Date : 14.02.2012
Place : Mumbai
Seven yer ago on a Valentine’s day in Mumbai :
I was back in Mumbai again on the day of love and affection. I was waiting impatiently for her. I knew that she was definitely going to come with a letter and that letter would mean a whole new world to me.
But I had waited there for way too long!
At times certain offices can be like that. They do not work within the deadlines. But I wasn’t expecting the delay because my flight was scheduled in the evening of that day. My flight ticket, joining letter and whatever documents I needed was with a girl in the office and she was still busy getting those documents ready.
Yes, I was starting a new job and I was flying to Singapore. It was my first ever international destination and obviously my first ever international flight. I didn’t have almost any experience with airports and flights in the past. So I was already a bit nervous about the whole episode that would take place later in that day.
Time was ticking. It was past the lunch time and still no signs of those documents. To make things more interesting, my luggage was at another place which was almost at another corner of Mumbai.To make my stay cheaper in that big city, I stayed with a friend of mine who got his place a bit far from the airport. Geographically the place isn’t too far. But “traffically” the place is a bit far!
When I did my theoretical time calculations, I would get all the papers by noon, I would go to the place where I was staying, would pack my bags and would go to the airport and I would still have plenty of more time.
All the pre joining formalities kept me at the office till 4 in the evening and finally before 5 I got my paper ready and that was my green light. I stormed out of the office with all the bunch of papers and got into the first cab that stopped for me. That was a good old Mumbai Kaali-Peeli with a good old driver! I was sure that he is a bit old and I hoped that he was good too.
A person in his fifties was my driver. A guy with a black framed thick glass. I explained my situation to him. I motivated him to become Jason Statham of Mumbai. My offer to him was a strong thousand rupees for taking me from that place to the place I was staying and from there to the airport within the time.
Since I was a first timer, I’ve been briefed from the office to be at the airport at the latest by 8pm and it was already past 5pm! So it was important not to waste any time and to drive as fast as we could. I genuinely believed that my transporter would share my worry of not being able to make it to the flight within time and eventually missing my very first international flight.
Probably because I wasn’t as good as Tony Robbins or the likes, my words and a thousand rupees ( which had much higher purchasing power during those days) didn’t seem to have much effect on my “good old” driver. I wish I had a bicycle, I would have reached much before him!
To make interesting day even more interesting, my ‘well chosen kaali-peeli’ was heading to the nearest petrol pump. There wasn’t enough fuel to last till the airport! “What an amazing day”, I told myself.
There were five or six other cars in front of us and my driver would have taken a dozen of chill pills! He was completely unfazed by the long queue and my very small concern of missing the flight.
I understood that, he wouldn’t do anything and I had to take control. So I got out of the taxi and went around requesting the people in the front to give us a special privilege quoting my situation. Surprisingly everyone allowed us to cut the queue and fill the fuel.
So I ran back and requested my transporter to feed his baby as fast as he could. Still unfazed by the future consequences, my driver slowly went to fill fuel. Somehow we soon resumed our journey.
By then I was pretty sure that I wouldn’t reach by 8’o clock. Looking at the watch every now and then didn’t prove to be very useful. So I decided to find some alternatives. When I checked the letters from my office, I saw a few other names who were also taking the same flight with me.
I became super happy when I saw a Kerala sounding name in the list. I called up the number that was given against the name. Yes, it was another guy from Kerala. I was so happy that now I could tell this guy to inform whomsoever it may concern, that I was on my way to the airport so that they would wait for me for at least a bit and I wouldn’t miss my flight! I would also have someone to guide me through the formalities and procedures at the airport.
After the phone call I was a tiny bit relaxed. Now I have an experienced person to take care of me at the airport. I just had to reach there without being too late. By the time I got my luggage and started towards the airport, it was already going to be 8. I was getting super anxious again.
I hated the traffic and each and every vehicles on the street that day! I wanted to swear at all the red lights on the way. I wanted to stop looking at my watch and relax because I knew that getting worried couldn’t help me in anyway. But when I look at my driver, the reality would come back and hit me hard!
After hours of impatience and worrying, finally around 9 I reached the airport. I thought I would miss the flight for sure.
Before entering the airport itself, I had called up my new Kerala friend. This time someone else attended the call, but he knew my new friend. They agreed to come to see me at the entrance.
I was relieved that I still hadn’t missed the flight yet. My new friend is still there waiting for me.
I got down from the car. Driver went to open the trunk. I saw a bunch of Kerala looking people. I waved at them. They all came towards me. From the group a chubby faced innocent looking younger guy came and introduced himself.
“Hi, I’m Srinivas, We’ve talked over the phone”
His entire family came to greet me. They were all assembled there to see-off their young one in the family before his first ever big trip!! I was relying on someone who had much lesser experience than me, to stop a flight that was ready to take off!
From one of the family members assembled there, I came to know that the flight was at around midnight and I wasn’t not really very late for the flight and I hadn’t missed the flight yet. Probably the people at the office tricked me to believe that I had to be there by 8 so that I couldn’t miss my flight by any chance. Quite unnecessarily I had increased my cortisol levels all the while!
I was getting to know the airport procedures from an experienced person from the bunch, then suddenly a familiar voice interruped.
“Bhaisaab aur sau rupaye de denaa…”
It was the driver. He was asking for another hundred rupees more because somehow I had made it within the time and didn’t miss the flight. Though he could very well helped me to miss my flight. I didn’t know if I should laugh so hard or bark at him for everything he had done!
Since barking wasn’t my style and there wasn’t much things he could have done amidst the heavy traffic blocks of Mumbai, I smiled which said “You bloody opportunist” and gave him a hundred rupees more. And I walked towards the main entrance guiding my new friend from Kerala, towards our first international flight.
I thanked all the sources of energy in the world, gods and goddesses, demigods and so on, for making it within the time to the airport. And told myself “Here I come Changi airport”!
Thinking about asking to stop the flight feels stupid now. Do you have any “high action packed last-minute rush” memories?