Arrival – Part 4

I got few warnings about Chicago airport that it is a very (very very… ) big airport and cannot be taken lightly if you have a connecting flight. I estimated its vastness from my aerial view and soon realized that it was an underestimation. There were activities to make it worse. Immigration check was one of them. I almost ran for that entire 1 and a half hour except those 10 minutes I spent in a train which took me from international terminal to the domestic one. I was very ready to experience all three classes in my one way journey and hence gladly accepted the cattle class this time and started waiting anxiously for my final destination.
No, the plane did not crash and I am not writing this sitting in Heaven or Hell.. I am talking about Dallas-Fort Worth Airport.

DFW was altogether a different beauty from the top of the world, huge and scenic. Sun was almost at his perish and by the time I collected my luggage it was dark. I quickly spotted a public phone, experimented with calling card and after a couple of hits and misses I got the caller tune. My wife answered and the voice did the same to me what smoke does to an addict. After utilizing a full quota of 15 minutes a day on my calling card, I headed to the exit in search of a cab.

The moment I stepped out I realized had I been here a month before, I would have seen the coldest nights of my life. Chilling breeze hit my face and I felt like having 100s of needles piercing my face. I ran to the taxi stand and jumped into one. It took 20 minutes to reach the hotel. Radisson, as they call it, was no where similar to any hotels in India. No boundary walls and no gate keeper with big moustache on the gate. I quickly completed the check-in procedure and took an overview of the lobby. There I spotted the place where I was going to spend all my evenings. The Cassidys. An in-house night club of Radisson. (wink.. )

Soul was hungry so was the stomach. I was feeling that I had only a day or 2 in this hotel and so I should be better hurry up to catch all the hospitality it was about to offer me. After taking a long and lazy hot bubble bath, it was time for some food. Not to my surprise, when I stepped in the restaurant and took up the menu, I was not able to visualize a single item in that. Somehow I zeroed on one and started waiting for it. In the mean time, the music started growing inside the Cassidys. I got up to take a quick view of the place. Now that was surprising. Cowboy hats, check-shirt clad men in their 50s cluttered the club. A maintaining ratio of women was decorating the club, both in the terms of number and age. But their enthusiasm was strikingly different from the people of my land. Feet on the dance floor, drinks on the tables and country songs in the air were enough to get me interested in this place. I asked a waitress to bring my food here so that I may not miss a moment. As the evening turned into night, younger guests started entering and competing with the veterans.

I gave company to my food and drinks throughout till they played the last song and then I walked up to my room. Welcome to Texas.

Frankfurt – Part 3

It was a cold day at Frankfurt. I desperately wanted to update my parents and wife that I was fine and safe. Although, there was no climate catastrophe, no terror warning or a war in Europe, still unlimited access to communication makes all of us addicted to status updates. It was 3 hours for my connecting flight to Chicago so I became a little relaxed and started searching for public telephones. But again, thanks to unlimited access to communications, everybody has a mobile phone these days which is why public phones are getting harder to be spotted.

To be on safer side, I decided to go the departure gate first and make sure that the information I have is correct and then explore the airport.
I was desperate to go the business lounge again.. : - ).
It looked like a self-managed, strangely disorganized, cluttered and yet amazing airport. It was easy to spot people of all walks of life finding their own space of comfort in that area. Blacks, whites, Asians, kids, olds, youth, rich and poor. There was a girl looking for a power socket to charge her mobile phone. Huge shops were lined up in one section. A plenty of Indian were there who were behaving exceptionally well as compared to black and white kids and young boys and girls.

There were automated moving walkways in the vast lobby which was a thoughtful innovation for old people. However some kids made it into a giant rollercoaster and were trying every possible to and fro travel across that walkway. Soon an old man, in his 50s, wearing roller skates, joined the game of coupling himself with the moving hand rest of the walkway and started rolling besides it.

My destination was near i.e. my departure gate# 65 and the business lounge nearby. It was morning time and breakfast was ready in the lounge. I headed straight to usual section of milk and cereals and suddenly stopped by some unknown force. A really humble idea came in my mind that now if I am on a 1 month journey, why not giving a try to new tastes. I looked at the counters and observed people and finally decided to go with a tuna sandwich. Fishes are always my biggest subject of disinterest when it comes to food. But I gave them another chance to impress me and after having that, I can say, I really can’t express the warmth, tenderness and exotic taste of that sandwich, in words.

Economy in west is in bad shapes. This was proved by the fact that the unlike Namma Bengaluru, Frankfurt airport was charging for wireless internet. : - ) Now that I couldn’t find a phone, I was uncomfortably hyper to talk/communicate to Suman. And what could be better than an email? Thankfully the lounge had few desktop computers, without any charge, which gave me a chance to send a couple of one liners across the continents. After spending some time, it headed back to the lounge and started acting like a busy-frequent-flier-executive. Took a drink for myself, grabbed a news paper and found a spot facing the runway. Exactly when I was about to start my performance of a business man who can make smart decisions based on a financial newspaper, I came to know that the newspaper was a German one. Almost grinning on myself, I got myself another drink.

12:30 was time for the boarding and I was enjoying my last 45 minutes in the lounge when I heard some foreign language announcements containing a word which caught my attention.
Dies ist ein Ankündigung für mr ebbyshaik, wenden Sie sich bitte an der Pforte 65.
It repeated itself in English.
This is an announcement for Mr Abhishek, please contact at the gate 65.

In negative anticipations I ran towards gate 65 and upon reaching, announced my identity. The lady at the counter took me 5 steps away from the counter and those 5 steps were really very heavy on my feet. Thousands of thoughts about passport, visa, tickets, security and what not, started running in my mind. Once she started speaking, my blood pressure started coming to normal. There was a hardware problem, as she said it, with my seat in the plain. The control buttons were not working and hence she offered me to take another plane i.e. FRA-Denver and Denver to DFW. After regaining my normalcy, I started thinking about pros and cons of my could-be-decision. I never travelled for such a long time in an aircraft so I was not able to imagine the level of discomfort I would get.

Without thinking much I opted for my original option and left everything else to my fate. On my extra grateful behavior, the ground staff also came to a different level. One lady escorted me to the craft. Called the technical support guys for the last attempt to make the seat working and guess what, it worked. Till today I suspect that they tried to trick me because they wanted to give that seat to some influential guest. : - )

Then again, started a gala time of eating, drinking, sleeping, stretching and enjoying the plain which ended in 9 long hours.

In-Flight – Part 2

Why I love window seat?
A. I flew for the first time when I was 22.
B. I am a fan of Bill Gates.
C. I don’t know.
D. I think, in case of an emergency I would safely jump out.

The right answer is C.
Yeah, I don’t why but in spite of having numerable instances of disturbing people on the aisle seat for washrooms and regretting of not having an aisle seat in case of Kingfisher airlines, I love to be seated on a window seat.

That day was no exception. My travel agent took my request seriously and arranged a window seat for me. My fellow colleague who recently came from US told me that LH air hostesses do not talk to the people who do not drink. So, with the clear intentions of getting a good customer service, I decided to say yes whenever anybody would ask me for a drink in the next 9 hours.
Interestingly, I had already set my biological clock before even reaching to the other part of the world. It was 3:30 AM and I was wide awake, experimenting with all the luxuries I was expected to use to their fullest. In those 9 hours, I watched a movie, Red Cliff. Revised a movie called Kaminey, slept, had touch-ups with the colon-dipped tissues, had food and explored the washrooms. In total, it was a nice experience to stretch and have a nice flight.

I opened the window panes after 7 hours, in the anticipation of having a look of firangi asmaan. Instead I got a very strange view of white clouds down there. They looked like snow on the vast planes but I knew that we were nowhere close to the land because there were still 2 more hours to reach Frankfurt. Yahan ke toh baadal bhi paraye hein... reminded me of a dialogue from DDLJ ... yahan ke toh kabutar bhi paraye hein.
(bad joke ?? skip this.. oh you have already read it.. :-D another bad joke.. )

Very soon my wait ended and I started seeing some land. Bright and colorful. Full of white color. Endless panorama view of snow and snow. Upon reaching closer to the city, the colors started changing. Streets, trees, cars, highways and mushroom-looking-unorganized-country-houses started cropping out of the snow, showing off.

After desperately waiting for 9 hours, the aircraft took a plunge. The snow region was left way back. Frankfurt was cloudy but snowless. The aircraft, with arms wide open, threw herself upon the dark, tall and handsome runway which cuddled us in himself with love.
I took my 1st step on a foreign land.

Departure – Part 1

After all possible checks, cross checks and double checks on my tickets, passport, luggage and clothes I started waiting anxiously for my cab to come and take me to the airport. While everybody in the house was wide awake, thrilled about my travel and interested in me talking to them, I was waiting for a call/SMS confirmation from my cab.
Finally I called up and got the confirmation that the cab would be there on time.

While on one hand I was really excited about my 4 weeks escapade from my usual life and ghar-grahasti, I was sub-consciously started feeling that how much I would miss my daughter in the coming days. That natural bond between an animal and its offspring was growing stronger inside me after every passing minute. So I took a strong step and asked Suman to put Nicku on sleep.

Then started the final hour which we all spent in chit-chatting with each other. At 11:45 sharp the cab guy called me and told me that he was outside..
all my bags are packed, I am ready to go… my taxi is waiting… already I am so.. … I am leaving on a …

Instantly upon climbing in the cab I dumped all my anxiousness and started enjoying the ride. In Bangalore, you cannot have such a beautiful ride at any other hour of the day. No traffic, no noise.. cool breeze and myself. It took just 20 minutes to reach Hebbal Flyover after that the long stretch of new airport road was waiting for me. But within minutes my driver started taking big volumes of air in his lungs.. which we sometime call yawning. With my natural instinct of survival I immediately stopped thinking about the blondes of USA and started concentrating on the driver.

That led to another disaster when I asked him how cab companies make money and why his company charge 900 bucks for an airport ride where Meru asks for 600. That night I got the most valuable business knowledge of my life in terms of logistics, govt policies, petrol prices, local companies, global companies, car insurance and what not. My patience ran out and I started praying to both Indian and American gods that my driver should shut up. However nobody listened to my prays and I reached the airport with the over dosage of the business conditions in India.

I was only 3 hours early for my flight and that was the reason, I believed that I am doomed and I will not get a seat. My heart was running and so was I. As I was flying with the business class, the lady at the check-in counter gave me a business lounge entry pass which I immediately forgot to use once I entered the waiting area where I saw the biggest inventory of alcohol I have had ever seen in my entire life. It was a you-name-it-we-have-it scenario. The only problem was that I did not even know so many names.

After gaining some valuable information(read Names and Prices :-)) of some very expensive alcohols, I headed to the other areas which comprised of shops, restaurant and bars. Showing off my ignorance once again, I thought that was the business lounge because it was stunningly clean, bright and exuberant. After spending an hour playing X-BOX and enquiring digital cameras in that area I finally asked a guy if that was the business lounge and he routed me to the right place. Upon entering I realized the value of the last hour which I wasted.

For the next one hour I experimented with different types of alcohols and airport’s free internet to tell the entire world what a gala time I was having.
Thanks to twitter and Facebook.

After some, I don’t know how much, time the LCD screens flickered and Now Boarding appeared in front of LH 755. With all the un-explainable anxiety and thrill, I walked towards my aircraft.