Shut up and walk


I wake up just before landing. While we are walking through the long and narrow corridor full of people my eyes are still crusty. You can cut the air with a knife, and the jump from zero to pleasant 20 Celsius at 5 in the morning is definitely messing with my brain. Since we transferred planes in Istanbul, I’m afraid of losing our luggage and I am hoping that bicycles will not be smashed into pieces like a puzzle that we’ll have to put together. I take the last pannier, put it on the trolley, and then I turn to Alen. I’m jumping with joy because we didn’t lose anything. At that moment one of the staff members goes away with our trolley that’s loaded with two huge boxes subtle as Christmas lights. In spite of Alen’s effort to direct him to the green exit, the guy is heading to the red one. And now we ended up at customs (at that moment I’m unaware of this fact). We are asked about the price of our bicycles and we tell them just a fraction of the real price, remarking that those bicycles are old. At first I thought that it had something to do with the insurance policy but soon I realized that he was asking us to pay 200 dollars. That’s my budget for two weeks so I’m leaving this negotiation to Alen. The guy generously drops the price to a 100 dollars (around 6000 rupees). Alen is offering 1000 rupees. Customs officer rejects it. Alen doesn’t want to pay 6000. It seems to me like we are at the market just instead with an old lady we are negotiating with the customs officer. They are taking Alen to some small room while I’m left with the rest of the guys and that makes me nervous. The “trolley pusher” aka “the guy who led us to this situation” is comforting me. I’m angry at myself because I should have listened to my dad when he said that I’ll return from India in a urn. After a few minutes Alen is coming back and he is asking a customs officer for the paper. What paper?! Here comes a new guy and he says: “You can go.” I’m following Alen and the trolley pusher like a child following his parents not realizing what is going on. Quietly, I’m asking Alen what has just happened. He looks at me while putting the money in his glasses pouch and says: “Shut up and walk!”


While our mayor in Zagreb crawls on his knees and eats snow just like every year, we are sweating at the Mumbai airport walking through a moist corridor toward our luggage. On the trolley we pack two enormous cardboard boxes and four black bags. I barely manage to check if we forgot something and here already comes a smiling staff member and grabs our trolley. “No problem, sir!”, he calms me down while rushing toward the exit. Passing the long queue in front of the”NOTHING TO DECLARE” sign he goes directly under the “DECLARE” sign. I’m yelling at him that we have nothing to declare but he doesn’t react. All of a sudden, a customs officer in a white uniform gets in front of me and asks for papers, and I’m trying to explain to him that our bicycles are old junk. He doesn’t listen to me, instead he pulls the calculator out of his pocket and starts calculating. “200 dollars”, he fires out. My heart stopped. He says it’s tax for our bicycles and according to the law, we need to pay. I wait for blood to come back to my head and then I explain to him everything once again, calmly and slowly. He mercifully lowers the price to 6000 rupees (around 100 dollars), and I thank him but I still refuse to pay. Here comes a security officer. This serious guy with a mustache throws his hands behind his back and stops so close to me that I can smell what he had for breakfast. He wants me to go with him to the office, while Petra stays behind to guard our stuff. We enter the “office” and the security guard closes the door behind him. Closed blinds block curious eyes, and a few light rays that shine through the glass fall on the stacks of papers and on scattered chairs. The guy stretches out his hand and waits for 6000 rupees. I want to get rid of him so I’m giving him 1000 rupees with a remark that that’s all I can give. His hand is still open and he insists on the full amount. I ask him if I will get the receipt if I pay, and the answer is that this is a cheaper option without a receipt. I ask for the price with the receipt and the guy starts to squirm like a pig at the slaughter house. He starts to wave with his hands and while looking down he says: “Oh, that’s more than 20 000 rupees!” I realized he was pulling the numbers out of his ass so I bluff that I’ll pay if he gives me the paper. After a few moments of silence, the guy gives me back my money and while we are getting out of the “office” he seems disappointed. He says to his colleagues: “This guy doesn’t want to pay!” A fair amount of officials is gathered around us and one of them approaches me: “You can go.” Petra looks at me and asks: “What has just happened?” I say: “Shut up and walk!”