I have a funny anecdote to relate that happened a little over five years ago. There was a time, I used to fly by Air India, not because I had any love or fascination of travelling by it, but because when I booked my air ticket on Bahrain-Bombay-Bahrain sector, I could get a free air ticket for the Bombay-Delhi-Bombay sector.
On October 2, 2006, I landed in Delhi, went to Chandni Chowk, checked in at Bhaghirat Palace Hotel, had a shower, dressed and went to the Red Fort for sight-seeing being unaware that it is closed on Mondays. Thereafter, I hired an autorickshaw to go to Raj Ghat to pay my respects to Mahatma Gandhi, the father of the nation, and visit Jawaharlal Nehru's, Lal Bahadur Shastri's, Sanjay Gandhi's and Rajiv Gandhi's samadhis.
While returning, since I had become familiar with the route, I walked it out. I was told by the hotel manager that that day was Ram Leela and there would be festivities on the ground and his owner would be with Sonia Gandhi and other dignitaries witnessing it. He offered me a free pass and I declined, because I had to board the coach that evening for Mussorie, via Dehra Dun, and certainly, I would be uncomfortable sitting with sleazy politicians and appearing like a flunky, clapping when everyone clapped.
I started walking briskly. Suddenly, I came across farm labourers, about 30-35 of them - men, women and children - carrying their meagre belongings on their heads, in their hands, etc. I reckon they must have come from some south Indian state to work for wealthy Punjabi or Haryanvi farmers and I suddenly found myself in their midst. I felt sorry for them and their plight and wondered what a difference education, training, skills (and positive exposure) make in people's lives and upbringing.
Making progress I reached the gates of the ground where the Ram Leela festivities were being held and all of a sudden about five to six cars, escorted by police cars, arrived and the police shooed away these labourers. I happened to be in front of one of the vehicles, whose doors opened and one officious looking politician and some bureaucrats got out. The police and the organisers thought I was one of the VIPs and a beautiful, young lady with a heart-warming, or shall I say heart-melting, smile put a garland (of flowers) on me and did 'Aarti'. All this confusion was not of my making, but it made me appear like a punk and a twit and gave me the jitters.
I had the shock of my life and I could not open my mouth as I, along with the other dignitaries, were being ushered in towards, probably, a dais or some such place. I was in a quandary and did not know what to do. Fortunately, the crowd surged too close to the discomfort of netas (used to luxurious and easy lives at tax payers' expense) and the police had a tough time controlling them, which they did with efficiency.
I took advantage of the situation and ripped off the garland, which with the constant jostling got crushed and decimated under the crowd's feet. At that moment, I just walked away, got out of the gates on to the kerb, hailed an autorickshaw, landed at Chandni Chowk, packed my suitcase and boarded the coach going to Dehra Dun.
I do not know what would have happened if the police and organisers had realised that I was not a neta and suspected me of being an undesirable element, which I certainly am not. I would have got away, because I am a law-abiding citizen and not a crook and could prove that to them.
This incident occurred on August 2, 2006, then I reached Dehra Dun and Mussorie on August 3 and finally met my favourite author, Ruskin Bond, on August 4.
Life is full of surprises.