Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Losing Money in Mumbai

I did get swindled out of $1 US in Mumbai.

I am flying back to relatively wealthy Singapore, and I am fortunate enough to be flying business class, which means I have a valuable ticket to the airport lounge. This makes me a prime target. And though I am on the lookout, I let my guard drop as I’m looking for the lounge. The airport at Mumbai is not tourist friendly. Yes, things are marked, but very few areas are marked correctly. A very helpful man next to a free-standing sign that says “Business Lounge” comes up to me to offer help. He’s dressed in an outfit that looks exactly like those at the check-in counter - nicely pressed jacket, dress shoes, slacks. He has a badge. His English is quite good. He asks to see my lounge ticket (standard procedure), but the moment I hand it to him, I know something is amiss. There’s no lounge in sight.

He nods to his right and we amble through the airport “toward the lounge.” Suspicious, I ask to see my lounge ticket again, and he reluctantly brings it back for my inspection. There is the briefest tug of war, which I lose. Finally, he says, “Sir, can you do me a favor? Would you mind changing this Singapore $2 bill for rupees?”

I consider the proposition. If I can get my lounge ticket back, sure. But the last thing I want is to carry what I assume is counterfeit money into Singapore. So I reply, “Why don’t I give you $1 US, and you give me back my lounge ticket?”

He thinks about it, acquiesces, and I continue my search for the business lounge alone. I picture him walking back, picking up his sign, and setting up for the next passer-by. I am $1 US poorer, but oddly enough, I feel guilty for having the money to do this, while he has to swindle people for his.

1 comment:

Addicted to your Blog said...

Maybe because its a city where you find Mercedes and Bentley's wrooming on potholed roads, as beggars stream footpaths meant for commoners.

A sight you may hardly glimpse in any other part of the world.

Its a city that has it all I guess, based on my experience.