India Sonauli 2001.12.17

Leaving India

Because we had a 15-day transit visa, we wanted to maximize our time in the country and be sure to exit across the Nepali border on the day of visa expiration. To ensure our ground transport, we purchased two sleeping berths on a night train from New Delhi to Gorakhpur over one week in advance. With the train scheduled to reach Gorakhpur, a town only 3 hours by bus south of the border, by 09:30 on the day of our visa expiration, we were assured to exit on time, or so we thought.

After touring Delhi with Lakshmana and his family, they dropped us off at New Delhi Train Station in time for our train. Fighting through a mob at the "Enquiry" window, we asked for the platform number of our train. "Your train is rescheduled. The new time is 05:50 tomorrow," we were told. There were no other trains to Gorakhpur or nearby cities. The next bus to the Nepali border wouldn't depart until 14:00 the following day. Suddenly, our border-crossing date came into question. With all transport options exhausted, we found a cheap filthy room across from the train station and waited for our rescheduled departure.

The next morning, our train departed at 06:00, 10 hours and 15 minutes late. By the time we reached Gorakhpur, the train was 15 hours late. We requested a "Certificate of Delay" from the station master to show Indian immigration.

Having given up hope as we exited the Gorakhpur Train Station at 21:00, two hours after the last bus departure for the border, we were confronted by taxi drivers. "600 Rupees to Sonauli," they said. We decided the fare was probably cheaper than two exit penalties and agreed to the price. At 23:00, we reached Sonauli. We made it, but India had two more departure annoyances in store. First the taxi wanted more than 600 INR. "Night service surcharge," he said. Masami fought back. "You want 600 Rupees or nothing? 600 OK?!" We found agreement. Next at Indian immigration, one of the desk workers complained, "It's very late. You pay us a 400 Rupee bribe, and we will stamp your passport." We showed the "Certificate of Delay" signed and stamped by the station master and told immigration that we made a huge effort to reach the border on time. We were still on time, after all! Another officer was sympathetic and stamped our passport but the first immigration officer continued to demand a bribe. Masami fought back. "Write down your name! I'm going to talk to your supervisor!" We exited India with 30 minutes to spare.

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