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Bling bling
(India: Delhi)

India: Delhi: Bling bling

One of the fringe benefits of traveling is the opportunity to be a millionaire in so many places. In Turkey I could drop a cool million on a sandwich. In Indonesia it would take a week of living large. In India I didn't actually ever hold a million rupees, but as you can tell from this photo I was quite the tycoon all the same.

When I needed to buy a plane ticket from Delhi to Amsterdam, I first tried the upscale, air-conditioned airline offices. But their computers were always down, or they were all on 6-hour lunch breaks, or the electricity was off for the day. So finally I stumbled across a tiny back-alley operation, consisting of an impressively mustached man, a telephone, and an office the size of a toilet stall. Literally. The door frame was actually wider than the room.

I told him where I wanted to go, and he made some telephone calls. Within a few minutes, he said he'd located a ticket half the price of what I'd been quoted at the airline offices. This seemed good to me. But he needed to be paid in cash. He sent his personal thug to accompany me to the Connaught Circle American Express, where I waited patiently in line behind wealthy Indians buying tens of thousands of dollars in traveler's checks for their trips to New York City. Finally I handed over my $320 and received a 3-inch-thick wad of bills, stapled into bundles. Before I handed this fortune over to my travel agent, I posed for this picture so I could always remember the last time I saw my money. But as luck would have it, the ticket worked perfectly and two days later I was quivering with culture shock in the Netherlands.

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