Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Chronicles of Jay-nia… Akkare Akkare Akkare

"Akkare Akkare Akkare" is the name of a very entertaining Malayalam movie from the 80's – telling us the story of two bungling detectives and their escapades to find a thief in the US of A. I thought this would be the apt title for this serried relasting to my travel and the bungling adventures that I would ( I wrote might and then replaced by would, am sure I would have some comical adventures J ) have during my maiden trip to the US of A.

29th Jan was the day – And what a long day it was.. I started my flight from namma Singara Chennai on the early morning of 29th – AS early as 1:50 AM. Someone told me that I would love the flight as the Airways has personal in flight entertainment. But after trying to watch couple of Malayalam movies, which I did not cross half an hour, and one Hindi movie, which I braved for half an hour, I gave up inflight entertainment and and gave in to my personal in flight entertainment – that of dreaming though my sleep. J After flying ten hours I landed at a very pretty Brussels, the transit port, at 7:50 AM 29th January. People had warned me that to keep my warm clothes at hand, but the big me had a lot of belief in my own warmer – the layers of fat all around my waist – when would they come handy to me, if not now ? J - So I had my overcoat, safely packed inside my cabin baggage. Even when the captain announced an outside temperature of – 2 degrees C, I smiled at him, looked around majestically – I will show you all – what it is to be fat, and happy J

Ladies and gentleman, -2 deg C is extremely cold. Brrrr….extrrrremely. It was nice to breathe out chilled air at first, but thwn the chill grips your legs, you know what it is. I almost ran inside the airport. I knew a long walk loomed in front of me, but the funniest part of this part of my travel was about to start. The cops directed me to a security check. They had these convoys next to which these shallow wide rectangular plastic baskets were stacked. My Indian Sense of look and learn were at my highest. The look and learn was aided by this security lady who instructed me to put my bags, shoes, wallet, watch, belt in the bins and pass though the metal detector. And I did that. I kept my laptop bag in the carousel, took a plastic bin, kept my wallet, keys, phone in it. Then I took off my shoes, kept in the basket, and then took off my belt ( I could almost feel the music and perform a full monty :P ), dumped them in the bin and I was just about to walk through the metal detector, that couple of questions took me by surprise. The conversation went as follows:

" Is that your laptop?"

Nod. In Indian language, it means yes. I am hoping that these men in blue would also understand. They did.

"Get it off, you know, Naked"

I was like WOW! It took me couple of nano seconds to realize that if they are gonna get me naked, they would also get the lovely looking girls naked. Wow, what a job! Dirty mind !! J Then the next thought struck – what the hell, Naked ? Out here, in public in this airport. Well, Security is security – couldn't question them, could I, so I got my reluctant fingers around my jeans button, and the guard looked at me strangely and shouted "Grab your laptop bag before it gets inside the scanner" – I did – and then he said – "now get the laptop out of the bag, and keep it separate "… Then It dawned on me. It was not me that he wanted naked, it was my laptop J

Anyways, there were no further issues, and I passed successfully to the gate of the connecting flight. And then I remembered, I had to call Shashank, my friend when I landed in Newark Airport. And my phone had been warning me of "Low Battery" every time I switch it on, so I had to depend on public pay phone when I landed there. I did have some dollars with me, which I had converted when starting from Chennai, but had no Quarters of Coins. And my Indian ingenuity started to work again.

Looking very innocent, I meandered inside a airport shop. Picked up a pack of Mint drops priced at Euro 1.5 – so that should approx be about USD 3 and I gave it to the counter. And with the item, asked her, so- can I pay you in dollars. She was like, sure, you can! I was immensely happy with this ingenious plot that i had hatched. I gave her a ten $ note. She converted the currency on her machine, and … retuned me change in Euros! I was taken aback and told her, madam – I gave you dollars, so you give me dollars back. ( And I was thinking, Ha! She thought she could cheat me ? J ) She looked me and said, sir, we only accept dollars to help our customers, we are nto allowed to transact in dollars. So I can only give you Euro's back.

So there I was, sitting in Brussels Airport, looking around a snow covered landscape, and a brilliant orange sun rising slowly in front me. I am sure most of the people around me thought, I was looking a little dull because of the cold, how could they have realized that I was not 10 $ short, and about 4 euro and some change heavier ? And of course, add to that a pack of Mint drops for which I ahd paid INR 150 !!!!! For 150 rupees, I can walk into a restaurant back home, have a sumptuous lunch, and they might have given me mint mouth freshers free after it !!!! Sigh !

Another eight hours in the flight to Newark Airport. The flight took me across the United Kingdom, and the ocean.. From snow covered lands to a large water mass. More attempts to watch Hindi movies and Malayalam movies. No success there. Couldn't take it more than one hour. Welcomed my own personal dream station for quite some time. Landed in Newark Airport at 12:40 PM Jan 29th.

There is one thing that I realized immediately. It is impossible to feel lost in the airport. All you have to do, is to just follow the signs. I walked to the immigration department, got my entry stamped and entered the land. And of course, there was the shoes, jacket, ( I had my jacket on me, by then J ) wallet, purse show again – but no mention of the nakedness J. I was at the carousel, waiting my my bog box, and I heard a dog yelp at my feet. A little used to weird happenings by then, I looked around to see a policewoman pointing at my cabin luggage and making a dog scent it. Aha – you can't beat me – I have read enough about getting food and stuff to America, so I have nothing there. I had the satisfied look on my face after the quick inspection and the dog, slightly unsatisfied. J

It was good to see Shashank at the airport. Real nice of him to have come to pick me up. He took me to the guest house, made me feel comfortable and then we went out for lunch. I liked what I was seeing. The entire streets, lined with snow, chilly weather – it was definitely different from the hot and sweaty Chennai. Most of the people living there would have hated it, but as a visitor, I loved it. Shashank drove me around to Newark and we located a Thai restaurant, which he said was really nice. It really was. After a good lunch, we walked out to the street.

We had just started walking, and we heard a "phuutt" behind my head. I turned back immediately and realized that someone had thrown a block of ice at me. We saw couple of African American teenagers on the other side of the street, running down laughing among themselves. Hooliganism, it seems, does not spare the best of countries! I guess I was jus plain lucky not to have got hit. Anyways, life continues – I had to reach Minneapolis that night getting ready for a presentation and Shashank dropped me at the airport. He had made all arrangements – had booked my tickets, had got me an accommodation at the Hilton – It was really nice of him to have done all that. If he is going to pamper me like that, I am definitely going to Enjoy my life in here J