Saturday, November 6, 2010

My crazy trip to India in 2008

So these are a series of 4 e-mails that I wrote to my friends while on route to Kolkata, India.

I wanted this to be my first post on my blog because people really seemed to enjoy reading these e-mails and it kind of gives you an idea of who I am in a fun way!

What has this adventure in my mind recently is a book my husband bought me called

A Week at the Airport: A Heathrow Diary by Alain de Botton

The book includes photos of Terminal 5 and the hotel I stayed at, which is just hilarious, I got so familiar with Heathrow during my stay, that certain staff knew me by name.

I hope you enjoy reading the following adventure!

I'm typing this from the Heathrow Hilton Lounge in London.

You read that right, London!

As all of you know, right about now, I was supposed be being spoiled by loving relatives in Kolkata, but instead I'm being spoiled by Hilton staff.

Here is the story of how I got here....
So it was an uneventful flight to London, and we were blessed with a short 3 hour layover until our flight to Kolkata. All was going well, everyone was boarding, we all showed our passports and boarding passes put them back in the British Airways folder, and got on the plane. Now it's often common for some reason, for the flight to India to be chaos. For some reason civilized people that behave normally in the U.K. or North America all of a sudden become these crazy people on the way to India as if they are getting prepared for the

So by the time my mom and I got to our seats the overhead compartments were full, and still bustling underneath them were more people looking for places to stash things. So I put my British Airway folder on my seat and I found a spot for my bag, but my mom's bag was too large. At the same time I saw a mashi (bengali term for aunt) from Ottawa, who was coincidently on the same flight struggling with her bag.
I took my mom's bag to her area, hoping to find a spot, and helped her out with her luggage as well.
I came back to my seat when my mom said, "Hey your boarding pass and passport are missing from your folder"!!!!!

I searched high and low, we finally found the boarding pass three seats behind, it had fallen and been dragged by the crowd, but the passport was nowhere to be found! We were still at the gate, so I told the flight attendants to check at the gate for me. They reassured me that they always do a final check, and that the passport must be on the plane somewhere and that we would find it when we landed in Kolkata. So we flew for 10 hours, then landed, let everyone out, the BA flight attendants, me, and my mom got on our hands and knees and searched.
No passport.
We got out waited for the cleaners to search. They searched.
No passport.
I luckily had scanned images of my passport and visa, so I had some slight proof of who I was, but not enough to get into India.
I quickly was told I would be deported back.
My mom said "Okay let's go back, I'm not leaving you".
I tearfully told my mother to please stay in Kolkata, that she had waited 30 years for this day, and that my whole excitement for this trip was that I had made a promise to my family that I would bring her to India and I didn't want to break that promise. So she went and I stayed in that damn immigration place.
So close yet so far!!!!

The next flight was 2 hours later. I went through departures where again coincidentally I saw some friend's parents, who were heading back to Canada. I was frantically calling my husband's mom, who was frantically calling him, to see if there was anything I could do to prevent my deportation. British Airways had booked a flight for me back to Montreal, and I was so depressed just thinking of it.
Well nothing could be done, so off I went again, 10 hours back to London.
It was the exact same plane I had flown in from, so I kept hoping someone would shout out "Hey, whose passport is this?", but no such luck. The BA staff were amazing and so sympathetic, as word got around about my story, they gave me an empty seat in the business section, so I would have more leg room.

We landed back in Heathrow, again got the cleaners to search, went to every lost and found in Terminal 5.
No passport. It must have been stolen, they said.

But now another dilema had occurred, how could I get back into Canada without my passport?
The BA staff in London realized that the Indian staff had mistakenly given me a ticket to Montreal, without considering that fact.So I couldn't leave the airport, I couldn't go to India, and I couldn't go back to Canada. I officially became the Tom Hanks character, from that movie "Terminal". So they figured out they would have to beg the London authorities to give me a 24 hour visa so I could go to the Canadian Embassy in Trafalgar square, and get a temporary passport.

The begging worked! There were over 20 calls made and every call started with "Remember that movie 'Terminal', well we have a girl here who is living it! I got a visa, BA made a free ticket for me back to Kolkata for the next day, but told me if I didnt' have the paperwork ontime, they could change it, and gave me a beautiful room in the Hilton, including dinner and breakfast. I went to Trafalgar Square, where the embassy is, and damn it! It closes at 1:30 (by this time it's 3:30 p.m.).

Ah well, I said to myself, I'll go tomorrow, I don't mind staying in London another day.
I checked in, took a glorious shower, and changed my clothes. By this time I had been flying almost constantly since December 8th, it is now December 10th.
The phone rings. They have found my passport!

I'm going to India tomorrow!

So I'm at Heathrow waiting for my plane. I have my ticket, and I'm ready to go!
Now I'm going to tell all of you the most frustrating fact of this whole story.

They found my passport ON THE PLANE!
Someone had put it in the pocket of the seat where the magazines go!
Who in there right mind finds a passport and puts it away? WHO????
Anyways I'm too happy right now to be pissed off, but really?

We will never know if it was done maliciously or by someone whose so shy that they couldn't speak up. Maybe it was Kuthrapalli from Big Bang
Anyways thanks for all the responses, I can't reply back to them right now! I'm glad you enjoyed the story.
Now back to our regularly scheduled program!

Oh yeah forgot to add two details.
My checked-in luggage is in Montreal right now, 'cause that is where I was suppossed to well...I luckily have enough clothing on my carry-on because I was prepared for lost luggage from the beginning.

And while I went to security for the upteenth time yesterday looking for my passport, I saw Ben Affleck, which was a nice perk to a nightmarish day! Any terrorist could have gotten through at that time because all the security women were ogling him! I must say he's quite cute (okay hot) and tall in real life!

Hi everyone!
So let's play where in the world is Tanima Majumdar (it doesn't have quite the same ring as Carmen Sandiego, but work with me). Well your educated guess by now would be Kolkata, but you would be wrong! That would be too easy!

Instead I'm in Delhi!

Yup our flight to Kolkata was delayed 2 hours, timing is everything in India, so just as we were getting ready to land in Kolkata (we were starting to descend), we were told there was too much smog (British Airways kept kindly calling it "unforseen weather conditions", but we all knew what they meant).

So we turned around. There wasn't enough fuel to circle Kolkata for the 4 hours it would take to clear.
So we landed in Delhi at 4 a.m., but because the staff had been working for 12 hours the were legally supposed to now rest for 12 hours. Also we are required to take the same plane back, because we can't take the luggage off for security reasons.

So I got another hotel room provided by British Airways, the beautiful Hyatt Regency! And we will be flying to Kolkata at 8:30 this evening.

At least I'm in India!
Also this turned out to be a blessing. Unfortunately because they found my passport I was required to pay for my ticket back to Kolkata. Unfortunately that meant my plans of visiting Delhi were no longer affordable. But I just got a free trip to Delhi! I'm now at a friends house, I just ate a home cooked meal!
Without realizing it there house is only 2 km from my hotel. I also got to visit my friend at the Canadian High Commision, where she works, which was great! I'm so greatful to my family friends here, who are blessed with a car and a driver so they were able to take me to see her (it was only another 2 km away so I had enough time). So even though I have this luxurious hotel room, I'm so much happier here at dada's (bengali term for older brother) house!

Oh yeah to top things off, my credit cards are blocked, the company must be confused about how I'm making charges to London, then Kolkata, then London again within 24 can quickly be fixed!

I'm heading back to the hotel in an hour, we have to be at the airport for 5:30. They confiscated everyone's passport so it will take time to get everyone ready to board the plane at 8 p.m. Hopefully by 10:30 p.m. I will be in Kolkata, but by this time, I'm not going to take that for granted.

Let's hope that my next e-mail is from Kolkata!

So I'm finally connected to the technological world!
Sorry for the lack of update but I've been too busy to look for an internet cafe.
Yes I did make it to Kolkata!
Thanks so much for all the replies! Apparently I have a novel in the works!
It's been pretty uneventful (Thank god!) since then!

There was a funny incident when I went to pick up my luggage two days ago. While I was in the airport getting a random paper signed by 20 random people, to just get a hold of my luggage, my cousin nearly got arrested for terroism. Turns out he got so tired waiting for me, him and his friend went to get chai, but he foolishly left the car unlocked with the windows open, and parked right beside the entrance. The security smartly wondered who would leave a car like that unless they wanted to bomb the place. They called out the licence plate, but my cousin was too far away to hear it. They were about to call the bomb squad, when they finally returned to the car and got charged a fine. The way my week had been going, I'm actually surprised the former didn't happen. I can almost picture it in my head, a little red Maruti 800 getting blown up by some robot, and me watching my cousin getting arrested.

Hope this finds you all well!

I also hope that OC Transpo strike ends soon!

I'll be connected for the next couple of days, so give me a shout if you want!

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