It was my first International flight. And everything that could go wrong had gone wrong. Having gone through this entire struggle, perhaps I should have been happy but I was indifferent instead. The Air India flight attendants were middle aged, friendly, but also and busy. I greeted them with a weak smile which was never returned and I walked down the aisle straight to the last row of Economy class and to my surprise discovered that I was going to spend the next nine hours in a company of a young English man.
Pause. Let me digest this.
Never. Never, I repeat, in the history of my air or any travels have I ever had the opportunity to be in a company of a young stranger I could actually converse with. And after all the ways my luck had lashed out on me in the last three days, this guy was such a pleasant surprise. The guy who happened to share the same name as that of a famous Christian priest, was a psychology student who had been travelling to India to learn Vipassana and experience the beauty of Himachal (among other things). We discussed movies, books, psychology, England and how we both were stuck at the Mumbai airport for different reasons but during the same period of time and how it was such a horrible experience. I spoke about my new University. He spoke about his. And then he spoke about mine because he knew about it better. I hadn’t spoken to anyone except the inhumane creatures at customer care for past two days. I confess I was a bit charmed by this person. And I was glad that he was there. The next couple of hours that passed by as I flew from one time zone to another were good ones. I watched a movie. I watched the sky from the window. I let the guy sleep on my shoulder. I tried reading the book he gave me that was about Vipassana meditation. I ate breakfast. I ate lunch. I had seen food after such a long time. When the Air hostess came to me asking if I would like a glass of whiskey, I wildly nodded a yes inside but asked for a fruit juice instead. Finally, my wrist watch no longer showed me the correct time. Finally, we had reached London. I looked at the city from above. It was unlike any aerial view I had ever seen. This was London, of course. It had to be this way. “Oh! This is your first time here!”the English guy exclaimed, “This city is going to shock you.” Well, I think I have been well trained for that. We got off the flight together and parted our ways at the Immigration. He lived in Oxford and he said that I could ping him if I was ever there. I sent him a friend request on Facebook. He never accepted.
Heathrow Airport is gigantic. It has to be. After spending an hour or so at the Immigration queue, my next mission was to find the correct Baggage claim section. Despite my poor navigation skills, I found it relatively quickly. Everything wrong that I could have imagined happening to me had already happened, right? Wrong. There was still one thing that could go wrong. Back in Ahmedabad, the lady at the counter had told me not to worry about my bag. Well, as it turned out that was the only thing I should have been worried about.
They had lost my baggage.
The guy whom I had met in the plane had told me about how he had lost his baggage when he came to India and how he was rendered cloth-less for the next four days. I had smiled and nodded in sympathy. But little did I know that anecdote was actually a prediction for my own near future. My usual reaction to this situation would have been anger and a bit of panic. My actual reaction was indifference. I guess there is a saturation level even for frustration. I filled the form and got the tracking number, left the airport, paid five times higher bus fare to Norwich (Since I was originally supposed to get to Norwich directly, I hadn’t pre-booked any bus from London), saw a bit of that humongous city through my window and got mesmerized by it in the process and finally reached my University. I was going to spend next four days sans any fresh clothes. This wasn’t a very happy situation to deal with, given the fact that I had already been in the same clothes for the past three days. How did I manage? Well to begin with, I got drunk as fuck at the very first night I arrived in England.
When finally I did get my luggage I found sugar, that my mother had asked me to keep in my bag at the last minute, sprinkled all over my clothes. Thanks for the icing at the top. I guess they thought I was carrying drugs or something. After four days (actually seven including those three at airport) of waiting to wear some fresh clean clothes, this was exactly what I was looking forward to.
But hey, at least I was here. At least my bag was here too.
So to sum it all, here is the list of things that I think you should keep in mind;
- If you are travelling in between the months of July to September, don’t book your flight from Mumbai.
- Pay attention to Airport announcements.
- Check your visa requirements carefully. Don’t assume. Don’t be lazy. Your answer is just a google search away anyway.
- Avoid booking an Air France ticket. Their customer care sucks.
- Like really.
- Don’t carry sugar in your bag. They mistake it for Heroin.
- Always pack an extra pair of clothes in your hand baggage.
- Don’t send friend request to someone you just met.
- Or do, whatever. Go live your life.
- In case of adversity, remember – This too shall pass.
“Laugh at thy own misfortune.” ~ Plato