It’s 6:52 AM UK time – 09 November 2008 – a wonderful Sunday – and I am in my cozy hotel room in London city. Before I talk more about my first international travel, I must tell all you folks, how I almsot fucked it up.
My flight’s scheduled departure was at 00:30 AM on 8 November IST (Saturday). A new pub had opened at the Chennai airport – Zaras. I arrived at the airport at about 10:15 PM and straightaway hit the pub. I had Prachi and Danny to give me company.
Earlier in the day I had been told by Anna that for international flights I must report at least two hours before the departure time. I was to reach Mumbai at 2:30 AM (Chennai-Mumbai is a two hours flight) and since the Mumbai-London flight was scheduled only for 7 in the morning, I definitely had more than two hours to report. Oh, so wrong I was!
After having a wonderful time at Zaras, and hugging good-bye to Prachi, I rushed to the Domestic Terminal. It was 11:30 PM and that’s when I realized something was wrong. I was told that the Mumbai flight would depart from the international terminal instead. I rushed to the international terminal, thinking what was going on. There, at the check-in, I had to witness the shock of my life as the Air India dude sitting on the opposite side check-in counter gazed at me in bewilderment and said- ‘why are you coming now? It’s too late’. I was speechless. I froze even more when another colleague of his, passed an even shocking suggestion to him – ‘don’t issue any more Mumbai boarding-passes’.
Thankfully that dude sitting on the other side of the check-in counter was helpful. He issued a boarding pass but suggested that I run to the immigration as I didn’t have much time. It was 11:50 when I finally placed myself in the immigration queue – and oh how bloody long the queue was!
After standing for about 10 minutes, I freaked out. There were still about 30 of them ahead of me and I had noticed that it took more than 2-3 minutes to process each one of them. If I kept standing like that, there was no way I could board my flight.
‘Hi, what time does your flight depart’ – I asked the firang standing in front of me. His flight was scheduled for 1:30. I told him about my situation and he gladly let me go ahead of me. I did the same to the next guy and then I started doing so till in next five minutes I was ahead of everyone in the queue. Phew! What a relief!
The dude on the other side of immigration desk started asking me questions. I suddenly realized that I smelled so strongly of beer – I only hoped that this didn’t bother him. To my relief, It didn’t. After being satisfied with my answers, he let me go.
When I finally took my window seat inside the aircraft, I looked at my watch – 00:30 AM. Phew!