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 the travel.
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 familiarity.
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 listened now.
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.
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