Archive for June, 2007


25 June 2007

 As I was telling John Silliphant that I’d made a mistake by not listing all the contents of my checked bag (like a camera, data card, SIM card, and various electronic adapters and cables), I got a phone call from a very professional-sounding woman at Emirates telling me that my bag had arrived and I had 24 hour access to the bag within the next two days, and then from 11am to 5pm thereafter, and that I should go to the same place that I’d filed the complaint with my passport, report, and key (“it’s not locked”).  So, I headed off to the International Airport immediately, figuring that I wouldn’t give too much opportunity for the folks at the baggage claim and customs area to get at the 2 pounds of coffee and 2 pounds of chocolate (that are probably melting as I write) that I did mention.

 I set off in the slight rain to look for an auto rickshaw.  All were full of passengers.  One dropped off two women right in front of me.  I told him that I wanted to go to the airport.  “Which one?”  “International.”  A shake of the head – “no.”  OK, continue to stick my arm out at the sight of every passing rickshaw.  5 minutes later, the rickshaw driver that had refused to take me, and was waiting for a fare 2 feet from me, came out and said he’d take me if we took the highway – there was too much water on the local routes.  Well, why didn’t he offer that in the first place?!?  We set off.  Rs. 100 later, he deposited me at the departure area after insisting that he was not allowed to go to the arrivals area.  He pointed to a sign that indicated he was not allowed, and I couldn’t convince him that he was allowed to go “with a passenger.”

 Along the way, we passed by a slew of TV vans on the periphery road next to the highway.  At the time, I assumed that there was some flooding accident.  Later, I saw that 136 people had died in various states, including 5 in Bombay due to monsoon floods.

 The claim was quick, and I passed customs (Desk #10 again) without having to open my bag.  “What about the transportation reimbursement?”  I ask.  “Madam, you must go to Emirates office on the 2nd Floor.”  I was tempted just to leave, but I was already there… why not?  So, out the exit, elevators to the 2nd Floor, where I have to sign in with a guard.  Negotiate the warren of dingy hallways to the Emirates office where the woman who called me is informing another passenger about the status of their bags and the person at the front desk says:  “You’re coming from Bandra West?”  Very efficient.  “We can give you Rs. 400.”

 This being the International airport, there are no auto rickshaws in sight, so I opt for the prepaid taxi.  The fare to Bandra West is Rs. 200.  The bag charge is Rs. 10.  According to my receipt, and the fare that I paid, Rs. 200 plus Rs. 10 equals Rs. 220.

Back in Bombay

Sunday, 24 June 2007


 It’s hot.  It’s raining.  We’ve had power outages off and on throughout the night.  There is a puddle of water under the wireless router. Welcome to my first night back in Bombay – in the monsoon.

 I arrived in Bombay around 3am yesterday, only about a half hour later than scheduled – something of a minor miracle, considering the delays in and out of JFK – the first of two connections.  The head flight attendant on UA 8, caught up in the drama of our delay, kept announcing how lucky we were to be able to land in JFK at all:  “the pilot has been able to negotiate a landing in JFK after being diverted to Boston – if you’d like to follow the conversations between the cockpit and the control tower, tune into channel 9.”  Uh, no thanks, I’d rather not have to deal with that stress right now.  I’m just a little bit concerned that I’ll miss my connecting flight to Dubai since I only have an hour and a half layover in JFK.

 I haven’t been to JFK in a long time… so long that I don’t remember the Sky Train.  There are no attendants to guide connecting passengers when we land.  No signs directing passengers in transit – only to the baggage claim.  Well, there is only one way out.  Clearly, Emirates does not operate from this terminal!  I manage to find my way to the Sky Train and guess that I should go to Terminal 4 – my boarding pass does not help, and there are no screens listing connecting flights.  (One of my seatmates is connecting to an El Al flight to Israel, which leaves from Terminal 4.)

 I get new boarding passes on Emirates for my flights from JFK to Dubai and from Dubai to Mumbai.  The agent is a little confused as to how to process my flights and has to keep asking his colleague at the next desk.  Somehow, I board the flight on time.  Then we sit.  Again, too much information for me:  we are number 5 to push out of the gate and number 70 on the runway – an estimated wait of about 2 hours.  Great!  I have another hour and a half layover in Dubai before my connecting flight to Bombay.

 Again, somehow, I make it to Dubai with an hour to spare and head directly to the gate for my flight to Bombay.  Immigration was a breeze.  “Passengers Lee, … on EK 500 from Dubai please see the baggage services desk.”  I ignored the first announcement.  I head to the baggage services desk after the second announcement calling for “Mr. Lee.”  It turns out I am the only Lee on the flight.  Unlike the other passengers, whose bags got left behind in Dubai, mine was left behind in New York, at JFK.  I fill out the requisite complaint, then have to have a customs stamp before I can leave the airport.  They will “call me” when my bag gets in.    The customs guys are in the middle of trying to negotiate a bribe with the passenger in front of me at Desk #10.  They try to shoo me off to Desk #11, but I don’t budge.  I’ve been directed here and I know this is where I need to be.  The two guys manning Desk #10 send the hapless woman off to find her male companion, whose signature they need, even though she is the passenger and the one registering her goods.  Another agent passing by tells her:  “We’ve reduced your duty by half!”  “By more than half,” reiterates one of the guys behind Desk #10.  “You want to declare something else besides the gold?”  “Go bring him – we need his signature.”  (In other words, go get the guy who knows what to do – i.e. give us some money.)

 My piece of paper is stamped, written on, and I am dismissed summarily – no need to hold me up.

 Both John and Sachi call me as I am walking out of Customs.  They, along with Kumar, have come to pick me up in Rahul Chitella’s car.  “Everyone is at Madhu and Meghna’s – let’s go there and you can sleep as long as you want before going to the office.”  Sachi is bright-eyed and bushy tailed as she makes the suggestion.  Kumar and John look like zombies.  Fine, I say, let’s go to Madhu and Meghna’s.

 There are bodies draped every which way on different pieces of furniture.  The first anniversary of Mam celebration ended in a huge slumber party.  Madhu and Vishal shared the double bed in the single bedroom.  Meghna was curled up on the loveseat.  Brijesh was folded around an armchair.  Rahul C was on a window bench, with Amit on one end, with his legs on a chair.  Akash was sprawled out on the floor.  When we got there, John disappeared into the bedroom, and Sachi, Kumar and I shared the floor with Akash and Brijesh, who came down off the armchair.

 An hour and a half after we got there, people started to leave to their various homes and offices.  Kumar, John and I made a detour to the Mam office to pick up the futon and mattress one of us would use in our office.

 In the late afternoon, after meetings with event and TV production people for the Dil se Dil concert, I placed two unanswered calls to the Emirates office in Mumbai before heading to sleep at 7pm.


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