The New Delhi airport's domestic terminal doesn't have any carpeting or quiet dead-end corners. I spot one row of armrest-free bench, but the seats are too widely spaced for lying down. So I make my bed immediately behind a row of seats a family is occupying near my gate: a purloined Qatar Airlines disposable blanket and pillow for thin padding on the tile, my hoodie for warmth, Rick's and my duffel bags arranged to keep my head clearly delineated from the walkway.
From Seattle, India is exactly halfway around the world, and I'm feeling it. Not the 12.5 hour time zone change (what is time anymore?) but rather the surreal still-happening state of traveling for an absurd amount of time without break. The first flight was over 14 hours, and I'm now waiting for our third, trying to figure out if I've now missed two nights of real sleep.
For all that, it's been pretty smooth. We all had our papers in order, no bags have been lost, we didn't (for better or worse) have to meet any harrowing PCR test requirements.
My terrible bed on the floor was effective for at least two solid hours of sleep, despite bright lights, regular gate announcements, and a sea of Indian military men in uniform flying commercial on the way to Leh.
It occurs to me in the ticketing line that this is actually one of my more extreme sports: sleep deprived navigation of foreign environments. You have to be patient, persistent, ideally pleasant while discovering and playing through changing bureaucracies, quick thinking enough to deal with transport and the unexpected, schlepping bags, creative with taking care of your body in environments where you have little control over physical space, water intake, bathroom availability. Bonus points for foreign language comprehension.
A nearby family transparently points and chuckles as we crack hard boiled eggs that Eileen has brought from Seattle. They are warm from many hours of close carrying, and questionable in flavor, but I eat mine anyway. I retreat back to my little castle of bags on the floor.
People are giving me looks, but I saw a bunch of old Indian men laying on blankets on the floor upstairs, so I know it's not that crazy. I don't care much either way; I haven't been this comfortable in many hours, and there's a good number more to go before we get to a hotel.
Next: Above Jaipur