At a small gathering of volunteers to celebrate the occupation of a volunteers new flat we were discussing what keeps us interested when away from our respective countries. Various ideas came up but the saddest item was a devotion to listening to the BBC UK shipping forecast by one of our group. Sorry C, I told you I would a get a line for my blog about that! How the knowledge of knowing the sea state, visibility in Dover, Fitzroy etc. can be of interest to someone living in India is beyond me but it does confirm how daft you have to be to do what we do.
Today I needed to change my traveller’s cheques into local currency. No problem, down to our local bank. Ha, no chance, it being small it was beyond their ability. But they did refer me to a larger branch, a 20p tuk tuk ride away. Very efficient I thought and very helpful so off I go. Here it becomes somewhat bizarre. When doesn't it? Clearing something indescribable from my sandals at the main entrance, I say Hello to the guard and walk into the bank. Find the foreign transactions center and explain my purpose. Officials go into a huddle. Phone calls are made; I begin to panic, especially when the guard approaches me and instructs me to sit down. Being an absolute coward I meekly comply. After all he is the man with the gun and I'm only armed with a passport. A few minutes pass by with officials still in a huddle. For all I know they were probably discussing the match last night but not being privy to their words I can only assume the worst. Expelled from India as an undesirable at best, gaoled as a currency crook at worst. More pleasurable minutes pass whilst I ponder my likely fate. A rough looking character, not complying with banking dress codes, points to me and beckons me forward with a curt ‘follow me’. The guard nods. OK, I know when I’m beaten and start to pray.
We leave the bank and make our way down the street. The shops are getting seedier the further we walk. We enter a tatty looking building and ascend 4 flights of stairs passing characters as seedy as the building and getting worse as we rise. By now I know my fate. They are taking the easy route and intend to throw me of the roof and put it down to a drunken foreigner thinking he can fly.
Last floor opens out to a very scruffy office serving as a money changing operation. They offer me a very good rate which I instantly accept even if later turns out to be monopoly money.
PS: Turned out to be genuine NON MONOPOLY CASH. Isn’t life grand?