July 2010 at Bangalore was probably one of my saddest months. I was homesick and lacked friends. My parents made me book my Diwali tickets right back then. Thus began the countdown to homecoming on 4th November.
3rd November @ 11am: Kingfisher calls to inform my flight is cancelled and with it began the 13 most harrowing hours of my life. My flight on 3rd, 4th, 5th all stands cancelled. Other flights to Kolkata are all full. Other airlines are quoting themselves at 13000 minimum. Now what?
Kingfisher gives me 2 offers:
1. 3rd Nov: 8.45pm Bangalore - 11.30pm Delhi then 4th Nov: 6.25am Delhi - 8.30am Kolkata
2. 4th Nov: 10.30am Bangalore - 1.05pm Mumbai then 5.25pm Mumbai - 7.30pm Kolkata
Both offers required me to take an extra day of leave but the 2nd offer ensured that the extra day goes travelling. Hell man! Am I coming home from the US that I need to waste a day travelling by air? I jumped for offer one. My supervisor was cool enough to grant me the extra day of leave. Kingfisher said they'll confirm me at 3pm.
Next task was calming dad. He said "Delhi airport? Whole night? Alone? Have you gone mad? It's full of thieves. You will shut your eyes for a second and ope them to find your luggage gone." Ha Ha Ha! :P Daddy's little girl had a tough time convincing him.
3pm: Kingfisher says my flight to Delhi on 3rd and my flight to Kolkata on 5th is confirmed! What the crap! 5th??? What'll I do for one whole day in Delhi??? Idiot Kingfisher Customer Care people!! Now they say at 4pm they'll confirm. I rush back to my room and pack my bags.
4pm: After 25mins on hold, Kingfisher says it's still not confirmed. I whine and shout and scream. They now assure me that somehow or the other they'll make me reach Kolkata on 4th.
4.30pm: I call up Meru cabs and they say they are facing technical faults and thus can't send me a cab. Rush to auto stand. Make the autowala speed like Dhoom 3. Catch the 5pm airport bus at 4.57pm. LOL.
7pm: Bangalore airport. Some good news. Kolkata flight confirmed on 4th.
Flight to Delhi was smooth and I managed to sleep for 2hrs in the flight.
11.45pm: Delhi airport. The instant I switch on my mobile, daddy calls. "Yeah dad am ok. I am in Departure now. Loads of people here." (All Lies). I wasn't Okay. I was sore and sleepy. I wasn't allowed to enter departure as I had arrived more than 6hours before my flight. There were max 20 passengers hovering in the departure section.
After 15mins they let me in and I bump into an old american in the check in counter. The fellow is worried about his 10000 USD camera and Kingfisher says he'll need to give it in check in baggage. The airport officials are all sleepy. Security check hardly anyone is in the mood of checking. Finally I settle into a chair with my laptop.
Old fellow walks up to me and asks me to help him access WIFI from his Macbook. Am ecstatic. I get to touch a Macbook. Its so sexy. He turns out to be a photographer as I had guessed from the 10 grand camera. Also he turns out to be the director of r&d of Colgate-Pamolive 13 years back.
People of all countries love talking. He kept telling me his experience in Morocco, Mexico, India, Burma, Cambodia. A walking talking lonely planet. He shows me his work. It's lovely. Check it out at : http://paulgrandphoto.com/. I loved a line he said "Looking through the lens at a piece of beauty gives me orgasmic pleasure." It takes him an hour to take a shot and he takes hardly 6-7 shots per trip. The dedication and passion for his work is inspirational.
I wish I can live a life like that which'll take me places literally. I wish I too can take a backpack and start off visiting countries. He says "I wake up everyday and think - this'll be my best day. 90% times it doesn't come true but who cares! Mistakes are very important." Sounds like clichéd words. But at 2am in that lonely airport, I loved listening to him.
He says that India makes him sad. It's the only country where he sees extreme beauty and extreme grief at the same place and same time. He thinks every Indian demands to be photographed. It's like their birthright. You can't deny him that. He loves to see that. Finally he said "Ok now I'll shut up and you can carry on with your work." :P It was 4am by then.
At 4.30am, I hogged on KFC Chicken Popcorn and a Costa Coffee. 5.45am we headed for our boarding. He was going to Jaipur to take some architectural shots. His current emphasis is on architectural abstraction. I never knew that corridors, walls, staircases, windows, doors could look so pretty. Finally kissed him goodbye and boarded my flight and slept off. :)
I conclude: Good things happen when you meet strangers.