Conversations with Strangers

I have noticed that I have start being a bit more chatty with strangers that I meet these days. The following are some pieces of information I have learnt from rank strangers.

Our watchman complained about robbers trying to whisk away vehicles in the wee hours. This was the second attempt in our apartment building, so I went to talk to the sub-control set up near Padmarao Nagar Park. The constable there told that only two days back they had caught one such robber, late at night in the Srinivasa Nagar area. It seems that most of these vehicle robbers and bike-gangs stealing chains are youth from rich families, who are addicted to alcohol/drugs. Most of these thefts are impromptu, based on finances and the pocket money cycle. They steal bikes and sell them for any price they get, sometimes even Rs.1000-2000! Since there is no pattern to these thefts, the police have been largely ineffective in finding out who they are and thankless that their job is, the times that they have caught these offenders, the rich-politically aligned- i am all powerful- super-dads have come to their wards’ [1] rescue and all their police work has ended in them getting to see the offenders go scot-free. If only those super-dads had funded their son’s vagaries properly, some random unsuspecting persons would not have lost their vehicles/jewelry. Just when I was feeling sympathetic to the lone policeman’s cause, I was brought back to reality. The constable started asking questions regarding completing graduation in a single sitting. It seems he plans to become an Sub-Inspector soon and for that he ought to be a graduate. He was enquiring if I knew some place where one could just GET a degree. Then he went on to make his career-plans even more clear. The city , it seems, is not a nice place for constables like him from Godavari to start their SI career. A small time place would be perfect, especially with the election season coming. The small time people/complaints are too much of a bother for too little benefit, he says. All he would do is get SET with some local big-shot and that would be enough. Though one cannot generalize based on the above statements, but I am sure this kind of attitude is all pervasive.

 

There is this soup-vendor on the way from Big Street to Parthasarathy temple in Triplicane. More about the prasadams at Parthu’s here. The last time I went to the temple, I stopped by to have some tomato soup. One year on, I did the same again. This time around I started asking a few questions. Now this stall had some Self Employment Group’s name on it. The guy started getting a bit defensive after a few questions which I thought he deemed them to be invasive for his business. After telling him that I was a non-local and that I had been a customer a year back, he toned down,  freed up with his answers  and even added the ” the moment I saw you, I knew I had seen you before” line. Now for the soup-deal. It is a franchise system, where one has to pay Rs.15,000 upfront. Each day he buys 4 containers of 4 different flavours, worth Rs.200, with an additional transit burden of Rs.50. On an average, he gets about Rs.250-300 per day, setting shop at 5PM selling one cup at a retail price of Rs.10 and closing at around 9PM.  Though  the franchises of a particular company have their own half kilometre no in-fighting radius, there is competition from other company franchises. So for 4 hours a day, considering the worst-case estimates, Rs.6,000 is guaranteed per month. This, apart from the day-job of a driver at L&T. Done with the soup I moved on thinking that if one is ready to put in their life into any which thing, there are bound to be ways to earn a decent living anywhere.

 

Indian Railways has these trains called Rajdhani Express. Supposed to be one of the better services offered by them. Starting this May, Airtel has taken over the maintenance of these trains, as I learnt from a fellow passenger who does a weekly Bangalore – Hyderabad trip. I was told this but there was no sign of the change. As luck would have it, an old rake had come and the up-gradations to the facilities were yet to happen to this train. The maintenance team was still Airtel’s, but there wasn’t much difference when compared to the normal Sleeper class. The toilets were stinkier than normal if I might add. The food was okay, but the chai-paise seeking staff was not. More on the economics of tea later. Let’s hope that in due course, things will change in this regard in all classes, on all trains. 

Dooba Dooba Rehta Hoon

Sitting there at the shore at Marina Beach, watching a bunch of kids umping around in the waves, made me reminisce all the times I have ever been to a beach.

Spending summers in Triplicane, meant a significant number of visits to Marina. But the farthest I could go back in memory was the time when I , as the only grandchild on my maternal side ( so much more attention ) , was there with the entire family and was bought a paper-fan, either through the entireprise of that seller or my persistence. But I still remember my father trying to explaining the mechanics of that paper-fan. Obvoiusly, from what I am now, I seem to have given that lesson a big pass. The next in chronology was the time it was just me and dad, when a  huge wave took away one of my slippers along with, almost me. Though I had no special attachment to that pair, I felt very disappointed , when dad threw away the other one into the waves. The slippers got united with each other. I got united with a new pair at Mount Road Bata. There was another time, when  I lost a pair, but this time was not all that pleasant. It was at the Hyderabad Zoo. I was running across the grass, to get near to a duck but got stuck in a marsh.

Marina is a part of me. I mean literally, there are some glass shards embedded in my right sole ( Yes Akshay. I am listening ) . Playing frisbee on the beach is not always a pleasant experience.

Continuing with beaches, the next beach on the list is Besant Nagar beach. The relatively neater of the two, this is the only place I have tasted Chukku Coffee, a good 10 years back. It is only recently, i.e., Saarang 2007, That I spent more time at this beach. To be precise, 4 times in 4 days, all till late night. The roads around Theosophical Society creep me out, as all the memories I have of them are my grandfather’s funeral, but the beach calmed me down after the first two nights. I have, some kind of attachment with water in general and sea in particular. The waves pounding on the shores create a kind of silence in the mind, helping me think a bit clearer than before. Also, though I never learnt swimming nor know how to swim, I have always felt very comfortable in the waves. Being alone in the waves is probably on top of the list of things I enjoy doing the most. Plus, any beach with a Murugan Idly outlet on the shore and your closest friends around will definitely leave you a lot of pleasant memories.

From here on I place the beaches in a chronological order.

 

1990 – Tarapore, MH 

Went to beach from Tarapore, though do not exactly remember the name of the beach. It had those trees on the beach that they keep showing in the movies and the sand there was black. Sunset was brilliant.

 

1994 – Kovalam Beach near Mahabalipuram,TN

Bitter-sweet experience was this one. This was officially my first floating lesson. Had great fun trying to float. One big wave later, me, my sister and my mother were on way to join the sea. Luckily, we were pulled to safety. Fifteen years down the line and after many more such lessons, I am yet to float once.

 

1996 – Rameswaram-Dhanuskhkodi, TN

Rameswaram seemed to be a very quiet one. I mean the waves, they somehow didn’t seem to exist. It was almost as if we were in a pond or a tank. 

Dhanushkodi, on the other hand, was a handful, so much so that did not even venture out into it.  The waves were like the froth and foam in a Surf ad.

 

1996/2003 – Kanyakumari, TN

Kanyakumari has so much significance all with the Triveni Sangamam and what not. But the waves seemed to cancel out each other, giving a live example of destructive interference and more importantly removing all the fun out of staying ashore. But venturing out a little into the sea, onto the rocks is totally worth the risk. And the fall.

 

1998 – Konark Beach, OR

As part of a bunch of starved NCC candidates who were given a day off from their Camp, I got to visit the Sun temple for the second time. The beach, well, we reached very late in the evening and with a very protective Officer in charge of us, all we got to do is stand on the beach for a group photo. End of story. More on the camp later. 

 

2003 – Kovalam, KL

The most dangerous beach I  have seen. So dangerous, that the sign boards on the beach had Achtung all over them. Why German? Don’t ask me, but  it was an awesome display of the sheer power that the sea possesses during monsoon times. 

 

2004 – Juhu, Mumbai, MH

Had gone into the sea on a boat ride earlier in the day at Sunil Shetty’s water theme park ( whatever it is called ). That was a dampener, so was hoping that at least the famed Juhu beach would soothe me. All I have to say about it is that it is the most polluted beach I have ever visited and that those were the most exorbitant prices quoted for such tasteless pani-puris.

 

2006/2008 – Pondicherry

The Frenchie roads give Pondi a classy look. Getting to the shore off the roads, by maneuvering over the rocks is sure to give you the kicks if you get it right or deep cuts and bruises if you get it wrong. Waves were ok but the June heat wasn’t. 

The beach across ECR just before entering Pondi, is worth a try. Water is too deep for novices. 

Tip : If the waves  are normal a few metres in to the sea but are very weak at the shore, this means the water is pretty deep at the shore.

 

2006 – Colva – Calungute, Goa

Though I spent 5 days in Goa, could visit only 2 beaches. Colva where we stayed and Calungute.

Calungute is another roughie and thoroughly enjoyable. Especially when you are with 60 other lunatics. We had wars with the sea amongst other things. The power of the sea there felt so good, that we visited it twice. The sand was very loose.

Colva was where we ventured well in to the sea. For, that is where we jet-skied. Did it so many times. Should have para-glided as well. Went out into the sea for dolphin viewing, but ended up being given a cold shoulder by the overtly shy dolphins. But all of this is not what I remember Colva for, for it was the nights at the  beach, that gave me the best moments. The bon-fire was great; so was the cake-cutting; the kabaddi. The last hour at the beach from 3am that I spent alone on the beach with the crabs, is probably the most peaceful I have ever felt.

 

2007 – RK Puram – Rushikonda, Vizag, AP

Vizag. RK Puram beach. Rocks. Fear. Waves. Power. Fear. Waves + Rocks + Fear = Bruises All Over.

Waking up from bed, to watch the sun rise from behind the sea is a feeling I cannot put in words. But being bruised, battered and beaten by that sea, that I totally can. After deciding against going anywhere near the waves after seeing the rough waters, we were faced with waes which were pretending to say, Bachke Kahaan Jaoge. They roped us in and battered us against the rocks. All this in spite of playing safe.

Later in the day, we went to Rushikonda beach ( Opposite GITAMS. What I would give to rewind the clock and go there ) . This place is just great. It was a sea change ( pun intended ) from RK Puram. I recommend the hand-run boat ride into the sea. Don’t take the motor boat. It is an exhilarating experience, especially with the waves, at many instances, seemingly overpowering the boat and sinking us. No theme park ride ( again pun intended ) can s(t)imulate this feeling in us. I also recommend staying at the APTDC guest house ON Rushikonda. Pricey they may be, but the view is worth the plunge. Also, protect yourself against sunburns. Two of us lost a lot of skin off the face and back. 

 

2008 – Clearwater Beach, FL

When Florida is mentioned, one’s mind fills up with a huge beach beaming with humongous crowds and lots of surf. Well all of that is crap in January, with the water freezing and the beaches totally empty. Was a damp squib, but the sand at this beach was too fine to be true. To hell with Clearwater, I’d rename it Finesand.

 

That is quite a number of beaches I have visited, but I hope I get to see a lot more, for it is the only place I feel at peace with myself.

( The above post was first written on paper in Chennai. First of its kind. Also, may be, the last of its kind ) 

Once upon a train journey

Today I intend to tell you the story of Ramudu and Shyamudu.

Ramudu had to travel to Chennai from Hyderabad, to check the average height above mean sea level of the Chepauk pitch. Considering the Iraq war, the oil crisis, the recent air-fare hike and the relocation of the Hyderabad airport to Shamshabad, he decides that traveling by Indian Railways is a far cheaper and more comfortable option. So one fine morning, he goes early to the Railway Reservation Counter at Secunderabad. The office is yet to be opened, yet he reaches early in time. He is joined by many others most of whom, who weren’t like him. Ramudu was there to book a ticket , well ahead of his scheduled departure, whereas most of these people were there to book tickets under Tatkal quota.

Fools, Ramudu thought of these people, because he saw the Tatkal quota in a totally different light. It was similar to what he saw at Anand theatre in Begumpet. The management would open the advance booking counter for the evening and night shows in the afternoon and close it early. Later in the evening, before the respective shows, they would put up House-Full boards and then sell a significant chunk of the tickets for these shows, in black. Ramudu saw Tatkal quota as a front put up by the Indian Railways to sell tickets in black. If only the government could do the same by legalizing ( illicit ) drugs, betting and the related what nots and earn heavily and do away with the multiple taxation structure and Ramudu, with his enhanced savings, could travel to Chennai by a flight, in spite of the higher airfares. But then again, this was the stuff dreams were made of. Ramudu realized he was still standing in line for the Railway Reservation Office to open.

Open it did finally at 745AM and he rushed to the inquiry counter, picked up a reservation form and rushed to one of the many counters. Since Ramudu was a regular to this ordeal, he knew one thing very clearly. One might be at the end of the line before the office is opened, but with so many counters, one can still be in the first 5 persons in a line at any one of those counters. It so happened that he was the fifth person at one such counter. But there is a sense of uncertainty about these counters at the start of the day. In front of every counter, there is a display board, showing the availability, train no., fare and related details of the booking they are making, assisting the customer to get the exact change ready as the Booking Executive (B.E. if one may call them that ) goes about booking the ticket.

Now it was a known fact for Ramudu and others, that the counters which had their display boards powered off, were not going to opened immediately and would be done only if there is a huge rush for reservations. But it also happens that some of these counters, which had their display boards on, are not opened at 8am, but a little later in the morning, say after 30-45 minutes or so. But there are customers at all the counters which have their display board powered on. One by one, the railway staff started occupying their seats at the counters, in a seemingly random order. At this stage all but few ( 2-3 ) lines, were being catered to by the railway staff. Ramudu was in one of those few which weren’t. But he had not wasted time while this simple situation was being obfuscated by a gargantuan description. He had meticulously filled the reservation form and was patiently waiting.

But his patience started to run out, when he saw that he was in one of those lines. He started contemplating moving to another line. At this moment, sanity prevailed as he remembered The Golden Rule of Lines in Railway Reservation Office ( to hell with Queues ), which stated that, the moment you ditch a line on the premise that it is moving slowly and move to another, that line will move so much more faster than the line to which you have moved to. Of course, the rule never alluded to the pace of the line when you showed loyalty to it in the time of a conflict of interest between two lines, but the disincentive proved enough for Ramudu to decide against moving to another line. For this, he was rewarded with a railway staff person immediately taking charge of the counter. Poor fellow got stuck in traffic it seems.

There were a few who shifted lines only to be done in by the Golden Rule. Their counters, got staffed 2 minutes after they had left the line and they created a huge commotion at the Chief Superintendent’s counter. In spite of all this around him, Ramudu was not perturbed one bit. He was in fact, feeling good about himself for having stuck to the line. It moved and it was now his turn. The B.E. , after confirming with Ramudu, entered the details in to the DOS command like package from the previous century, from the reservation form. After a final confirmation about the berth to be allocated, the B.E. pressed a combination of keys and voila, came out the ticket, looking something like this Know Your Ticket dummy ticket.

Dummy Ticket

( Note that the ticket has no details about the passenger’s name or the photo-id that they ought to be carrying )

Since this story was supposed to also include Shyamudu, let me bring him in now. Shyamudu wanted to accompany Ramudu, since it was his barometer that Ramudu was taking for the measurement. Ramudu informed Shyamudu about his travel plans. Shyamudu was not inclined to go to the Reservation Office, stand in line and book the ticket manually. Instead, he preferred to use the Indian Railways online booking service at www.irctc.com. He logged in, searched for the train Ramudu was traveling by, entered his travel details, credit(debit) card details and photo-id details. Everything is done in a flash and a printout of the ticket is ready.For travel, Shyamudu (foolishly) decides to take a photocopy of his passport and not the passport itself, citing ( to himself ) security reasons.

The travel to Chennai went ahead without an incident. Together they found out that a barometre would hardly suffice their cause, and that they needed to invest in a differential GPS to get anywhere close to the accuracy levels they needed to settle their argument on the pitch at Chepauk. After having a nice meal at Murugan Idli Shop, they boarded the train back to Hyderabad. The TTE ( Traveling Ticket Examiner ) arrived a good hour into the journey. Ramudu gave his ticket, following which the TTE did the routine looking back forth into the reservation chart and ticket, ticked the reservation chart across Ramudu’s name and returned the ticket to Ramudu with the most lifeless face. Then he took Shyamudu’s e-ticket, checked with the chart and asked Shyamudu for his photo-id. Shyamudu showed the photocopy of his passport. The TTE refused to accept the photocopy of the passport, which had Shyamudu’s photograph, as a valid proof of identity. He insisted on the passport being present in original for him to verify. Shyamudu was fined for traveling without ticket. What happened after that is beyond the scope of this textbook.

Finally the rant after all that crap.

I do not know whether Shyamudu actually paid the fine. As such he could have just shown another valid photo-id in original and be done with the process. But Shyamudu was a 70 year old lady who at that point of time, did not have any other id on her person. All she could come up with was a <em>this will not happen another time as I was not aware of the details</em>. Probably someone else had booked the ticket for her online.

This whole situation made me finally write what I felt about a situation. The verification of identity, for railway travelers using an e-ticket. It is important to note the premise of this verification; a ticket booked on one person’s name is not transferrable to another person. Verification is needed, that is something I totally agree but what is irksome is the fact that the same verification is not done for Ramudu. Note that Ramudu needn’t always be a manchi baaludu ( good boy ). It could very well be that Bhimudu had booked the ticket on Bhimudu’s name but Ramudu travels ( he got the ticket somehow ) pretending to be Bhimudu.

The two basic ( for my rant ) differences between a normal ticket and an e-ticket is that for the e-ticket you pay a little bit more and that the information is keyed in by a railway employee in one case and the customer in the other. So the railway decides to trust their own info excessively but is totally skeptical about the customer. Fine. But the chances of malpractice are the same in both the cases. In that case they ought to be checking every single passenger’s identity. I know it is not all that viable but that is the only solution that I see that can be termed fair to e-ticket passengers and monetarily beneficial to the Railways. One might say that it ends up being more workload for the TTE’s but for someone whose job is checking every ticket, checking another ID should not be a big deal. But then not everyone has an id, you may say. Then why the insistence on an ID for an e-ticket only?

As I see it now, one gets suspected for using the online portal, paying more to the railways and avoiding the personal contact with the Reservation office whereas you can go scot-free for having a normal ticket, even if you are flouting the most basic of rules.

The Big Bad Journey

Welcome to another blog of mine. I couldn’t get to login to my old one so starting afresh again.Starting afresh with my life as well. This first post is the description how I made it to Rochester.

The send off at the Hyderabad terminal was an emotional experience and I was overwhelmed by the sheer presence of all those who are really close to me. I thank everyone who made it out to wish me well. I was to travel with Santosh, a friend’s cousin who is also a neighbour and our mums travel together to office. Nice chap. He is to join at RIT. Once we entered the terminal, we got all our luggage wrapped with some plastic.

Checking in was a tedious process. So many people traveling with so much luggage. Finally after an hour or so, we got to check in our luggage till Newark, went ahead to the immigration where strangely asked if I had insurance. Strangely, because it wasn’t something I expected that I would be asked for in India. When I did show the papers , he was puzzled to see that it was ICICI. Why was he puzzled, I have no idea. Then went ahead into the lobby to get seated as we still had a lot of time for the scheduled departure. The flight was rescheduled to 3.40am from 3.00am so the waiting continued.

We were bugged by two American Indian kids ,with their non stop chatter about homework and school. With all the extended last minute roaming over the last 2 days, both of us were physically stressed out and wanted to doze off for a few minutes but couldn’t cause of that noise. The flight was finally announced and we did make it out fine in the flight which means, we slept. The seats were all cramped up. But for a flight of a short duration, most people wouldn’t complain.

The terminal at Mumbai was awesome. I had seen the Delhi one during renovation about an year ago and felt it would be a fine terminal and here I got to see the end result of a similar renovation. Made a call to my parents just to inform them that everything was fine up until then. Made a visit to the loo as well. Bought some dollars with the Indian currency that I was left with. There was some problem at the immigration counter; the scanner wouldn’t accept my passport. Must have had something to do with my photo [:P]. Things got sorted out and we got onto AI 191. I was seated beside a Gujju female who was going to NY. I liked her company in the sense that she never disturbed me all through the flight. I just wanted to sleep sleep and sleep and then sleep more. And I suppose she wanted to do the same so no troubles on that front.

We had a stopover at Paris. Charles De Gaulle Airport seemed to have a never ending runway. After an hour , we started off to Newark again. Watched Cheeni Kum, Teesri Kasam and Shrek 3 when I wasn’t sleeping. I was a bit apprehensive about Air India mostly because of what I heard from others. Now that I have done it, I say..Fly Air India without having any reservations( the ticketing kind u need, the apprehensive kinds u needn’t ). The food was great. I had 6 meals and each one was very very nice. The seats were comfortable enough for such a long flight.

And then came Newark Liberty International Airport. Anthony James stamped me in at the Immigration counter without asking anything. We took the $3 trolleys and waited for like half an hour to claim the baggage. Next up was the biggest hurdle; the Customs and Agricultural check. The lady asked me if I had any food item to which I replied in the positive saying that I had some traditional Indian soup powders. She didn’t understand anything and asked again” Do you have chicken or meat in your baggage? “. I firmly said “No” . My baggage was then screened and wasn’t even opened. The hyped-up saga was finished with in no more than 2 minutes. That was the end of that. All the meticulously prepared and packed foodstuffs would finally get to see their way through into a kitchen and not the end of trash.

Since I had taken the extra baggage I had to pay $80 as charges to Continental Airlines flight from Newark to Rochester during check in. But thats not a fact. I should have had to paid that amount, but they did not charge me on the basis that it was a connecting flight, which in fact it wasn’t – it was a separate booking so got lucky on that one. Santosh didn’t prepare to pay for that. Airlines in the US allow up to 18kgs plus a personal item as cabin baggage so he had prepared his extra baggage to meet those size and weight specifications. He was in visible discomfort because of the flight ; some neck problem and all. He had to carry on with the pain and his overweight cabin baggage all along. We got to our terminal on an air-train.

We checked in at around 630pm and the flight to Rochester was scheduled to leave at 9pm. And then it happened. A quick shower took center stage of the busy NY scene for about half an hour and disturbed the entire flight schedule at the airport. Continental had its separate terminal busy and bustling with cancellation activity. Rescheduling was the norm and cancellations were no surprise. At around 730pm ours was rescheduled to 1030pm and the flights before that to Rochester, i.e., the ones at 430pm and 530pm were canceled within a few minutes of that. We decided to inform those supposed to pick us up about the delay. And now the adventure began.

Both of us had not brought coin change though we had $1 notes ( bills supposedly ). I asked many people passing by- passengers, airport staff, stores. None of them were willing to part with change either because they hadn’t any with them or just trying to enforce their free will. I went to a foreign exchange store and she was trying to sell me a calling card of $10 ( minimum ) instead of giving me change for a $1 in quarters. She finally gave me the change for $2 in quarters after a little persuasion mixed with desperation.

I went to the pay-phone and tried to call Alex, a guy who had been staying at the place of a my accommodation. I dialed the number and was asked to enter $1 for a 5minute call. After I did that , it said that I had dialed wrong and that I had to try again. I did it again and same result. All the change was gone and the intimation wasn’t done yet. Santosh went to the restroom and found a tamilian who was more than willing to let him call his pickup guy. But as luck would have it, the guy at the other end was not lifting the call. It was 9pm – we had not had any food in a long time and were pretty tired as well, at this time. We then got some more change and this time decided to ask someone for help – enough with the experiments. We approached an African-American Airport staff for help and he let us call from his phone. I informed Alex about the delay and asked him to inform Kamesh, my roommate about the delay as he would come to pick me up at the airport with someone. He said that he would do the same. Santosh called from the pay-phone ( previously I had not pressed 1 before dialing the local number, the same staff guy helped us out with this call too ) and informed his friend as well. Santosh had an extra hand baggage, which I adjusted into my back-pack after putting my stuff in his bag.

All this time we were away from the gate at which our boarding would be. Walked a long way to get to our place. There we found quite some rush at the gate as those who had gotten their flights canceled were waiting for either getting accommodated in a later flight or taking another route. Many of them were simply canceling and going away. We found an Indian girl who seemed to be in the same crowd who after noticing us , approached us to ask if even we had gotten our flight canceled. She seemed pretty furious about the situation and was waiting for some kind of confirmation from the airline authority. She went away to the customer service center and both of us settled there in the lobby near the boarding gate.

The flight was rescheduled to 1130pm and then to 12am so we decided to have some food or the other. We had to walk a long way with our baggage for around 3km to get to a food court which was open-the rest of the stores closed by 9pm. The walking was kind of reduced with the presence of conveyor belts, read horizontal escalators. After a lot of searching we finally got there. Light at the end of the tunnel was McDonald’s. There were many other stores but we weren’t willing to pay so much too. I decided on a large strawberry shake and Santosh went in for some French fries and a shake. First meal in the US – A milkshake for $3. Halfway through the shake we decided to walk to our gate only to find that our flight was removed from the Departures listing. Things running in my mind at that time :
first – has the flight left before schedule without us ?

second – I don’t think so because they had been making announcements, informing passengers who had not boarded and that they would do so for us as well

third – they made the announcement and since we were in a very busy food court, we never heard the announcement

fourth – they never announced it on this side of the terminal cause our gate wasn’t anywhere near the section of the terminal we were in

fifth – our flight was canceled.

This was the chronological order of my thought process as I was running towards our gate. I ran as fast as I could to reach there while Santosh had given up on the running, halfway.

The staff at the gate said that they had no information of the flight getting canceled. She said the crew was ready to fly but for the captain, who was to arrive from another place, and had not done so yet due to the delays and rescheduling and that they waiting for a confirmation of the fact that if he would arrive at all. The flight crew members were checking with the airlines and said to us that if they were let off from duty then that would mean the flight would canceled. At this point of time we met that girl again. It seems she had been waiting at the airport since noon and still she had no signs if at all she would reach Rochester on that day. She was asked to wait till our flight was boarded by passengers and if there were any vacancies then she would be accommodated, else she would be given accommodation in a hotel till the next day’s flight at 4pm. This was the case with about 100 other passengers waiting in line near Continental’s Customer Service Desk. The staff there, made their exit in a few minutes saying their shift is done, that the airline cannot provide any more accommodation to affected passengers as all their partner hotels were full, and handed out some pillows n sheets to them to lie down there at the terminal till the next shift started at 330am. There was a courtesy phone at the desk using which I called up Alex and asked him to inform Kamesh to effectively ” take light ” and that in all probability ours would be canceled too and that I would make my own way out to home if at all the situation arised.

Our captain was yet to arrive and so we just stayed there.The passengers were getting itchy, clearly venting out their frustration , but in a very controlled manner. ( Pressure cooker with valve types ) . There were these two Caucasians, one of whom was drunk who started making small talk with us. After some time the drunk guy got out of control and we moved away. His friend and later he too, apologized to us, but after some more nonsense from him, he was to the airport security personnel by the airline staff at the gate for a warning.

The captain finally arrived at around 115 am and the flight was scheduled to leave at 130am. Boarding eventually commenced at 2am after some more confusion as regards to the working hour schedule of a crew member who did not want to work after his previous flight as he was supposed to go home after the same. Manjari , who was to join RIT got a seat as well and flight took off for Rochester at around 215am.

From my minimalistic flight experience I have decided on a thing. I will try to fly only at nights. Its so scenic , watching a city filled with lights all over it from the top. It got pretty chilly in the flight, more than what it was ever before, even colder than when we were at heights of 38000feet, but may be that was because of the superior air conditioning of the Boeing-777 at those heights which made me feel so. Landing was a breeze and in a breeze. It was quite windy at the airport which made us shiver.

We three had decided that since it was pretty late , we would wait at the airport till dawn and then take cabs to our places. Santosh and Manjari had to go to the same place, me another. We moved to get to claim our baggage and while we were waiting Kamesh came along with Ankit, a Delhiite. It was heartening to see those guys at that time of the hour, but as I later learned it was due to a combination of their will to pick me up and misinformation/lack of communication on Alex’s part who had just informed them that I had called and not that I had asked them to take light. Whatever the reason I would go home soon I thought. Much of the baggage never made its way to Rochester as the ones checked in well before the departure of our flight were scheduled to fly in the earlier flights which were eventually canceled. One bag of mine and all of Manjari’s baggage didn’t arrive. We had to file a claim and were informed that the baggage would arrive to the address filled out once it arrived at Rochester. Santosh and Manjari were to make their own way to Rustic Village and I joined these guys and Kuldeep, who had the patience to stay up so late with his Accent, waiting outside to pick me up.

We drove home and then Kuldeep left. Ankit was staying here at 51 Crittenden Rochester( my address ) , also called India House on a temporary basis. Its called so, supposedly, because of the fact that any new student at UR coming from India first checks in at 51 Crittenden. The place was a mess( still is , but a lot of work was done about it yesterday ) and these guys said that it was a lot worse when they turned up, with no space to place your foot leave alone luggage.I was informed that the other roommate staying is a Malaysian Chinese American named Fook. Kamesh had prepared a bedding for me to crash into, in his room and thats exactly what I did before being told that there was a lunch party that we were to host later in the day and we were cooking for about 10 people.

So that was the end of a very small beginning to a significant portion of my life. A lot more happened later in the day involving food and cleaning and roaming and getting to meet a lot of people. But thats a tale left to be told another day.