The Border Guard
London to Kathmandu Trip 1995
We had left Lahore early, heading directly for India. We were really looking forward to India, not least because we were looking forward to a cool beer (alcohol is forbidden in Moslem Iran and Pakistan).
We got to the Pakistani side of the border and went through without too much trouble. The Indian side was going smoothly as well, that is, until one of the Immigration officers checked one of our female passenger's passport, specifically her entry visa stamp.
This officer was a formidable character, a huge proud Sikh, obviously good at this job and a stickler for detail. He painstakingly pointed out that her visa had expired by one day; therefore he simply could not allow her access.
The truck couldn't go on without her, so we had to resolve the situation, but how?
After about an hour of debating with this officer, I finally decided to try the old 'well, how might we work together to get her into India' routine, (interpreted by some as a bribe).
It took about 30 minutes to haggle down to a sum of US$50, but he warned me not to discuss this payment with any other officials (as if I would!).
It's fair to point out that whilst bribery is prevalent at many borders, it remains strictly illegal and woe betide any poor soul that gets deliberately set up and made an example of.
Anyway, no sooner had I done the deed than I was immediately approached by two non-uniformed characters, who announced that they were secret police. They gave me lots of hassle, but I wisely decided not to admit to anything that might incriminate me.
To my relief they let me go (I think it was because they spied an unfortunate Encounter truck behind us, also having minor difficulties), and we all quickly bundled across the border. Now I was getting desperate for a well-deserved, cool beer from Mrs Bandari's famous 'Fridge' in Amritsar. However, no sooner was I on Indian soil, than the Immigration Officer and two of his men approached me. "Now, they said, we drink together". From the look on his face, "No thank you" was not an option. So, I offered to buy them a drink.
Not being a spirits man, I was more than disheartened to see them pick a huge bottle of whisky (a local brand to boot), which they immediately insisted on repaying me for, out of my original bribe money. To cut a long story short, the three officers, myself and Casey (the girl who needed the visa) then proceeded to drink the bottle. It was clear the truck was not going anywhere until the bottle was empty.
Totally incapacitated, I somehow managed to get on the back of the truck with my new found friend and make it to Mrs Bandari's Guest House in Amritsar, without throwing up. Once there I did throw up, painfully, and I couldn't look at a beer for over a week.