Travel gives us knowledge, experience, a deeper insight to life. Following the recent travels of the author (no, no, not just from the laptop and back), she is able to vouch for this.
Air travel is not pleasant. Majestic view notwithstanding, the entire process is truly not the most enjoyable. One is closed off within the claustraphobic confines of the aircraft, served smelly food, and that myth about goodlooking staff?: it is a myth. All in all, it is an experience which the author would prefer to get over with in a hurry. But fate conspires to make us dance to it's decidedly wayward tunes (rather like those old westerns where the villain keeps shooting at the good guy's feet making her/him jump around.)
The author learned first hand the unpleasant nature of that double edged sword called Papers. For the uninitiated, the Visa/ Residence/ any other heavy wieght paper, is not merely a guarantee of welcome and a ward against instant deportation on stepping on foreign land. No ladies and gentlemen, you malign and underestimate them if you think so.These papers are also potential instruments of torture. If the officials at the check in/ immigration counters have had their meals on time, not fought with their spouses or not engaging in their customary(pun intended)sadism- then one is
safe. But if you happen to be like the author during her recent flighty experience... she extends her deepest condolences.
After joyously relieving the author of a thousand rupees in the name of the mythical User Development Fund (yeah right), the officials were pleased to inform her that her residence wasn't valid since she hadn't entered the foreign land in six months.( Weird Kuwaiti rule). The author's uncannily clairvoyant father had prophesied such an event and she was duly armed with a charmed official document.Which was sadly written in arabic. To cut a long story short, she ended up waiting for approximately a quarter of an hour while the airporters slowmotioned their way to their inner sanctum then slow motioned back, got the paper transalated, photocopied, laminated, photographed, finger printed, faxed...
May be Hiro Nakamura had made an appearance when she wasn't looking, but somehow the author actually got to get to the baggage check-in counter before the flight left; where the only question was (bless their mercifully mercenary hearts) whether the UDF was paid. Triumphantly armed with boarding pass and immigration form, the author marched up to the immigration counter. Which is when things began to really go downhill.
To begin with, the officer who decided that this was his day to bother, spoke only in telugu. While the author struggled unsuccessfuly to comprehend, the officer slapped her passport and papers back on the counter and said three succint words "Visa not there". No, she didn't scream. Reasoning didn't work, but the man finally understood that "yes she has boarding pass so she can be allowed through." His face fell momentariy at the deprival of a treat, but brightened again ominously. "Go get airline person. NEXT!"
And that was that.
Trudging back to the check-in counter, the author was forced to wait for an hour for the appearance of one Rahim, who apparently had the answer to all her problems. He never turned up. While waiting interminably, the author had the good fortune of coming across the Charmer. This individual was carrying 10kgs worth of extra baggage. Appearing to be a classic Excess Baggager(refer to previous posts) at first sight, the Charmer turned out to a completely different species. Apologetically, almost Frisky-like, he began to remove stuff from his decidedly huge box when he "accidentally" chanced upon a box of biscuits among his items. Which he "casually" offered to the officials at the counter all the while enquiring about their work, their family, how he is so successful etc. It was a pro at work. The officials didn't stand a chance. The baggage was checked in, excess weight and all, without the slightest problem. Amazing!
While this interlude provided brief entertainment, it also drove home the fact that the author had been much longer than she needed to. And apparently the barely controlled rage made some impression because they not only looked vaguely intimidated but also immediately got someone. The irony of the entire episode is that they happily let the author through without a mention of Visa problems this time even though the person who came along was not the big boss or whoever it is they wanted the author to bring along. And after traversing all this, what must await her but the beaming neon face of a sign that shouted FLIGHT DELAYED.(the vague sound you hear in the background is the gut wrenching scream of the author, and the other sound is that of her hair being torn.)
Ah well, the flight did take off and the author did reach her destination without further mishaps. Since that is the case, she should have nothing to complain about. Milton had it right when he said "...They are also served who stand and wait.". What he forgot to mention was the pure agony of the standing and waiting part. Especially to ones heels. Well, atleast she has both feet firmly on the ground now.The rest can rest. C'est la vie.
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