Monday, June 25, 2007

Last week in India

My last week in India was pretty uneventful. I had bought some scarves for the ladies as presents, so I wrapped them and distributed them. The day before I was supposed to leave (the Friday), the ladies gave me a necklace, bracelet and earring set made from pearls, with a purple stone. It was really beautiful, and I was quite touched. Anindita’s wedding was that evening, so we planned to leave together form the office. While we were dressing up, I got a call from the airline that was supposed to take me to Mumbai so I could catch my flight to London. They had rescheduled the flight to 11am. I was extremely unhappy. I had cancelled a Kingfisher flight to get on this other flight, and now they had rescheduled. What even annoyed me even more was that all they could say was that they were sorry and there was nothing they could do about it. I kept the woman on the line, explaining to her that I was on a student ticket and didn’t have money to purchase another ticket if I missed my connecting flight to the UK. My friend Jagati meanwhile was on the phone to other airlines to see if I could get another early morning flight. The Air India lady gave me a phone number to call the shift manager at the airport, and he said that I should just come to the airport early in the morning and they would see what they could do. I also managed to get a standby reservation on Jet Airways for almost R 12,000, about twice what I had paid for the Air India flight. Served me right!! Anu the director was told, and she called me from her house to check and make sure that I was alright and everything was being sorted. Jagati was more than helpful, and after all these false starts, we left for Anindita’s marriage ceremony.

She looked amazing! The ceremony itself wasn’t too elaborate as they just signed the marriage licence, and then went through some traditional rituals. When we left the wedding, Chandrana and her husband took me to a hotel cafĂ© where we had tea and desserts. It was really nice of them. When they dropped me home, I stayed up watching a movie and trying to finish up Mrs. Sanyal’s wrap. She got a little concerned that I would miss my flight, so she came to check on me around 4am. The taxi driver I had hired was already waiting downstairs, so I just got my stuff together and left. I had wanted to give Naran Rs. 1000, but I wasn’t sure how much I would have to pay for my heavy stuff, so I gave him very little money. I’ve been meaning to send him some money by Moneygram but I just haven’t gotten around to it. He was really helpful.

At the airport, I went to various offices and stood there waiting for almost an hour before someone offered to help me. I was feeling very scared because I had booked a flight on Jet Airways which was leaving at 6:30am and it was almost 5am. The lady who saw me at the Air India offices directed me to another office where the shift manager was working. He was a pretty pleasant man, and cracked a few jokes with me. I smiled, but I guess my anxiety must have shown because he quickly filled out an invoice for me to get cash at the other office. At the other office, I had to wait again till they paid out the cash to me. Even that, they called the shift manager to verify, and then I had to move to another office to get the cash. The lady at the accounts office paid me 500 rupees less than they were supposed to, and when I mentioned it, they said it wasn’t true. At that point I didn’t care, and 500 rupees was not enough for me to miss my flight to Mumbai, so I just said it was okay and left, very close to tears.

As I walked to join the security line, I saw some Jet Airways staff. One of them accosted me and asked what the problem was (apparently I looked very distraught). I explained to him, and as I ended saying “I just want to go home”, I heard someone hailing me and waving me down. It was a staff member from Air India, and they were bringing the 500 rupees. For a brief moment, I wanted to be snobbish and uppity and throw it back in their face, but I was too tired to even think up ways of doing something so childish. The man from Jet Airways asked what flight I was on, and when he learnt I was on the 6:30am flight to Mumbai, he quickly ushered me across the security line and I went to join the bus to board the flight.

I think I snored all the way from Kolkata to Mumbai. At the Mumbai domestic terminal, I had to join a queue to board a shuttle to the international terminal. Mind you, I was still wearing my sari from Anindita’s wedding. I got quite a few stares, especially since I was wearing the sari with my full afro combed out. I made it to the international terminal (finally!), and proceeded to go to the Virgin Atlantic counter. At the Mumbai international departure terminal, you had to have your bags screened before you even got to the counter. I screened my bags, and proceeded to the Virgin counter, feeling relieved that I was there three hours before departure, and that I could get to sit down soon. That was not to happen! When I got there, I was told my bags were too heavy (I knew that already! LOL!) and that I had to pay about 26,000 rupees extra to transport them. So I went to change almost all the money I had on me, ready to pay for it. When I got back, they said that I could actually put my stuff into two bags, so I had to redistribute my belongings, and I ended up throwing out some of my yarn. (Sob! Gulp! Sniff! Hehhee..that’s for you Phoebe!) After letting the whole world see the insides of my suitcase at the Virgin counter, I was told I had to go back and get my bags screened! Aaargh! I wanted to scream in frustration! (I was still in my sari…the first time I wear a sari, and I have to carry my over 32kg suitcases to and fro!) When I got back to the Virgin Airlines counter, I got the coupe de grace…my reservation was not in the system. At that point, I just started laughing, and I think I scared the check-in attendants. The one serving me called their supervisor over, and she went to verify whether I was indeed in the system. A few excruciating minutes later, she came over to tell me that they had found my reservation. I also didn’t need to pay that much for my luggage because I was transiting through the US and was allowed two pieces of luggage. So, after finally checking in (thank God!), I went back to the forex bureau to change the rupees into pounds, and then I went to find something to eat.

The trip itself back to the UK was nothing major. When I got to the immigration control area, one of the staff workers asked me whether I was Indian. I wanted to retort that it was a stupid question, seeing that I was as black as he was. I instead just said no, and he asked why I was in a sari then! Oh my! I held my tongue and said I had just arrived from India, and I went past him as quickly as I could. Sheesh! I got out into the departure lounge and waited for a few minutes, and then I saw Twum. We found a cab and went on to our hotel. We ordered some food and I fell asleep right after eating.

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