Discovers Barcelona By Night
invitation to attend a Conference in Barcelona excited
me no end. A fan of Ernest Hemingway, I always wanted
to visit the country he wrote about so passionately.
However, things didn’t go smoothly. The plane
left late from Delhi and there was hardly an hour
left to catch the connecting Iberian flight from
Heathrow. Finding the departure lounge in the melee
of summer holiday rush was a nightmare and the ground
hostess warned that it was unlikely that my luggage
could be loaded in such a short time.
I had anticipated, there was no sign of my baggage
at the airport. By the time I finished the formalities
regarding lost luggage, it was almost midnight.
I had with me only a vanity bag with my passport
and money, not even a change of clothes. I couldn’t
locate the ‘conference bus’ meant for
delegates (if it was still running this late at
night). Desperate, I hopped into a city-bound bus.
It dropped me at a huge square. I saw some cabs
parked at the square but no drivers. I stood helplessly,
with no clue how to arrive at my destination and
unable to speak Spanish. Luckily, Barcelona’s
young crowd party late. Some were around trying
to hail the few cabs whizzing past. I asked for
their help. A girl knowing a smattering of English
asked incredulously, “Alone? From India?”
She managed to hail a cab (bless her!) and explained
to the elderly driver to take me to the university
campus. I relaxed at last as we drove through the
the cab stopped in front of a building. But it was
not the one, I said frantically. I showed the driver
the picture of the building the organizers had sent.
The old man almost burst his blood vessels. Angrily
he rattled off of which I couldn’t understand
a word. However, I could get the idea that my destination
was far away. Then it dawned on me, the university
had moved and he was refusing to go that far and
wanted me to get out. But I was equally adamant.
I just told him: “Sir, I am a guest in your
country. Please take me there!”
don’t know whether he melted at my pleading
voice or knew that I was not going to disembark
anyway, but he drove on though muttering all the
I knew why he was so reluctant. The university campus
was very far indeed. We soon left behind the city
lights and were on the highway. So here I was, clutching
my bag with my money and passport traveling with
a stranger in a strange country at 2 o’clock
at night. Horrendous stories of murdered women flitted
across my mind.
the driver didn’t abandon me. He went around
the huge campus to locate the guest house. I tipped
him handsomely and muttered the only Spanish word
I knew “Gracias!” He smiled then. Once
again it vindicated my belief that people everywhere
in the world help when you ask for help.