A night in the… Airport

Good morning, World. What’d you do for christmas? I slept on a conveyor belt! Quite the experience.

Since we started planning this trip, I knew that I would be going to Kolkata (Calcutta) for the celebration of the anniversary of Neha’s parents. I was excited to see a city that I had never been to in India and had planned to leave on Christmas day and return on the 3rd of January. We threw around ideas of traveling to Goa, Bangkok, Sri Lanka, Nepal!? and other spots within India. Yet, nothing had been decided by the time I arrived in mid-December. Again, the family sat down to plan… which was really more of an excuse to get together over food and talk all evening – fine with me! The whole time, I kept making sure – “but my flight is confirmed to Kolkata, no  matter what, right?” OF course. I didn’t have the flight number, let alone the time of departure… but I had faith, this is India and things just work out… right?

Christmas day arrives – my stomach finally realized we’re in India on Christmas eve – perhaps it has something to do with the stress of a holiday? My body just seems to know it’s time to… how to put this lightly… re-boot? Anyway, I was trying not to eat too much and keep a light diet of, water… But, my aunt’s mother and father decided to have a christmas breakfast because I am from America and I must celebrate this American holiday, right? It was a beautiful spread and one of the sweetest gestures I have experienced. It felt like having grandparents pouring love over me… through food. Of course, I couldn’t be rude and pass up the kindness of their gesture!

Anyway, back to the airport story (I’m rambling a bit due to lack of food and sleep). At around 4:30 pm – Mithi (Rachel) and I were walking around a market called Dilli Haat which was having a handloom expo… and Raja calls from the airport “Where are you? Are you home?” Me: “What’s going on?”… Well, you see, he had ACCIDENTALLY booked his ticket from Kolkata to Delhi instead of from Delhi to Kolkata.. (I know, right!?) and I was supposed to fly on the ticket that was originally booked for him later that evening… umm WHAT!? AND, I might not be able to fly on that ticket because it’s booked in his name and my name is not Ajit Kumar, is IT? Again, I’m in India, so it’s all going to work out somehow… right?

I arrive back home to my aunt and uncle’s house – fearing the frustration of my uncle who is called upon in every emergency, only to receive his patient smile asking what I bought at the market and what was to happen next. I ended up buying a ticket for TRIPLE the original price.. for the same flight the rest of the fam was on – only to see that the flight was DELAYED. OK, fine! A little more time to get ready… I’ve bought the ticket, we’re on the same flight, it’ll all work out… right?

BUT. How will I get to the airport? Another debacle which got sorted out somehow (by the grace of Bharat Mata? {mother India}) – and we all reached the airport. Rumors rush around as the fog rolls in… could the flight get canceled??? “It is a slim to negative chance, don’t worry! Hand me your credit card.” Boarding passes are issued… As I am holding out my hand to receive my boarding pass (SO CLOSE!) “ALL FLIGHT’S CANCELED – NO VISIBILITY!”

Yelling. Shouting. Calling out for the supervisor. Supervisor shows up with cell phone on his ear (30 minutes after flights are canceled). People can’t get out of the airport. People can’t get in to the airport. Roars of chanting lift from behind the security check points. How did flights on other airlines take off? Why is it midnight and we are not on the plane? What is to happen to our flight? When will we leave? You will receive an SMS message after 8am letting you know when you will fly. A TEXT MESSAGE!? Where will we sleep? No accommodations? Where will we go?

I instantly whip out the laptop – I’m sure that I saw another, cheaper flight on another airline. I will cancel my flight and book on another airline! Brilliant. OOPS, guess who had the same plan? Everyone. Flights canceled. Prices skyrocket. What to do? Stay in Delhi? Hours pass. Luggage is re-collected from the arrival baggage claim area (really? – we have to go where to get the baggage we barely checked in?) and here goes my stomach again. Phone calls. Text messages. Where are you? Have you reached Kol yet? Ha. We have now created a home of our own guarded by our luggage, resting on the conveyor belts, makeshift shawl blankets. Plugging our electronics in the outlets meant for the airline computers. A night at the Airport – we have taken over! Lights dim in the terminal… Priyesh and Neha have purchased tickets on two different flights leaving first thing in the morning – have I purchased my tickets yet? Shouldn’t we go as a group? It’s 2:40 am… Let’s buy 5 tickets here, 3 tickets there – let’s FRAGMENT and fly in different groups. I’M BUYING MY TICKET! OOPS – it won’t take my AMERICAN credit card within 72 hours on Air India – picky picky. Oh wait, we all have american credit cards? Your Indian card is declined? What to do… 3:06. and I find another flight… Cancel my return flight, no way!  FINE, I’ll spend over 10,000 rupees… (ORIGINAL was 3,000 rupees!).. 152,000 rupees later – all 11 of us have a flight to Kolkata. Including return trips. AND… it’s well past 4am. Time to rest on the conveyor belt. And take some medicine for my delhi belly!

At this moment, it is now 7:44 am and I am waiting for my 9am boarding call, sitting on a cell phone charging station… the fog is so dense that it looks like one big white wall rather than a wall of windows. BUT, apparently the pilot only needs 200m of visibility in order to take off. And hey, it’s India, things just work out… right?

Where one might watch the flights take off and land!? Wall of FOG.

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