HERE I AM Melbourne
July 10, 2012 at 9:04am
Forty kilos in a bag, a suitcase and a trolley was the summary of my worldly possessions to the start of a new adventure. With a heavy heart mingled with a sense of excitement, I boarded the flight that would take me to my destiny.
The transit in Kolkata loomed ahead until I met another passenger who had a similar transit time before she headed to Dubai. We hit off immediately, found a transit room and spent the next twelve hours swapping our life stories and comparing notes. I got so carried away that I almost forgot about ‘check-in’ and rushed only to find myself at the end of a snake- like line. All trolleys taken, I had no option but to drag and kick my bags every time the line moved only to be told at the end of the wait, what every traveller dreads- a two hours delay!
My seat seemed a perfect haven to rest my aching feet and a sleep deprived mind until a group of noisy, boisterous; ill- mannered “Thomas Cook” business men decided that the aircraft was a tea-stall. I mean, did they have to scream at each other across aisles “Hey there, are you ok’? “Seats saab theek hai?” As if getting the last aisle seat in the economy wasn’t bad enough, the loudspeakers were also my neighbours! The party continued until the whisky took its effect and I had peace as long as I ignored the snoring. The person sitting next to me, who was a part of that gang, seemed a little weird. He kept muttering ‘I’m sorry mother’ throughout take-off and I couldn’t help wondering if I would live long enough to get off the plane.
The two and the half hours were spent in trying to block off the offending sounds from my surroundings, wondering if my immediate neighbour would suddenly take out a gun or knife and worrying about missing my connecting flight but for the last part I needn’t have worried.
The moment I stepped out of the aircraft in Bangkok, I RAN. There was two ground staff at the door, holding a placard with my name, who seemed delighted to finally see me. One of them even politely asked me if he could help me with my trolley. Wow! I was impressed and further impressed when the other offered to help me with my ‘Harrods’ bag leaving me with just my laptop bag. But the fun was just beginning. The moment my load was lightened, the two of them started to run with mumbled explanations in what should have been English, of the other flight supposedly waiting just for me.
I had no option but to follow in a run. Growing up in the hills, I would have thought that I was a decent runner but after no sleep, a narrow escape from a possible axe murderer and torturous snores, running didn’t seem a very interesting prospect. Even then I ran, through all the Duty Free shops that I had imagined I’d visit, through scores of escalators and people staring. (Did I look like a Film star or a convict I’m not sure). I kept running even though I seemed to reach nowhere….I was now crawling.
My baggage carriers might have been professional runners as they sped ahead of me, turning back every now and then to cheer me on. So it was, the first one with my trolley looking back and asking me to run, the second one politely trying to make sure that I ran and not crawled. I couldn’t care less as I huffed and puffed and I was at the point of giving up the race when we fortunately reached the security check-in counter.
Two stupid ladies looked suspiciously at me as they x-rayed my bag and seized my bottle of water. I had no breath left to argue so I quickly drank all the water before glaring back at them to hand over the empty bottle. To my horror, as if to take revenge they asked me to hand over my ‘Vaseline’, as well as ‘face cream’ as these items were supposedly under ‘dangerous goods’ violation! (If you know me, you know what Vaseline is to me). I begged, pleaded but it didn’t move them. Exhausted I shouted at my ‘ bag carriers’ that I hated stupid Thai people and I would never step in Bangkok ever again( rather childish behaviour I know). I don’t know if they understood what I was saying but it felt good to vent out my anger on someone. As a sign of defiance, I stopped running.
Yes, I started walking very slowly. At this point, I didn’t care if I never reached the stupid aircraft or Australia. Finally, to cut a long story short, I did manage to catch the flight. I felt important and puffed up to have kept an entire aircraft waiting for me but once I was inside nobody even bothered to ask me why I looked so red and bothered so my moment of glory was not to be. My seat was in the middle of amongst two gorgeous hunks but with tired legs and brains that no longer worked, I refused to sit with them. I actually found an aisle seat next to a snob who eventually refused to let me borrow his mobile phone to call my brother.
It was an eight and a half hours of trying to find the correct posture or position to sleep. Each time I felt myself dozing, an adjacent snore or my pillow falling off or a baby crying woke me up. I gave up after a while and decided to, instead, practice staring into space. The in-flight entertainment system with touch screen and loads of buttons looked frightening to the weary ex-cabin crew, the lights were too dim for reading so the only other way to entertain and keep myself sane was to wait for food or watch the Fashion Parade by the female cabin crew. Each service was brought in a different outfit (Or was it my imagination?) but I am sure they changed uniforms three times (each uniform as tight as the other).
We finally landed into Melbourne where the waiting began again as the snake like line moved like a snail towards immigration. Being of respectable height, I squeezed myself amongst the taller beings (they couldn’t see me at my level) into one of those lines and ‘crane-like’ (on one foot, two feet, one foot), I started my first steps into the city which was to be home for the next eighteen months. (At least)
One hour later, I was stamped and allowed to look for my baggage. Now, just as sure as I never win a lottery, my bag also is usually amongst the last to arrive. Alphabetically, I am used to the last roll calls, last seats and last of everything but baggage?? How unfair can life is? Belts and belts of black bags, red bags, green bags and none of them were mine. After a while I even forgot what my bag and suitcase looked like and I hopped to and fro across three conveyor belts when I suddenly remembered that my bags had White security ropes tied around them (courtesy Kolkata airport). It was easy now.
I made a dash for the Exit before I once again found myself in the middle of another jam, sorry I mean line. This was the x- ray queue; our poor bags had to ONCE again go through another screening. Another hour of a break-dance standing, it was my turn. Finally!!
Even though I had filled in ‘ nothing to declare’ in the immigration form, my word was not trusted. In went all five and the trolley came out as the suspect. Reds, whites, blues….. All my carefully folded clothes were scrutinized; the ‘Kalimpong lollipops ‘ (sweets made of caramelised milk and sugar) had to justify their make and origin. Even my certificates were checked to see if I was who I was (by that time I’m sure I wouldn’t have remembered my name). On and on worked the gloved hands, my cheeks were now a disgusting red but she wouldn’t give up until , until she found a packed of cashews. Thrilled at her discovery and success she brought back my form and showed me a clause which read in ‘small print’ that ‘nuts’ was also under the ‘goods to be declared list’….she would let me go but I’d better read instructions next time. Next time I would kill anyone who dares to give me nuts to eat on the plane! And moreover instructions reading have never been my forte, especially small prints which have been purposely made small so that nobody reads them. How crazy is that? I had left behind all the bottles of ‘Dalle khorsani'(Fire balls chilli) and other pickles to avoid all this bother but a packet of stupid cashews let me down 😦
I was welcomed by icy winds and freezing room and my brother of course. Bust settling in is yet another story.