Heathrow Airport, London
Monday 4th August 2008 8:16 am
This is the first stop (after my take off at Hyderabad city in India) where I could comfortably open my laptop and start typing away my mind. What has triggered me to type down the happenings en-route to Mexico are a series of unexpected and interesting events.
Though my flight was at 1800 Hrs from Hyderabad Airport to Mumbai, considering the fact that there might be traffic I started a bit early, or should I say a bit too early. Here i was at the Hyderabad Airport at 4:00 pm itself, getting out of an easy cab after paying a hefty 800 Rupees for the drop from home to. Airport. And you know what, the first surprise of the day came next. I was allowed at 4:00 pm itself to do my check-in for the domestic flight.
As I was searching for the Jet Airways check-in counter which was free, one lady at counter number 6 called. There was a pile of luggage which belonged to a family trying to check-in for the same flight. Calling an attendant to move that luggage which will facilitate me to go to counter 6 the lady asked for my tickets. I took out my e-tickets and handed it over to her.
Now came the second surprise. She asked if I was traveling international and when I said yes and that the carrier is British Airways, She said there is a through check-in facility from Hyderabad to Mexico and all I need to do is identify my luggage at the Mumbai Airport. I was more than happy. My travel agent had specified that through check-in is not available. And here I was, giving my contact address at the destination Mexico to the wonderful lady who had given me the second surprise of the day.
Next came the third surprise, which I was not prepared for. The lady at the counter saw my passport and started talking with a nice smile on her face “Oh, so you are a February born?” for which I said “Yes” in a very thoughtful manner. Then I realized something. There are chances that she could be an Aquarian too. I never strike a conversation too fast with a totally unknown person, but I couldn’t resist this time. The words seem to be gushing out of my mouth as if a reservoir gates had been opened. “Am I talking to another Aquarian by any chance?” and bang came the answer “Yes, 10th of Feb” with a very cute smile which is still registered in my mind.
Saying thanks to her and forcibly moving my ass out of the counter as another passenger was waiting behind me, I walked towards the security check, got my hand luggage screened and sat at Gate 26 where the Jet Airways flight from Hyderabad to Mumbai was scheduled to depart. Then I took out the Bhagavatham book which was a English translated version and started continuing what I was reading on my way to the airport. I felt a little hungry. Walking down to the coffee counter I picked up a hot chocolate for a sky high price of 70Rupees and a Spanish Phrase book for Rs.249 which I had searched in Hyderabad in 2 main bookshops but didn’t find.
Finally the boarding call came. I got into the flight and got my 16C seat. As i was looking at all the passengers who were coming in one by one, I saw a very familiar face getting in and going to the business class seating area. I realized it was the fourth surprise of the day; it was the tollywood (Hollywood of Andhra Pradesh, India) actress Ileana whom I had seen. She was traveling back to Mumbai from Hyderabad. This is the second time I am encountering a cine actress in the same flight I am traveling through. The first time was like a dream, I had traveled in the same flight in which the South Indian Cine Super Star Rajnikanth traveled.
Then a mother and her daughter arrived searching for their seats. The daughter’s seat was 16B and the mother’s seat was 16E. I just stood up so that the daughter can go to her seat. Now the fifth surprise, the mother mis-understood that I was offering my seat to her and said “Oh thanks. You don’t have a problem?” Unfortunately I had to say “Yes”. The gentlemen who was seated in 16D was about to stand up so that I can sit in 16E, but somewhere out of all my parallel thinking I had determined to take an autograph from the actress. So I requested the gentleman (An Englishman as I guessed) to be seated and told him that I have something to complete before I sit.
I then took out the Spanish phrase book and my pen. I scratched the pen to check if it was writing and then I went straight to the business class area. This was a brave task for me. I don’t exactly remember when I had done the nearest brave thing before this. I just excused myself for disturbing Ileana and asked her if she could autograph for me. She smiled and asked “Are you sure you want me to sign on this book?” I just shrugged my shoulders as if to say this is the nearest paper I could get to for obtaining your signature. She signed “Thanks, Ileana”. Her signature was as stylish as the way she carried herself.
Smelling the air of success, I walked back to my seat which was now 16E. I donno why such petty things makes one feel great, maybe a short thanks to adrenalin?
Asking for an excuse to the gentleman in seat 16D, I sat down on my seat. I was fumbling around trying to identify where the socket was for the earphones when the Englishman helped me out. Then I sat back and tried the available programs and clicked on the movie “Fools Die”. The journey went on then till Mumbai airport without many surprises.
After reaching Mumbai domestic airport I went to the enquiry counter and asked them about the place where I need to board the shuttle to the international airport. Taking a ticket and understanding that the ticket number will be flashed to board the shuttle, I sat back in the waiting area and made some phone calls to home and some of my friends who were close to me. Expressing the fact that I had obtained a signature from the tollywood actress might have sounded great for me but for them it didn’t have any major “Wow” effect. And I was reminded by my sister over a message in my mobile that the book I was carrying was a Spiritual book. She had assumed that I had taken the signature of the actress on the spiritual book. I explained to her that I had got the signature on the Spanish book which I had bought at the Hyderabad Airport.
Taking the shuttle, I reached the Mumbai international Airport (a very crowded one indeed). Asking for directions to British Airways Terminal, I went into Gate D as directed. Then came the sixth surprise. This time, not a pleasant one. I was informed by the British Airways control desk that my luggage will arrive at 0030 Hrs only and till then I could not check-in. So I had to wait till 0030 Hrs.
I picked up a Sandwich for 130Rs (amazingly high) from the US. Pizza counters and gobbled it up. Then I bought a cup of Tea from a normal Vendor who also charged Rs.15 for the normal cup. Then I sat back waiting for my luggage to arrive. I saw a lot of people being questioned for carrying liquid food stuff and cooker etc., A slow fear started creeping into me. What if after the luggage arrived and the screening happens, I was asked to place all the food stuff and cooker aside as many others were asked to do and leave them at the airport? I prepared my self mentally for such a disaster.
Meanwhile 4 of the crew members of British Airways gave me assurance that my luggage would come by 0030 Hrs and I could board the flight without any issues. Though I was a bit tense, when I heard that this was a daily ongoing happening from one of the crewmembers I got convinced.
My luggage finally arrived. Now came the seventh surprise. I have heard of things happening like a cakewalk. I witnessed it for the first time in my life. The baggage was scanned and cleared without any questions including my hand luggage. In this hurry, I lost one of the locks to my baggage. I thought “Never Mind” bigger problems were solved today. So the loss of a lock is not a big thing.
Then I went into immigration. A lady seated at the desk had a very crisp session with me asking my purpose of visit and duration of stay and the company I represented. I was stamped for travel and got into the gate area where the departure crowd was waiting.
The mother of all surprises came now, the Eighth Surprise. My ticket number was 29A. After calling all business class passengers and special passengers, a call came for passengers in Seats 21 to 30. I walked through. The lady at the desk did something which left me wordless. She struck the 29A number and made it 18A and said that British Airways had given me an upgrade in my ticket.
Since I had traveled once to Berlin before and had taken the KLM where such an upgrade meant from economy to higher economy, I assumed not much of difference would be there except leg space. I stepped into the flight and was directed to 18A. I would have screamed out in joy if it was not for the fellow paggengers sitting there. I had been given a higher class and not a higher economy class. It had a seating arrangement where I could fully stretch myself and sleep with a separate footrest. It had an individual monitor to view the choice of movies / news / programs and a cuisine choice too.
I sat back and enjoyed the moments of luck shining on me. I enjoyed a meal at 0245 in the night, filled up an envelope for 500Rs to UNICEF as kept in brochure the travel jacket by British Airways and then saw 30 minutes of an amazing movie called “The Oxford Murders”. Then my eyes started burning due to lack of sleep and I dozed off for the first time on a flight as comfortable as at home. I woke up at around 5:45 am UK time and had a nice breakfast with juice cereals and bread and then continued watching the remaining part of “The Oxford Murders” and completed it.
Then I started watching “The Incredible” when the announcement for flight landing came. Since the terminal in which I landed (Terminal 14) was the same as the one I was supposed to go to Mexico also, I just got the security check done for my hand luggage and then sat at the waiting area when I started typing this at 8:16 am. Its 9:45 am now. A lady came and sat in the seat in front of me. From her appearance i could easily make out that she was from India and that too from south India.
I struck a conversation with her which ended up in my Ninth Surprise. I came to know she is from Thanjavur which happened to be the place where I studied. Also I came to know that she is married to Jagannathan who was my senior in Shanmugha College. I could identify Jagannathan by a photograph which she showed. I then realized that as people say, the world is definitely a small place. She was traveling back from US to Chennai for her sister’s marriage. We discussed facts about life in the US and a few other details on schooling and college etc.
Finally in Mexico i got the opportunity to trek and reach a dormant volcano summit where the crater filled with water has become lake. One is called the SUN and the other is the moon lake
Some pictures of my trip are shown below