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All’s well that ends well – II

March 22, 2012 2 comments

This is the second of a three-part series on our journey back to India.

All’s well that ends well – I

All’s well that ends well – III

We landed at Dubai, and realized that we had more than an hour to spare before the next flight. I started to chat with an airport attendant to while away the time.

“I’ve already put in my papers,” he said. “This is a good place, but I want to go back home. I’ll get a job at the New Delhi airport.” I nodded in agreement and told him that we were going back to India for good too; he smiled.

The flight from Dubai to Mumbai was on Jet Airways, on a narrow-body aircraft with a 3X3 seating configuration. We stowed our carry-on luggage away, and took our seats. The air hostesses and stewards were very friendly and one of them stayed back to chat with our daughter for a while. She then turned and spoke to my wife. “Madam, if you need anything just call for us, even if there’s turbulence in the air.”

A short while after take-off, we were served dinner. The fare was simple, but excellent. For a change, the napkin was cotton instead of paper, and the silverware was good quality steel. We all ate our fill and finished everything. To seal the verdict was a small cup of Amul’s Mishti Doi. Yes sir, if you wish to experience true hospitality, you should travel to India.

After the dishes were taken away, I fished out the earphones. Not in the mood for any movies, I turned to the music channel, and fired up Led Zeppelin’s Mothership. I closed my eyes, and settled down to rest for a while.

An hour later, we were at the outskirts of Mumbai. The night was pitch black so we couldn’t get a glimpse of the Arabian sea, but Mumbai’s night lights are hard to miss. The touchdown was smooth, and finally, we were in India.

“Ladies and Gentlemen,” the captain announced, “we have landed in Mumbai 15 min. ahead of schedule. We welcome our foreign guests and hope that they have a nice stay in our country. For all returning Indians – welcome back home.”

All’s well that ends well – I

March 13, 2012 2 comments

This is the first of a three-part series on our journey back to India.

All’s well that ends well – II

All’s well that ends well – III

The taxi dropped us off at the airport, and a porter helped us with the luggage. When we had traveled to the US, the baggage limit was 2 checked in bags + 2 carry-ons. This rule was changed a week after we landed here, and now I would have to pay $70 for each extra bag (plus an additional indeterminate amount for any excess baggage). I had reconciled myself to spending about $300 or so – of which roughly $140 would be reimbursed by my company.

At the check-in counter, the lady was facing problems with my ticket.

“Don’t worry,” she said, “it’s not your fault.”

She called for help, and 40 minutes later, we were checked in.

“I’m sorry for all this trouble, and I am waiving your extra baggage charges.”

– – –

We had more than 2 hours in hand, so we took a break and had lunch – my colleague’s wife had packed multiple meals for us. After packing the uneaten food, we went through security, and then waited in the lounge until it was boarding time. Our route was simple: Denver – Washington D.C. – Dubai – Mumbai. The first two flights were on United Airlines, and the last one on Jet Airways.

The flight to Washington D.C. was uneventful and short, and to our surprise, we made it to the boarding gate with more than an hour to spare. Once again, we had some food that was packed for us, and topped it off with a Starbucks coffee – the last one for many months to come.

– – –

We boarded the next flight (to Dubai) comfortably, and managed to stow away our (considerable) carry-on luggage without any problems. My wife helped our daughter setup the in-flight entertainment, and then started to watch an Indian movie herself. I put on the headphones too, but before I could browse for movies, the captain’s announcement greeted us – severe turbulence was expected for the first three hours, and minor turbulence for another four hours. We braced ourselves, and tried to settle in as best as possible. And while listening to the announcement I realized that my headphones were broken – only the left earpiece was working. Irritated, I stowed it back away.

After some time, the air hostesses stepped out, and started handing out meals.

“We have special stuff for you, sir.” We had asked for vegetarian stuff and were served first.

I looked up, and a nice German lady handed us our packets – three trays of stuff that’s passed off as “Hindu Vegetarian meal” on most international flights. My wife and daughter took a bite each, and stopped there. But I was ravenous, and finished off the edible parts of all three packets.

The turbulence continued, and while my daughter was busy watching a Disney movie, my wife was not in good spirits. An empty stomach only made things worse, and her state of mind had started to rub-off on to me too. An airhostess walked by, and I asked her for bread (it helps with air sickness). She returned a few minutes later, and surprise – with sandwiches! My wife was very happy, and ate a couple. Feeling much better, she was able to fall asleep. By this time, my daughter was getting sleepy too, so we made her lie down on the seat, and she slept with her head on my wife’s lap.

Seeing my wife and daughter sleeping peacefully worked wonders for my mood, and I decided to sleep myself. But as soon as I was ready to pack up, an air hostess showed up again – this time asking whether anyone needed replacement headphones. I grabbed one from her bag, and started to browse movies. I didn’t have to search a lot – right on the first screen was “Easy Rider”. I clicked “play”, and settled in.

What a movie! If you haven’t seen it yet, you should. It’s packed with tons of visual imagery and meaningful dialog and a perspective of America that I never had before. An hour and a half later, I was ready to sleep, but a quote from one scene continued to stay in front of my eyes:

“Death only completes a man’s reputation and determines it as good or bad.”