Thursday, September 9, 2010

My long flight home….

All of us staying away from home know the excitement of going home. The excitement to see those familiar faces, those familiar streets and shops, the joy of being home with loved ones. Aaahaaa!! All those feelings were going in my heart and head the morning of May 28th 2010 it was Memorial Day weekend. I reached the airport 3 hrs before my connecting flight to JFK checked in my luggage…. Got the boarding pass… hugged my husband goodbye! Security check was easy…. Now I was sitting at the gate of my flight waiting anxiously for my journey back home to start. I still had good couple of hours wait for my flight, so I pull out my book… phone… call a few people… read some pages… Just half an hour before scheduled departure of the flight, the ground staff announced the flight was delayed by 15 mins… grrr…. Well I still have lot of time between my connecting flights… so I didn’t care much.

With in next 20 mins the flight came, un-boarded the passengers, got cleaned and we quickly boarded in.. Haa! finally on my way HOME. I take my seat get comfortable and close my eyes in hope of sweet dreams about all the fun I will be having with friends and family. I could feel the flight taxing and after a while I felt asleep. I opened my eyes after good 30 mins hoping to be half way in air flying the skies of New Jersey. To my horror.. I realize we were still at the airport and no one seems to know why… I ask the flight attended the reason… she said she is checking with the Pilot on the same. After 15 mins we came to know that it was for all the flights flying to JFK through out USA. And my mind goes… what the hell happened at JFK??? So I call my husband to check on news if everything was fine. He couldn’t find anything thing on the internet. Another 30 mins go by news come in that there is going to be an air show at JFK so all the flights flying to JFK are put on hold. With the clock ticking and connecting time getting closer I try to call Air India at JFK. I call the 1800 number; I explain them the situation they said that can’t help in anyway and give me a number to reach the Duty Manager at the airport. Feeling helpless I call the number it rings and rings and rings and goes to voicemail. I must have tried that number for over 50 times. I ask around in the flight if anyone else was taking the same connecting flight to Delhi. There were 6 more passengers on board taking the same connecting flight. I give them the Air India Duty Managers number and ask them to try the same. And they all get the same voicemail. (FYI before booking my tickets with Air India I had some questions so tried to call Air India office in Washington DC all I got is voice mails which were all full, Mr. Goyal and Mr. Gupta they never call back or reply to emails. I remember another lady mentioning the same thing.)

Anxious of what was going to happen we all sat there hoping the Air India flight will not leave without us and praying that our connecting flight will soon take off. Finally after 2 hours in the flight and some rounds of refreshments; the pilot announced will were going to take off in 10 mins. The clock showed 1535 hrs and the scheduled departure for flight to Delhi was at 17:05 with the 45 mins flight time to JFK and change of terminals… we might still make it. At 1555hrs our flight take off it was longest 45 mins flight we were all on the edge of our seats. So we land at JFK terminal 2 I believe and had to go to terminal 4. We snatched our Check-In baggage and ran, I 5 months pregnant, couple with 10 month old baby, couple with 3 year old toddler, and the man travelling on Business class… we ran thru the airport, climbed up the stairs with our checking baggage (I am not allowed to climb up stairs as per my doctor, nor carry anything heavy) went to the shuttle stop… 3 mins to next shuttle, with every minute counting didn’t have any option but to wait… the shuttle came we all got in… 50 sec reached terminal 4. Took the elevator to the counter it was 1710hrs… and the flight was Gone… chole geche… gaya…. Ido… Air India staff (most unprofessional) didn’t even wanted to acknowledged our presence. They didn’t even look at us… they said it is not our mistake you all missed the flight (Well it was not our mistake either Ms Supervisor!). I said ok… let not point fingers… what are the options you can give, put me on the flight to Mumbai which departs at 2130.. so Ms Supervisor tells me is… the only option I have is to wait… I asked how long?? She I can’t say anything now. So we all start calling our loved ones… I call my husband angry, tiered, irritated, heart broken and give him all the story… he says… take it easy… try if nothing works out… he will come and pick me up. So I go back and sit on the floor with other couple with the baby and toddler.
Restless I talked to another AI representative:
Me: Are gonna give us water or any refreshment…
AI Rep: I do not have authority to take decisions like that
Me: IF don’t put us on flight tonight will they pay for our hotel…
AI Rep: again same… do not have authority to take decisions like that.
Me: Who has the authority…
AI Rep: Duty Manager
Me: Where is he???
AI Rep: Lunch
Me: (Don’t f*#@ with me DM is having lunch at 1730) So, you cannot help me at all…

I go to the AI booking counter to check if there were any seats available in the next 2 days on any flight to India… She said none… until someone misses the flight they were all sold out. I didn’t even want to imagine some else going thru the same I was going. I went back and sat on the floor… I asked for Duty Manager and Ms Supervisor did not even acknowledge me (again) I lost my head “ I am 5 months pregnant there is another lady here with a baby and another with a toddler… if any thing happens to me my unborn child or any of the people who missed the flight with me… I am gonna F*#@ing sue all of you.” The AI Rep whom I talked to earlier came rushing …
AI Rep: Maam please clam down…
Me: Why… what are you doing for clam me down. … my phone rings
I burst into tears on the phone… its my husband on the other side… he said… to stay clam ask’s me to drink water… tell me he is coming to pick me up… I told him give me an hour. If nothing works out… he can come and pick me up. I went to restroom pulled myself up… eat an energy bar… and go back to the AI Rep.
Me: Can you do anything to help me?
AI Rep: Who else is travelling with me
Me: I am traveling alone
AI Rep: I can put you on Kuwait airlines flight which leaves at 2230 tonight there is only one seat available…
Me: What time will it reach Delhi
AI Rep: I don’t know check with Kuwait airlines staff
Me: (I turned back… and looked over the other passengers waiting … feeling guilty) I will take it.
I got a change of travel paper… enquired about my luggage… he said… luggage has not yet reached I will have to board without it… took a deep breath and went to Kuwait Airlines counter. Got the boarding pass the flight was via Kuwait called my husband and gave him the flight #’s to check for arrival and departure info… He begged me to eat something and said please take care… I went thru the security got myself a big slice of chocolate pastry and a big cold moca… when to my gate and OMG!
I find a place to sit… decide not to react and enjoy my pastry. While I work on m pastry sipping my sweet moca.. they announce the boarding of my flight they invited First class, Business class, and passenger travelling with Infants …. All BOOM!!! Everyone just rushes to the board…. Everyone waiting with or without infants passenger travelling in all class.. the ground staff tries to control the crowd repeating the instructions… cops walk in…. and I have a sarcastic laugh… its gonna be a fun ride…. 90% of the people travelling in the flight were taking connecting flight from Kuwait to Dhaka… most them were elderly who did not understand much of English hence all the chaos. To avoid all the pushing and confusion I decide to board in the end… while walking to thru the gate ground staff stops me and says I have to let go my carry on baggage (on my dead body… I don’t have my luggage and I am not willing to let go my last 3 pair of clothes, my medicine, and jewelry, take a walk lady!) I briefly explain my situation… she says I was supposed to fill some paperwork coz I am pregnant I can’t board without it… about to kill her… I exchange some looks… she lets me go…. I rush inside the flight… It was mess…. People very were stepping on each other….. I look around for put my carry on bag… nope no place… seek help of an attendant I felt sorry for her… she was this tiny fragile girl… she call another of her colleague he was a snobbish guy… he said the place for my luggage was outside the cabin…. With no more energy to fight… the tiny airhostess said don’t worry… both of us found a place and pushed my baggage in. I took my seat it was the middle one… I was not very happy coz I had to visit bathroom often… I pushed that thought away for sometime. After I took my place I closed my eyes and cursed the moment I book the tickets and swore never to travel alone… I spoke the person sitting next to me and asked if he would like to switch place coz I would be visiting the restroom often… he agreed. It was already 30 mins we were inside the flight and we were still on ground, I was feeling very uneasy… my throat was dry… I felt dehydrated… my head was spinning… the final announcement was made for take off I buzzed for help… no one came… I knew I was gonna pass out… I un-buckled myself walked towards the flight attendant for water, all the attendants started yelling, sit down… I said I need water or I will passout…. One of the attended grabbed me gave me a bottle of water and put me on my seat… I sipped the water slowly my body came back to normal I could feel the blood running…. Rest of my flight was ok I slept for some time walked around drank lot of water and ate little bit.

We landed at Kuwait… it was very very hot outside I could tell by the look of it… at the airport I looked for restroom…. I was praying for a place were they will have a shower… the restroom sings pointed down stairs… living in US for 3 years my natural instincts were to look for an escalator or elevator… there was none… so just walked down the stairs… the restrooms were real clean and dry… and voalla! There was shower with hot water… I went in… thanks to my carry on luggage I was able to freshen up and had a fresh set of clothes… something good after such a long time… I went back up looking for phone to call my husband and let him know that I was fine. I noticed a lady who was in the same flight with me talking in hindi to her kids… immediately I asked her which connecting flight was she taking she said to Delhi… I told I was taking the same flight too… she said it was 4 hrs wait time she showed me the place were I could call from. I thanked her and went to make that call… my husband happy to hear my voice told me to take it easy and not to worry about my luggage.

I found the lady and the kids and sat with them at the waiting area talked to them played with the kids, her name was Dr. Monica Sharma next 4 hrs went quick we grabbed dinner and then we went towards our boarding gate. It was full… AGAIN… no place to sit… I walked up to ground staff asked for the form I was supposed to fill as I was pregnant and requested if they will let me board in the beginning coz I did not want to be pushed or fall… they agreed… with in 10 mins they announced boarding and let me go first… there was this other guy who had huge ego problem of why I was allowed to go I snapped back at him and said… well if you want to go first try having a baby… he backed off.

I went to my seat next to the window the flight was hot as oven, it was long upward climb by the way with the carryon baggage… Finally my last leap home I didn’t even want to thing who would be sitting next to me… definitely not the guy I snapped on.. just 10 mins before take off this man walks towards the seat… and realized he was sitting next to me… I noticed a happy grin! (OMG!! Not again) I closed my eyes pretended to be asleep to avoid any conversation… luckily the flight took off quickly and it was just 3.5 hrs flight. The flight attendant came to serve dinner.. asked the passenger next to me… Chicken or veg… the Passenger said Mutton (what in world is he talking) the flight attendant goes again Sir, would you like to have Chicken or Veg?? Passenger goes Mutton (lol) the flight attendant said.. Sir mutton nahi hai… Passenger say Chicken… Holding my laugh… I say Veg… I finished my dinner… we were handed over customs documents I filled mine… the passenger next to me handed me his paper and passport saying peleaze! () I filled it for him; suddenly I had 5 more passports with similar peleaze! (Oh… what the heck!! I will do it)I filled it for all of them they were tailor, driver, construction worker etc…

I looked outside the window it dark I told myself it is another 45 mins and I will be on my mother land the land I was born, the country we love to hate, but still love and would fight with the world for it, the place I call home… so we land… the flight reached the gate… and then… we wait for the doors to open… 10 mins… 15 mins… (really god!! You have to do this too??) 20 mins… there is something wrong with the door… 25 mins… (if no one opens the door… I will start to tear off the seats in the flight) Dr. Monica come to me… we hug each other, I thanked her.. said good bye to her kids, and finally the door opens :D yay! I rushed outside… walked thru immigration, the Immigration officer joked with me looking at my passport picture. He said I will let this young girl on the passport go… I told if you don’t let me go I will cry… he had a hearty laugh but I meant every word of it. I went to Kuwait airlines counter filled paper work for my luggage. They said they had not been able to locate any of my luggage till now but will keep me posted. I didn’t care much about it then just wanted to feel the fresh air outside. Finally… not home but still home sweet home!

PS: I got my luggage after 2 weeks… one of my bag was damaged and eaten by I figured rat… there was lot of chocolate in the bag… :D

1 comment:

Tina said...

di i read ur journy from us to india....superb narration yaar......would suggest u to write a book on it....simplly it at one go...but seriously dat day must have been really a mess......