Welcome to India! My first time here and during just a few short hours in Delhi I’m already exposed to a few crude scams.
Walking around the airport I must be one giant question mark. This makes me easy pray for anyone offering “advice” or “befriending” me. The guy at the drink stand shakes a bottle of water at me and yells “Come, come!” from across the terminal. Even though I already have a full bottle of water in my bag leftover from the Finnair flight and I have no intention of buying a drink, I decide that he’s the right guy to come up to and ask for directions to the Domestic flights counters. After giving me a few somewhat useful tips he proceeds to make me feel bad about not buying anything from him despite his generous advice. “I thought you are my friend…”, he says with a sad face. Whoa, how did we get from water to friendship in the space of 10 seconds? As far as I’m concerned we’re not friends until Facebook says so in the news feed. Nevertheless I feel bad since I don’t even have any change on me at this point, otherwise I’d consider buying a bottle of water from him just to be polite. This isn’t strictly a scam of course, more of emotional blackmail appealing to my feelings of guilt. Thankfully, I have none – muahahaa.
Next, being clever I find one of those prepaid taxi booths and pay for a cab to the Domestic Terminal. Being less clever I walk out onto the street waving the prepaid cab slip in my right hand like a red flag: “Clueless foreigner over here, scam me please?”. Immediately a guy runs up to me and points towards a cab, grabs my bag and throws it inside. After I’m settled in at the back seat he looks at me expectantly and says “Tip for me?”. Being the dumbass that I am, instead of pulling out a 5-10 rupee note I ask him “How much?”. To which he immediately replies “50 rupees”, managing to both keep a straight face and not break a sweat. At this point I know this is too high a price since my whole prepaid trip is worth 150 rupees. Nevertheless, I continue being a dumbass (why change my image mid-game?) and hand him a 50 rupee note, which is probably more than he normally makes in a whole day without clueless first-timers like me. He doesn’t even try to hide his face as he turns to his friend outside and shows him the note with a huge gloating smile. In retrospect I actually didn’t have it all that bad. Apparently a number of less fortunate first-timers got taken to entirely wrong cabs and charged 1600 rupees – ouch!
The driver, who speaks terrible English, asks me the same question a total of what seems like a thousand times and I repeatedly fail to understand what he’s saying. Finally via combination of deductive logic worthy of Sherlock Holmes himself and some latent 6th sense I figure out that he’s asking which airline I’ll be flying with. I pick a random one (Indigo) just to ensure I get to the airport at all and not end up stranded in the cab running circles until we have an unlikely breakthrough in communication. Upon arrival he lets me out of the cab and then stands next to me uttering (this time far more clearly) “Tip?”. I respond with “I’ve given your friend 50 rupees, that’s all I’ve had”. This may be unfair to the driver as the kid who took my luggage may not even be working with him, but it went some way toward making me feel less taken advantage of.
Later on, as my Indian friend who was supposed to meet me in Delhi fails to show up or call, I get restless and decide to not waste the day completely and to head into the city center, having booked an evening flight in expectation of spending time with her. I avoid a few random cab offers from lone guys walking over to me and whispering “Taxi?” like they’re selling drugs. From now on I’m playing it cautious and only want to deal with more official spots. I find another prepaid taxi booth and get a quote of 185 rupees for a trip to Connaught Place. I hand the guy at the counter two 100 rupee bills, at which point he distracts me with filling out the paper form, asking for my name to put on the form, and directing me urgently to taxi number 12. By the time I’m sitting in taxi number 12 and speeding away I realise I just got scammed out of 15 rupees more, since he never gave me any change back. Official spots my ass! Strike 2, Daniel!
Sadly, and surprisingly (as pretty much all Indians I know are very capable when it comes to English) this cab driver is equally as bad at English as my previous one. He insistently asks me a question that doesn’t register as comprehensible words in my mind and even gets frustrated after having repeated it a number of times without me catching on. Finally I just re-iterate the destination to him and hope for the best. (CONTINUE TO PAGE 2)