I am not much of a traveler; in fact it would be safe to say that
I am not a traveler at all. The only trips I have undertaken have
been, to put it mildly, involuntary. In reality I have been bound
and gagged and dragged to places that would rather not go to.
Sure I love the scenery, the landscapes, the people, the
different places of worship, the variety of cuisine; I just hate
So the few trips of my childhood and teenage have been limited to
wandering around the south and getting dizzy going up to Shimla
and Manali just to ride on stinky pony up a narrow path. Heck,
I've never ever been to Goa in my entire life, and I am steadily
inching closer to middle age. So I have by choice and a totally
unreasonable phobia of travel missed the defining growing up
moment of my generation i.e. getting sloshed and possibly laid on
a trip to Goa with a bunch of friends.
Understandably, the thought of going abroad never even crossed my
mind. This, with a mother who would sell an arm and leg to hop on
a bus and go off to see the world. I would watch with wonder as
every summer my mom packed and took off for a few days to some
exotic destination, returning with a suitcase full of goodies for
me and my sister.
Slowly most of my acquaintances had made a trip to some exotic
destination, either as a leisure trip or for work and mostly for
a honeymoon to squander away their parents' hard earned money.
Their orkut and facebook albums filled with their pictures
against historic buildings, lakes, rivers, and mountains,
pictures in bars enjoying a drink with strangers. And here I was,
firmly rooted to my motherland and happy and content in its
And call it the cruel hand of fate or a twist of destiny; in the
new job I took recently, one of the first things I had to do was
make a trip to London. I wasn't ready to go, not by a long shot.
It was a 9.5hr flight. I would die on the way. I can barely
survive the 1.5 hr flight that I have to endure to go back home
occasionally. I never viewed myself as a jet-setter and my career
options were based on how much I would have to travel. And now
here was cheating, I was promised a nice, cozy desk job and 2
months into it I was being pushed off to London!! Nine and a Half
hours!! They must be joking.
All the horror stories I had read about people in long flights
getting cramps, dehydration, blood clots, started playing in my
head. So great was my fear of travel, that I never once gave a
though to what I'll do once I get there. All my anxiety was
limited to the flight. Will I make it there? If I do, would I be
brave enough to take a flight back? All the memories of my
disastrous Manali trip where, all of 20, I cried all the way to
send me back home; NOW! Of course no one listened then and no one
My boss was kind enough to upgrade my flight to business class,
and I assumed that would be some relief. The preparations for the
trip were quite hectic as I was asked to leave immediately after
my Visa arrived and did not have much time to get my bearings
right or to do any research whatsoever.
So on the D-day, I arrived at the international airport in
Mumbai, lugging a fat suitcase which was mostly empty for the
goodies I would bring back (I know, I know, you are sniggering
away already… let her get there and find out expensive London is…
goodies faugh! Let her try and eat there for a few days). Well
apart for my personal expenses I was well covered, the office was
to pay for the lodging, boarding and commute.
I love business class; shorter queues, faster check in, VIP
treatment, nice lounges to while away time with free food, better
stewards, night dresses, drinks, and full length beds… perfect.
I duly checked in, finished the other formalities and sauntered
to the VIP lounge. Now excuse my small-townish-ness but I like to
make my travel as less an ordeal as possible. So I dress casual…
see the point? Hence the tracks, a loose tee, a flimsy jacket and
a pair of open sandals; forgive me for being comfortable. The
people on a flight scheduled at 2:00am for god's sake were
dressed for a party. The lounge was full of business men dressed
in suits and ladies in smart dresses with high heels. C'mon, do
you really think they were going to hop into a meeting or a swish
cocktail party as soon as they landed? Anyway, I went and parked
myself in the only sofa I could find, definitely conscious of not
knowing the way of behaving in a business class lounge, and
waited for my flight announcement. My eyes were heavy with sleep,
but I didn't want to nod off trying to keep it all for the
flight, were I was determined to sleep for the entire duration.
Imagine my relief when I found that I had entire bed to myself,
and someone to make it too. So watching "hangover" and sipping a
screwdriver with salted almonds and cashews I spent my first 2
hours of the flight. After picking at some food, I retired for
the night and got up to a beautiful sunrise on the London sky. It
looked so different from the Indian one! The colors were
different, the feel was different and the clouds were different
too. Not that I am an early morning person, but I have taken my
share of early morning flights (all domestic) and I could safely
conclude that THIS was different from the Indian sky.
What happened when I landed there? That's chapter 2 folks.. when
I get around to writing it.