Continuing from where I left of in my last post, as I said our trip from Delhi to Angola is one of my most unforgettable experiences of my sailing days. This incident is deeply imprinted in my memory. It was going to be a memorable trip in any case because this was was the first time my younger ones would be going to the ship and I was traveling after a three year hiatus. It had been quite a while since I had last been on the ship there was quite a bit of excitement all around but never could I have imagined this journey would turn the way it did. Let me share one of my most (stressing on the most )embarrassing time of my life.
As I said we were very excited about travellkng to the ship and to add to the excitement it was Meher’s third birthday on the day we had to travel. I arranged a birthday party and invited all her friends. She looked lovely in her new red dress and her shiny new red sandals. Yeah the shiny red sandals! She had a lovely birthday party and as everyone left I made a mad dash to make sure every thing was in order as we had to leave for the airport immediately. Packing had been done and I put the passports and other necessary stuff into my hand bag. Picked up the diaper bag and of course the handy cam bag. That reminds me that was one phase of my life where I never went anywhere with out the handy cam. I would record literally everything. So these three bags along with four suitcases and a shoe bag were soon loaded in the Maxi cab that we needed for all of this and we were on our way.
Well, when I look back today, I certainly think if nothing else I was very brave. Three kids, one 18 month old, one three and one eight, so much of luggage(Angola is not place i expected to find too much, so I had to be prepared for any and every contingency) and a long flight that was from Delhi- Bombay- Bombay- Johannesburg- Johannesburg- Angola. And I embarked on this journey ALONE. As I said I was very brave!!
This is realised on the first leg of my journey itself as we reached the airport. Zorawar my youngest was asleep. I had his shoes in my hand and i put the shoes down for a minute to help load the trolley with the bags. Once that was done I realised that it was not going to be easy to push the trolley, handle a sleeping child who would soon be bawling once awake and supervise the other two who were very eager to run into all directions. I positioned Zorawar on top of the bags as that was the only way my hands would be free to push the heavy trolley. Then I looked around to find his shoes but they were gone!! His shoes had disappeared. We looked all around but no shoes anywhere and we were getting late for the flight so we had to go on shoes or no shoes.
Struggling with the overloaded trolley while making sure Zorawar did not fall, and giving the other two threats of being in big trouble if they as much as moved anywhere from my side we reached the check in counter. Thankfully all checked in a little later I breathed a sigh of relief.
We landed in Bombay couple of hours later and rushed to get the bags and take the shuttle to the international terminal for the next flight. It was a nightmare juggling the kids and luggage from one airport to the other but i did it and I can’t tell u how relieved I was to be checked in and to have seen the last of my luggage till Angola. Thank God!! or thats what I thought.
Soon we were in the flight waiting to take off. Toddlers flying for the first time can get very cranky and anxious and it was such a relief that they fell asleep soon after takeoff..of course once they were done with their bouts of screaming/crying whining…the usual ruckus. Soon I fell asleep too since it had been a long and exhausting day. Its quite rare for me to sleep on an aircraft but I was quite exhausted. Thankfully the rest of the flight was uneventful, everyone slept. I woke up little before landing rejuvinated enough to handle the kids during the long transit.. about eight hours. I woke up the kids also and immediately Meher started crying saying her foot hurt. I looked..poor girl her shiny new red sandals had cut her skin and had to be taken off. It was bad.. her foot was bleeding. I had to take off her shoes.
As we prepared to disembark the plane,i told Ria to be ready to get off. To wear her sandals. I heard Ria say.. “Mom something is wrong with my sandal.” I was least expecting her to have it dangling from her hand with the strap of the sandal in the other hand. I was….well what……. word can I use?? Flabbergasted/ dumbfounded/thrown for a loop!! How is it even possible..what are the odds I mean. In case you’ve forgotten, Zorawars shoes were lost at the airport. So what are the odds that on the same day all three of your kids will manage to loose, break their footwear and one injure her foot so bad that she cannot wear shoes. Is it even possible.
Till then I didn’t take it that badly..I thought I would buy them some kind of footwear the minute we landed. It was embarrassing to have my kids barefoot while i was in my lovely heels. But till then I just dismissed it as brief inconvinience because I would buy them shoes ASAP.
That was a me being a tad too optimistic and soon that misconception was cleared. There was no shoe shop in the airport nor were we going to be allowed out of the airport obviously since we didn’t have visas so no shoes were going to be bought. My kids would have to spend the next eight hours in an international airport BARE-FEET!! I dont think anyone can imagine my discomfort/ embarrassment/ discombobulation..what more adjectives do i use here. Everyone literally everyone would look at the kids and look at me. Then make it a point to stare at the kids again. For a while we did try sitting in one place. But kids get hungry, thirsty, bathroom trips and with them being so young I cannot leave them alone, so if one of us needs to go anywhere or somewhere.. all of us need to go there.
This made for interesting conversation too. For the most I sheepishly tried to explain or laugh it off but when someone actually asked me if I belonged to some tribe where children dont wear shoes till a certain age….if looks could kill..we’ll need I say what would have happened to that person!! This ordeal of mine went on for the next almost eight hours till we were seated in the plane for the next leg of the journey. The worst was the part in the waiting area and the during boarding. Thats when we go the worst and most stares. At last strapped in and waiting to be in air I believed at last it was over!!
Yeah I wish!!
To our surprise instead of taking off we were served food in the next half an hour.There were people around me saying this was pretty much an indication that the flight is cancelled but i blocked it all out.. hoping fervently that we would be in air soon. Praying hard we would be on our way to Angola as soon as could be.
That was not to be!! Soon the announcement was made. We were asked to disembark. The flight was cancelled due to technical issues. I put my face in my hands..pretty much reduced to tears. This could not be happening. I could not take another minute of all this. But well what do u do. We got off the plane and were told to head to immigration and then to collect our bags and move on the the busses which would take us to the hotel for the night and our flight would be the next day.I almost gave a whoop of joy when I heard them tell us about collecting the baggage.
I was probably one of the first to arrive at the conveyor belt eagerly waiting for the shoe bag to arrive. After sometime and I was still waiting and little later still WAITING!! All the bags were on the trolley. Where the hell was the shoe bag. I always pack the shoes separately. There is always a shoe bag and that bag refused to come today. Eventually I went to the airline staff who applogetically told me to put up a complain and move on as all the bags on that flight were out, there was nothing they could do.
Well that was that…we left the airport and moved on outside into the buses and we reached the hotel. Once at the hotel, I went straight to the reception and asked them to arrange a cab for me to take me to the nearest place where I could buy shoes for my children. They strongly advised me against it saying it was not safe to do that at all. Even though I really tried to convince them but they stressed on it being very unsafe since it was already quite late at night.
By now I was too exhausted, cranky and too fed up to care. We went up to the room. I got all three of them to take hot baths and scrub their feet.After that we went for dinner and now when people stared at us I scowled back at them. I’d had enough. Well technically now they weren’t bare feet. They were in hotel slippers way too big for them…. attracting more attention. Nevertheless we enjoyed our dinner. After the kids slept.. I drew myself a hot bath to relax myself. (Hadn’t quite discovered that wine does it better yet!!)
What a day it had been. I wasn’t looking forward to repeat performance the next day but I didn’t have much choice.
The next day was no better. The day began with the kids flip flopping in huge slippers during breakfast and the bus ride and then the wait in the airport till we boarded our flight. Thankfully this time the flight took off. We landed at immigration at Angola and the agent was there and took the required documents from me. When our turn came the immigration officer took a look at our papers and told us “Go back to Bombay.. u can’t go be here or something to the effect and the way I screeched “what !!!” Made the poor agent jump. He gave me a nudge and shushed me. He said I am handling it. I did shut up but I was so angry. Did they even realise what it took for us to reach here and he dare ask me to go back like it was a five minute walk back to Bombay!!. Ohh I was hopping mad.
Luckily soon the agent told us to proceed towards baggage collection. While walking there I told the agent who had also in the beginning given us his share of funny looks to take us first to a shoe shop before we go the ship. However,before he could reply we had reached the conveyor belt and lo and behold..The first thing I saw was our shoe bag. I dont remember if me or the children had ever been so happy to see anything else. I grabbed the bag and soon the kids had shoes on their feet again.Life was good again..we were normal again. No one was staring at us anymore. Wow!! being normal felt good. With a spring in our step and our backs little straighter, we walked out of the airport looking forward to being on the ship.
Wow what a journey it had been. As the car dropped us at the jetty and I saw the ship, the gangway…I felt so relived we’d finally reached. It had been quite a journey and I was really glad to have reached our destination.
Looking at the children I could also see their happiness and excitement. I was already swamped with their questions. I smiled and in between answering them and climbing up the steep gangway with them, I thought to myself that with the three of them this time I would have my hands very very full but also knew it would be thrice the fun <3 <3