Sunday, 21 June 2009

The Mystery of the Missing Rotarians

When I was in India, last summer, a man called Surya phoned me and asked if he could stay for a few days next June. He, and his friend would be visiting Britain for a Rotary Club convention.

"No problem," I said.

I contacted him again in February, to see if he was still coming. He said yes, definitely, he had booked his ticket. He gave me the flight details, including flight number, date and time of arrival. In March, he e-mailed again, wanting my address for his visa application, which seemed reasonable enough, at the time. When I went to India, I had to have the address where I was staying, in order to get a Visa.

As he was due on Saturday, i.e. yesterday, I e-mailed him sometime around Wednesday to confirm that he was indeed coming. I got no reply. I knew he was flying in from Ireland, rather than India, so I assumed he had no access to the internet. I texted him too, but again got no reply.

As Saturday arrived, I realised I was going to have to go to the airport on spec, because I had promised to pick them up, and with no way of contacting them, I had no choice. It was beginning to look fishy at this point, but it got a whole lot murkier when we checked the flights.

The flight number Surya had given me did not arrive at the time he had quoted - it arrived 80 minutes earlier, at 12.35. It is over an hour's drive to the airport, and I knew I couldn't make it by 12.35. I set off straight away, and arrived by 1pm.

Of course, not knowing how long I was going to have to hang about, I parked in long-term parking (4 hours for £7 instead of short-term parking £1 for 15 minutes). Being the middle of June, and holiday season, I had to park at the arse-end of the long-term parking. It was 1.30 by the time I got inside the Arrivals hall.

Naturally, the flight from Ireland had already cleared, and there was no sign of a pair of bewildered Indian Rotarians. I got their names called out on the tannoy to no avail. I left my name and number at the Inquiry Desk.

Outside Terminal 1 there was a Welcome stand manned by the Rotary Club, who are having their 100th anniversary convention in Birmingham this year. I had a nice chat with them, and explained my predicament for the 10th time. I left my name and number again. They suggested that the missing Rotarians might have gone to the NEC (convention centre) to register, and that they would be back to meet me at the time they had originally e-mailed to me.

By this time, I wasn't holding out much hope, but I hung around for another hour, just incase. I had brought a book, for this eventuality. Finally, I did the rounds again - Terminal 2 Arrivals, Inquiry Desk, Rotary Club stand. I told them I was going home.

I was a bit annoyed. If the Indians had changed their travel plans, it wouldn't have hurt them to send me an e-mail telling me. Honestly, it is just common courtesy. It seemed so out of character. When I had checked out Surya online, I found several references to his 'good deeds' connected with the Rotary Club, including things like providing polio vaccines for village children. In his e-mails, he had regularly written things like 'I hope I am not inconveniencing you'.

Well, right then, I felt fully inconvenienced, especially as I'd had a wasted afternoon, an 80 mile round trip, and had to fork out £7 for the extortionate parking. The Rotary Club stand members took pity on me and gave me one of their "Get out of the car park for free" tickets, for which I was very grateful.

I got home, with a headache starting and a bad mood settling in. Nick had tried phoning India while I'd been out, but had had no joy on any of the phone numbers we'd been given. He did notice, however, that Surya had logged into his account on Friday evening, and therefore did have internet access, and must have received my e-mail.

Consequently, I can only assume that the person in question is either ignorant or has hatched a plan of such cunning that I have been fully gullible. I will have to wait until Monday, to tell the authorities, that wherever this gentleman is staying (if he is even in the country), he is not staying at the address on his visa.

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