wouldn’t magic my boarding pass out of thin air at the last moment, the way it had snatched a ticket home from me.
You don’t need to go through passport control when you just have a layover in a foreign country, so I never technically entered India.
After you’ve seen enough of them, all airports kind of start to look the same. Same bones: check-in, security, passport control/immigration, customs, a pickup area bustling with taxis and touts… by the time I showed up in India, after five months of travel, I was thoroughly unimpressed with airports.