On my third day in India, I visited Akshardham, a Hindu mandir and spiritual-cultural campus in New Delhi, India. It was a long journey from my hotel and I heard about how amazing the interior decoration was with details and special gems from all over the world. I got there at almost midday and the queue for access went past the space provided. The anticipation at the stage was unbearable. Slowly but surely I headed forward in the queue (line). It was hot out and I was wiping sweat. Out of the comer of my eye, I saw a sign saying no mobile phone within premises. First of all there was no way I was getting out of the queue and secondly, I was definitely not going to give my phone to anyone, it is way too valuable.
I decided to be stubborn and I was determined to take my phone inside and even more determined to take pictures of this big secret they were hiding from the rest of the world (please do not judge me). The queue continued to move very slowly and women wearing inappropriate clothing like shorts were turned away. When I finally reached the last search area in which they had a metal scanner I knew the game was up and I would have to hand in my phone in. I was quick on my feet and used the classic distraction method. I distracted her with my hip length braids as I shook my head back and forth and she was determined to scan it all. By the time she was done I quickly moved past her phone in hand it I was delighted with my performance.
I briskly walked across the beautiful garden to the centre of the temple. I was nervous as heck, after all, I just broke a law! I held my phone tightly hidden in my scarf and I entered the building. The sight was breath taking. The idol was golden and embezzled with diamonds. It shined so brightly and for a moment I stood in utter awe. Remembering my objective, I slowly unwrapped my phone from my scarf and edged towards the front of the temple. If I was going to do this, I wanted to get the clearest view. In hindsight, this was a mistake. I should have used the crowd as a human shield but instead, I stepped out and brought out my phone at the most awkward angle and took a picture and then a second and a third. I could not help myself it was all so pretty. I wanted to capture every little detail and out of the corner of my eye I saw two men edge toward me and I knew I was busted. My instinct told me to run. As fast as my legs could carry me. I knew running would not help, so I slowly turned around and walked briskly out of the temple trying not to bring any attention to my self.
The men immediately followed behind me and I knew I was in serious trouble if only I could get back out but it was a long walk.The two men kept a close distance to me and I saw them radio for back up then from my right a woman dressed in uniform walked toward me. I panicked. What had I done? The men finally caught up with me and asked for me to follow them. I declined and kept walking and since it was forbidden for them to handle women they could not do much. The female guide also came to me and demanded my phone; again I ignored and kept walking. I was so close to the gate, another 100 meters and I was out of there. Suddenly I felt a firm had on my shoulder and a harsh voice that said ‘mama you need to come with me’.
I was so scared my legs became jelly and walking seemed impossible so I stood. I tried to think about the best way to get out of this mess, maybe I pretend to be deaf and dumb, but what if they brought out a translator then what? What if I did not understand English? I was not quick enough, as the words escaped from my mouth ‘what have I done?’ Wearing the most innocent face I could pull off.
The lady guard was not buying it and said ‘hand me your phone’. I wanted to resist until I heard that this could be a criminal offence and if you don’t cooperate I will get the police involved. My hand sprung up and I handed her my phone. I felt defeated and silently stupid. She tapped on my phone and password screen get to surface, she handed me back the phone obviously expecting me type in my password, again I wanted to resist but the threat the police being called came to mind and unwillingly I typed in my four digit password, she quickly found my album and went on to start deleting all the pictures. Her lips smacked together clearly not impressed by the stunt I had tried to pull. She then went on to recently deleted photo and deleted it from there too, she was well trained and I felt defeated for losing my precious pictures that took so much effort to take. All I wanted was to get my phone back so I could head home, but she had other plans and my day was going to go from bad to worst.
She led me to an office and told me to fill a form in. I would have to pay a fine of 100 rupees. I did not mind paying the money but providing details that would later affect my ability to travel was not an option. I used my baptismal name as my first name and a modified version of my surname, switch up one or two more info and handed her the form. But it was not over at all. She wanted to see ID to confirm the information I had put down and I was really not going to get away with this. I had to think on my feet and said I had no ID even though my passport was in my handbag. She knew I was lying and she wanted me to pay at this point her commander in chief arrived and he demanded everything I had on me was searched. I had no idea what to do, I could throw a fit or I could just vomit since my stomach at the point was in knots. I was lead to the women who did the initial search and I was told to identify who searched me. I was not able to let someone lose their job and lively hood for my stupidity so I pretended to suffer from memory loss. As I looked confused by everything that was said, my lack of responsiveness lead to a bag search and everything was thrown onto the table and my heart sank as my passport fell out too. I knew It was all over, but for some reason the guards did not see it, it was right there in from of them, I must admit I kept it in a passport case but then that was labelled saying passport on it, I guess people were right when they said the best place to hide something is in plain sight.
The guards were not impressed and kept demanding for ID. At the point I broke and tears ran down my face I just wanted to go home, the guard saw that I was crying and wanted to keep behind the curtain (where the women are usually searched in private). I found my opportunity and started crying. Not the pretty crying but instead a loud snotty cry, my GCSE drama class was finally put to good use and I cried like I just found out a close family member just died. This drew so much attention to me which was exactly what I wanted and that definitely did not look good for the guards and people started shifting uncomfortably. I rose my crying a bit louder declaring ‘I just wanted to go home’. The guard had no choice, as they did not want to lose any tourism so they let me go.
I could not believe it. I walked away unpunished! Maybe I was lucky but you should certainly never risk being in so much trouble for a photo. Never again!
Moral of the story: never get in trouble for a photo. Some memories are best stored in your heart and mind!
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