Saturday, September 4, 2010

A journey of a lifetime...


A nice sunny beautiful Saturday morning, I opened my eyes in sub- consciousness of my sleep hearing some news which was not very pleasant. I got startled and sat up in a second and concentrated on the news. The reporter concluded, “Right now we are getting the images from the crash spot in Mangalore”. Some name... “For times now’”. I switched on the TV and put times now, and I could not believe the sight I saw. The morning had already become an unexpected one with the Plane crash news in Mangalore. The Air India flight from Dubai had crashed. Feeling very sorry for the people and thinking how severe the crash was, made me wonder how life can end with a full stop.

Out of all the imaginations my mind just reminded me of my flight tickets and I was suppose to travel in 2 days to Mumbai then to Amsterdam via Dubai, and come to think of it, this would be my first flight of lifetime. Trying to be strong and unaffected by the news, I continued the day with usual chores and then the packing of the bags.

I left to Madikeri that evening to meet my parents and then plan for my onsite travel. It was decided that my parents would come with me to the airport to see me off. I called almost all the relatives and friends and informed about my travel, and everyone wished me luck and few advices too followed. I took them all locked it well in my head and then returned to my room in Mysore. Spending my last night at the room, thinking how fast the time had passed by… then packing my bags, checking if I had all the required documents for the travel, Visa formalities was on the priority list. After I felt that it was all fine, I slept off feeling a little unusual that it would be my last night at Mysore for at least few months.


Chapter 1: My First Flight.

Date: 24th May 2010

I am scheduled to leave to Bangalore and catch a flight to Mumbai for my Visa formalities.

My parents reached Mysore at 10:00, I went to office to bid goodbye to few of my friends and Colleagues. It was a bright sunny day, and I was excited, tensed and a little uncomfortable as I was still not convinced that I was traveling out of India for few months. Moreover it was the first time I would be going somewhere other than southIndia, Mumbai – The land of Dreams.

At last after few hiccups and tense situations I and my parents left Mysore at 12:00noon. The flight was to leave from Bangalore at 04:19. I had heard that we need to be in the airport at least an hour before the departure. The optimistic plan which I calculated would get me to Bangalore by 3:00; I never knew how far is the Airport from after reaching Bangalore so I thought I would reach by 3:30. The journey was good, calling few more close friends to inform I have started my journey. The situation started becoming tense only when we were nearing Bangalore and the time was already 3:20, and then after another 10 mins drive, I couldn’t control asking the driver how far is the airport. The reply was very cool; another 27 kms which is like another half an hour journey and that meant I would reach the airport not before 4:00. And Bangalore has been creating history with its traffic, which meant few signals and few slow moving traffic which was making the journey little longer. The Air Conditioner in the tata sumo was no longer making me stay cool, I was getting tense min by min, but I just couldn’t show that as I was sitting with my parents. The driver said, I will make sure I will drop you exactly at 4:00 in front the airport and he did keep his promise. At 4 he made sure I was getting down from the Cab. I did not have more time and no more time for extra emotional moments to bid goodbye to my parents. I hurried near the entrance, I had kept my tickets and the passport ready, showed it to the security, got into the airport and then I had no clue what to do. I just turned back and waved to my parents and signed them that they can leave and everything was ok. Then I checked where I should be heading to next, saw jet airways signboards and went near the counter. The time was 4:10, at the counter he confirmed my ticket and gave me the boarding pass and then he said “Sir, kindly hurry up… already boarding for the flight has started”. Hurry up??? Fine... But where the hell should I go??? L I was in a bizarre situation, my first flight and it felt like I was acting in a bollywood movie. I ran towards the escalator and then the long queue for the security check. Thankfully it did not last long, and I was on my way out of the security check and was taken into a nice jet airways bus which took us near the flight. The flight looked great from outside, I checked the ticket and then step by step walked into the flight and I could see nice cushioned seat. I asked for my seat number, the not so beautiful air-hostess showed me the way back. And then I was surprised to see the seats placed like our bus, 3 on each side. Frankly, the space between seats is little less, there is no push back’s unlike our posh Volvo buses and moreover had a small passage which made more difficult for the people. I was told that the handbags should not weigh more than 7-8 Kg’s, but every passenger who entered had made sure they had at least 7 Kg’s.

I looked at the time, and it was exactly 4:20. I quickly called my mother and informed that I am sitting inside the flight and everything was ok. After assuring & reassuring her that everything was fine and smooth, I switched off my cell.

I was looking around to see the people rushing to their seats one by one and was thinking how different things can be. The 2 seats next to me on the right was empty, and around I could find all kinds of people, a lady sitting diagonally in the front reading a book very seriously, few gentlemen behind speaking loudly about their trip, a young couple talking to each other who were sitting cozily diagonally behind me, few children running here and there blocking the path for others. And then I saw to my left, a man who looked uncomfortable but very stylish trying to push the seat backwards and seeing others very sheepishly. He was also holding a book, which was more for showing others that I have bought it for reading during the flight. After few tries he realized that the seat is not a push back and then he rested himself without much action and started looking around. That is when I realized that this guy was traveling for the first time as well. Another nice gentleman with a good smile on his face came near me and said that he was asked to take the seat in my row, I left him in.

Then there were few announcements in the flight, the air hostess showed some safety measures and asked us to tighten our seatbelts. Just when I was to tighten mine, an airhostess came near and said she would take the seat next to me. I allowed her in, the man on her right was very happy and so was I, she sat in the middle. Her name was priya. Just when the flight started to move, I looked at her, she smiled and I told her that this was my first flight. She was very kind, told me to relax and then started explaining each step. She told me exactly when the flight would move to the main runway, and then said relax now, the flight is about to take off. My first take off, the flight which was moving slowly suddenly gained speed and then a tilt up and then the take off, I felt a little dizzy and a swirl in my stomach and in sometime everything was normal. It was a successful takeoff. Priya left the place and went about her normal work.

I was just thinking of certain things which I had to do in Mumbai, realizing that I will be landing in Mumbai in an hour or so, then thought about my parents who might have reached my sisters place by that time and many such things. There was a round of refreshments on its way, and we had to pay for it. The gentleman next to me was furious; he was telling me that service is bad, as we had to pay for what we need! J I couldn’t reply anything but just replied with a smile. The rest of the journey was good, nothing special and I did not realize how fast the time passed by.

The time was 5:40, and the announcement said, please get ready for the landing, we are landing in Mumbai airport at 5:50, 5 mins ahead of scheduled landing time. The seat next to me remained empty, we tightened our seat belts and then the flight started moving down slowly. It felt a little different when the flight was moving down. A little head ache, pain in the ear and it felt like no pressure in the stomach. But it was all fine, except when the wheels touched the ground with a screech. The flight was so fast that I remembered the Mangalore crash for a moment and imagined how people inside would have felt. The man sitting next to me was trying to apply brakes himself; he was looking out of the window and was even more scared. Then another hard screech and the flight slowed down and then I felt I was safe. I came out of the terminal, saw the time it was 6:05 and I was in Mumbai. J I switched on my phone, called my mother and told I have landed safely. My first ever flight.

I collected my baggage and as I came out of the airport, I called my college friends, Amit prabhu and Vaman nayak; both had agreed to come to pick me up. Amit had already left office and said would reach in 20 mins time, and vaman would take around an hour. In sometime I saw amit coming near the airport, we were meeting after almost 3 years, and he had not changed much unlike me. We sat chatting until vaman nayak joined us and then we all left to my guest house.

Amit had taken leave the next day and vaman would meet us near his office. We planned where and how to meet and then both of them left to their place after having dinner in a near by restaurant.


Chapter 2: Mumbai meri jaan.

Date: 25th May 2010.

I had to reach VISA office at 8:00 in the morning, so I got up early, took a taxi and went to the VISA office only to find that the office open’s only at 10. I came out and roamed a little near the park and then walked along to reach the Victoria terminal. I saw how Mumbai was on a morning. It was busy, and when I mean busy it is absolutely crowded, people are crazily going all over the place, I was wondering if everyone knew what they were actually doing. I had called amit and he asked me to take a taxi to Gate way of India and then we would meet there. We both went there and then amit showed and explained me the place and then took me the way terrorists had planned. We visited a nice irany cafĂ© where we had our breakfast and then headed back to the VISA office.

The real shocker was when the security told me that my name was not in the list for the day’s appointment. Somehow I convinced him to check once again. He spoke to the lady inside and said that I was not in the list. I asked him to allow me speak to the lady. She explained me that I had booked an appointment in another office and that issued only short term Visa. I then explained the situation; I had my flight toAmsterdam that very night and asked her if somehow she can consider my application. She asked me to wait until everyone finishes, I was a little relaxed, prepared the documents and then after everyone were done, went in and submitted my documents. She said I would get the stamped VISA in the evening around 4:00 PM.

Vaman had by then joined amit and after sometime, vaman left for his office. I and amit started for some shopping. Amit showed me some streets of Mumbai; I had to buy few things which I did on the way during our street visit. Vaman had promised us that he would join us for lunch and so we met and had a nice and heavy lunch. I went back and then got the Passport with the VISA stamped.

I had few formalities to be completed to get my flight tickets. I had called up my brother in law whose office was near and thus I was able to do the scanning and some e-mails to my HR. It would not have been an easy task if I had not gone to his office. All thanks to him, finally at around 7:30 PM I had my travel itinerary in my hand.

We started from his office and then went to Victoria terminal; bavaji had to catch a train, so it left me and amit waiting for vaman to come from his office. We met and then amit left to his place as it was a bit far off. I and vaman planned to go in the Mumbai train back to my guest house.

And I need to describe this, Mumbai trains are crazy. It was an unbelievable experience and if I was alone I am sure it wouldn’t have been possible for me to get down in Kurla. Every person wants to reach his place as soon as possible. Each one is tired after his whole days’ work. Each one is tired, but gather strength to get into the train, travel with the crowd and reach their destination. I thought to myself that I would never ever travel in Mumbai trains in my life.

Once we reached near the guest house, vaman was kind enough to stay with me until my departure to the airport. I had my flight at 4:35 AM, but I was supposed to reach the Mumbai International Airport by at least 1:00 AM. I freshened up, packed my luggage and then left from the guest house. On the way, bid good bye to vaman and then set off to the Airport.

I saw Mumbai only for a day; and it was quite an experience. I am sure if I was alone I wouldn’t have completed all the formalities that day. Thanks to amit and Vaman who helped me and guided me throughout the day, took good care of me and made me remember some beautiful instances from our college days. It was a day well spent, though I felt I couldn’t do much because I had to finish my VISA formalities first. And just when I was wondering all these, I had reached the Mumbai international airport from where I would be moving out of the country. First time ever.J


Chapter 3: Up in the Air!!

Date: 26th May 2010

Totally unknown place, crowded with people holding huge baggages and I was one of them. I was feeling lost, not knowing what was the formalities. I managed to get into the airport. I had to go to some remote terminal where the Emirates flight check- in was placed. Somehow got there and then went along the queue to get my boarding pass. The person in the counter handed me 2 boarding passes, one Mumbai-Dubai and another Dubai-Amsterdam. I checked-in the luggage and was left with one small hand baggage. I was told to fill an immigration form and then head towards the counter for the immigration check.

I filled the form and then went along others to reach the counter. My turn came and I was in front of a guy who saw me and then the passport some 2 times, then checked my boarding pass and then handed it back to me after clearing my passport back after a immigration stamp on it. I wasn’t sure if that was all, so I was looking at him unconvincingly and then I smiled to go ahead. At that moment he stopped me again, asked me to hand over the passport again and then looked at it in detail. He then started asking me questions. He asked me from where I came, where I actually live, why I was traveling to Amsterdam, what was my qualification, which college I studied, which company I worked for and few more questions followed. I answered all his questions with complete information. He was then convinced and then handed over the boarding pass and the passport back to me. Before I left, I wanted to clear off the air, so I told him that this was my first time outside India and I did not know about any of the procedures. So that’s the reason I was looking at him apprehensively. He just gave a nice smile and told that’s alright, have a good flight. I thanked him and then went ahead for the security check. It was another hell of a thing, I had to take of my jacket, my belt, had to keep my mobile phone, wallet, hand baggage and everything on a tray and had to head towards a security guard who checked in every possible way and then told me to go ahead. I then took all my things back and started wearing it again. J After a while I was done and then had to head towards the departure terminal. The airport inside looked awesome in itself. It was nothing less than a mall. It had almost everything. I checked the time and it was just 2:30. I had plenty of time until my flight; I had to somehow pass the time. I tried roaming around the airport as much as possible and then sat in place for sometime. I was feeling restless. And as it was to happen and as I had imagined, my mother calls me at 3:30 getting up from her sleep to enquire if everything was ok. I had told her that I would be switching off the phone and she had told me that she would still give a try and check if it was on. I knew her and that’s the reason I had kept it on. I was happy to speak to her again assured her and reassured her that everything was fine and then asked her to go to sleep.

Somehow the time passed and it was time for us to board the flight. I entered the flight and again I had not got the window seats, the emirates flight was huge and I mean really huge, one row had some 11 seats. The flight was full and the journey began. J The flight was really posh and well maintained. There was a monitor in front of me; it had games, TV series, movies, tour guide etc. I was just settling down looking at everything. The flight was about to take off and I remembered the flight take of experience again. It was a similar experience this time as well, I felt a little dizzy and then everything was normal. Then the breakfast arrived. I had it and then dozed of for the rest of the flight. We were landing in Dubai at 6:30 AM and we landed at the expected time. It was a nice and smooth landing. I went out of the flight and walked through the terminal exit. I had to head towards my next flight which was at 8:30 and that meant I had 2 hours time in which I again had to pass through security check. I had to walk for at least 1.5 kms to reach the terminal from which I would have my next flight.

The Airport is well maintained and very very huge. I was very sleepy and was feeling a bit tired as well. I was still trying to roam around a bit and then checked out a nice rest room. I went in to wash my face, was looking around and then thought why not take a shower itself. I did exactly that, took a nice hot water shower and then changed into some washed clothes. It made me fresh and I got my energy back. JIn sometime the terminal was opened and we all went in. we could see the flights and this was the first time I was looking at a flight so closely. The flight was I guess double the size of the normal domestic flight which I had traveled. I went into the flight and sat on my seat. I was very sleepy and was waiting for the flight to take off. By now I was experienced enough and this time the take off was good. I was anyways feeling sleepy, so I just made myself comfortable and then slept for a good 3 hours time. At around 11:30 or so, the lunch came in, I started watching the movie “Up in the Air” as I had my breakfast. The movie was good, I enjoyed it, and by the time I was done with it the flight was nearing the destination. The flight was on-time and we landed in the airport at exact 1:25 as scheduled. But the flight took its own time to reach the terminal. I was out of the airport after the immigration stamp at the counter at around 2:15 or so. I had to call someone who could pick me. Suraj had agreed and I had to wait for him to come as it was a weekday and it meant that he is still in office J after a nice wait for 2 hours he came, we went around got the special photo for the IND appointment, got the sim card for the mobile and then headed outside the airport.

We took a taxi to reach his place and the “taxi” was a Benz S-class and was so comfortable that I was already feeling thrilled. The car was speeding at 140 kms per hour and we never felt that it was as fast. Like all the bollywood movie scenes when the hero lands to the new country and sees around with great astonishment, I felt the same and was looking out and enjoying the beauty of the place and the nice ride. Both ended as we stopped near suraj’s place and got the taxi receipt. It read 30 euros, which is like 1800 for the 10 kms we traveled, but believe me it was all worth the money and in any case who cares, I was to get it reimbursed.J

The journey actually ended after I updated the facebook with my new status “Landed in AmsterdamJ



Some dreams are seen in the sleep and some when you are awake. In those, some dreams get realized and some remain as a dream unrealized. But sometimes there are realities which feel like dream, but they are not meant to be... And I was living one of those unseen dreams.

It’s been 3 months already since I landed in this beautiful place, Amsterdam. Everything that is close to my heart is back in India, my family, my friends and many more things and I miss them all very dearly. But I am happy here because this real dream has given me an opportunity to realize some of the dreams I have seen back in India.

The journey has just begun and it feels great,

Targets are yet to be reached and I am confident about it,

Expectations are high and I am sure I will meet,

With this, a new journey has begun and I am up for it…

The Poem was not meant to be a poem, it just came with the flow and now, I love it