The Day I was Sure I’d Miss my Flight. But Then I Didn’t

I had a recent work trip to Chattisgarh (my first solo trip so far away). My flight was at 6:55 in the morning, so I decided to reach by 5:45 or so. Thanks to circumstances, I reached at 6 am.

At this point of time, I wasn’t too worried. I was told to get my boarding pass from a kiosk, where grumpy/slightly amused/skeptical people were having fun playing around with the touchscreen while it refused to cooperate.When my turn finally came, I tried changing my seat to a window seat, which did not happen, so I got a printout (after banging the fidgety screen thrice), took the flimsy, badly printed “boarding pass” and then went to check in my baggage.

Next, I somehow forgot all about getting a security check. Yeah, I actually forgot that you’re supposed to go through a security checking before a flight. No kidding.

So anyway, I nonchalantly passed through this mass of people, looking for a way to the waiting area inside. Once I reached the barricade, I finally saw the security check areas.

“Oh yeah, I have to go through security! How the hell did I forget?” I admonished myself.

I scanned the place for the queue, and walked further away, as I slowly realized that the mass of people I had walked past while looking for the waiting area, was actually the queue for security.

Bloody hell.

A snakelike line…curving 10 times minimum. I took a moment to register this fact and then stood behind the last person and calculated…I had 10 minutes to get a security check done and reach the boarding gate. Enough time, right?. So I shifted along.

When the first curve in the line was reached, I was five minutes down.

Cue mild panic attack.

By the time I reached the third curve, my ten minutes were up. My flight had started boarding and I was stuck in a serpentine line which I could not skip. Even in this situation, my insane compulsion to not break the rules (and jump the line) made me keep ambling along at a snails pace.

In my mind, I now begin constructing worst-case scenarios – I imagine having to plead with the authorities at the boarding gate, grovelling before them to let me board.

Then I imagine having to tell my parents to come back to pick me up.

Then I imagine telling my office. Oh dear. Oh dear oh dear oh dear.

In the middle of these imagined scenarios, I see some people citing their boarding time and moving ahead in the line. Its already five minutes over my boarding time…I reach a decision.

I surrender my love of order and correctness, and begin sprinting through the lines, ducking under the separating barriers. I mean, who the hell cares what these people will think of me? And I’m anyway almost 99.9% sure that I’ll never see any of them ever again. So I plow on.

Full blown panic attack right now.

I finally reach the beginning of the line. I somehow gasp out to the lady there that I’m REALLY late and can I please cut in. She decides to just stare at me for a moment, so I repeat my request. This time she nods, with a look of disapproval (which would have made me shrivel up and wish to be swallowed by the earth at any other time) and I sprint out into the security area.

And of course there are short queues here too. I again stand in line. The gentlemen in front of me are dressed in formals, with laptops. So they begin the labourious process of taking off their blazers, emptying their pockets, laying their laptops down into trays on the X-ray machine belt. When I can’t take the panic anymore, and on realizing that the ladies checking line is actually almost empty, I suddenly move ahead to the X-ray machine and look for a place to plonk my bag down on the belt. I put my bag down somehow, helped by one of the men in formals (I think I looked quite hassled at this point).

Now I join the line for checking. The security lady comes out of the cubicle and calls me in. I rush in, get onto the platform and put my arms up even before the she can say anything. She however takes her own sweet time. Finally, she stamps my boarding pass and I run out.

But of COURSE my bag is stuck on the belt. And the security guy is underequipped. Poor guy is sending the piled up bags onto the belt, checking the contents on the X-ray screen, and then stamping the tags too. Talk about multitasking.

My bag comes out FINALLY, and a millisecond after the guy stamps the tag, I’ve snatched it up and broken into an awkward run (slippery floors and slip-on sandals aren’t ideal running gear).

I run in the direction that I see people moving.

I stop abruptly. There’s a prayer room here ,and lots of people lounging around. Though its true that I’m already praying HARD, but this doesn’t seem like the place I should be right now. I look back, and suddenly remember that the boarding gates are downstairs!

Awkward run again. Go down the escalator. Sprint to the gate…and I see just one more guy before me. I almost go through the wrong gate, find the right one, give my boarding pass for inspection, get hand baggage tag checked, and then hurry out to the bus. Before I get on, I check the flight name again on the LED ticker on the side of bus. Check. Jump on.

I avoid all gaze, because I’m late and I’m so ABSOLUTELY sure that everyone is judging me. And also because eye contact with strangers is not my thing.

As my panting subsides, my heart thumps little slower, I send up silent thanks in prayer.

So, in conclusion, I ended up being one of the first people on the plane. Yeah. And certain people who had been in the security check line right in front of me (before I forged ahead like Grawp [if you do not know who’s Grawp, you’ll make me very sad]) ALSO got on soon after.

Oh well. I got on.

I made a call to my parents with an amazingly level voice, not revealing the near heart attack I just had. I however forgot to exchange seats with the person who had the window seat because of my recent excited exertions. And the guy actually slept through the whole flight! Window seats are wasted if you don’t enjoy them right?

But I did get a complementary meal which was apparently booked on my ticket (I was on one of those pay-per-meal flights) which I didn’t know about.¬† So I had THAT going for me.

I’ll be reaching airports 3 hours before any flight from now on. Such excitement is not my thing.

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Serendipity in a Valley : Marchula, Jim Corbett National Park

Last year was a great year for trips and I had a chance to visit a number of beautiful places, a few for work and a few simply for holidaying (no prizes for guessing which of the ones I’m going to talk about right now).

On the long Diwali weekend, I planned a short getaway to a resort in Jim Corbett National Park in Uttarakhand. Notice the phrase ‘I planned’ here; it’s the result of my parents not reaching a decision about our destination, and what made me take over the reigns was when their discussions began taking ginormous proportions of “Why-don’t-you-take-a-few-more-days-off-and-we’ll-just-go-to-Honolulu (for example)”.

So anyway, I jumped in, heart and soul, and after much exploration (World Wide Web FTW!), I decided on Jim Corbett National Park. I found us a gorgeous resort. Victory!

It was a nice long drive, and as we began early morning, the roads were nice and empty.So empty in fact, that one stretch of road in between green fields was so foggy that we couldn’t see more than 5 feet in front of us.

We didn’t book any safari beforehand (note : if you really¬†do want to go for a safari, this is not a good option) and decided to leave it to chance.

So the place…I’ll let the pictures do the talking…

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Towering trees in the valley, surrounded by mountains all around. With a river running in front

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Because a clear, clean mountain river is the perfect place to while away some peaceful time

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Majestically tall trees, dwarfing us.

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Walk a little farther down, and more delicious sights await. This one from a bridge

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Gorgeous evenings

Though we didn’t go for the main safari, there is one forest we visited, called Sitavani. It isn’t frequented by too many furry inhabitants, so you can go inside with your own vehicles, once you get a permit. Inside, it’s quiet, calm, the air so pure that it’s enough to make you give up your worries and smile.

The forest is also home to numerous enormous termite mounds!

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Just one of the many termite mounds in Sitavani

If you make it through the small, winding forest path and reach the end, you’ll see the Sita temple (protected by the Archaeological Survey of India).

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Artsy photograph of the temple to Goddess Sita, after whom the forest is named

After coming back home from this trip, I suffered withdrawal symptoms for quite a while. Who wouldn’t? Mountains, sandy beaches, trekking and leisurely walks…I need a longer time back there. Where every corner takes you somewhere new, and nature surprises you in all ways possible.

Oh well. Till the next trip then!

I have been writing. And exploring Delhi

Though my blog was silent for a while (okay, more than a while), I was writing posts on other sites. And I thought I could share them with you all!

A post from my time as an intern at the organization where I’m working now is here.

I’ve also been blogging for a storytelling organization, Darwesh. So you’ll find a few posts by me at their blog here. (For the record, visiting old monuments and hearing fascinating stories about bygone eras? Count me in!).

As a result of getting associated with Darwesh, I’ve ended up exploring a lot more of Delhi in the last few months than I’ve been able to in all the years I’ve lived here (since I was born, to be precise). Some pictures below, because they’re beautiful and remind me of awesome places.

Roshanara Begum's tomb in Roshanara Bagh

Roshanara Begum’s tomb in Roshanara Bagh

An old haveli door in Chawri Bazar, Old Delhi

An old haveli door in Mehrauli

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Dome and spire of Khwaja Bakhtiyar Kaki’s dargah in Mehrauli, which is the end point of the Phoolwalon ki Sair festival

Safdarjung's Tomb

Safdarjung’s Tomb

A facade of Safdarjung's Tpmb

A facade of Safdarjung’s Tpmb

The parrots'shrieking is the only noise at this tomb

The parrots’shrieking is the only noise at this tomb

All pictures taken by me. So please ask for permission before using them. Kthnxbai.

Being a Bookworm : Why I love reading

The first book I read all by myself, was an abridged version of ‘The Jungle Book’ by Rudyard Kipling; it was a Disney edition, filled with pictures from the Disney animated film. I strangely also remember my apprehension when my mom (with the kind of wisdom moms just happen to have) refused to help me read anymore, and told me that I had to go ahead myself.

The fear of reading a word wrongly made me anxious, but I went through that book with few mistakes. I can still feel myself trying to hide my pride at having read my first book. That was just the first in endless others.

Reading became my happy place. I didn’t have siblings, so when toys began boring me, I turned to books for companionship, and they took me into their warm, assuring world. It was wonderful. My school library became my favourite place, and the librarians my allies – they began suggesting new books, new genres to me, and I went deeper into the literary ocean. While my friends found it hard to sit through the library period without talking, I ended up trying to find a corner where I could just begin reading a new book without disturbances.

I was a voracious reader all through school, and through most of college. It was during post graduation when I began faltering and couldn’t take time out to read as much as I used to. I’m trying very hard to regain the habit now (though I guess the beginning of a working life might not be the best time to achieve that).

When it comes to buying books, I tend to buy books only when I’m very sure that it’s a book I will love and cherish for all my life; I’d rather borrow a book, read it and make sure of my love for it before I buy it. Which is why my book collection has mostly only my favourites (a few are impulsive buys too).

My mom tells me if I buy any more books, I should contemplate sleeping outside the house so that the books may have some space inside the house. “There’s space for either you or the books in here!” (and she’s kind of right obviously). But when led into a bookstore, she’s just as much excited as I am, and adding to the pile as fast as my dad or me. We’re a family of bibliophiles y’know?

And maybe that’s where my love of books started – my family. And it has continued gloriously, making my life a more wonderful one.

(I expressed my love for books in another post long back…here.)

A Brand New Year

How on earth is it already 2015? Or, to be more precise, where did 2014 go?!

In my 5 years of blogging, this last year is definitely the one in which I’ve neglected my blogging the most. And I have a reason – major life changes (oh yeah).

I completed my masters degree and spent a while lazing about, contemplating topics for a subsequent PhD. Within that period of contemplation, I began an internship with an international NGO (so that I would stop enjoying sleeping so much) and then, the internship turned into a proper job! And I realized how precious weekends were. And why people kept saying that remaining in academics was a jolly good thing to do. And I realized I’m terrible (I may be exaggerating) at multitasking in life – work became the priority and next priority (on weekends) was catching up with friends or lounging in front of the TV. So blogging-time went flying out of the nearest window. Which is sad, because now I wish I’d written about all the myriad first-time experiences I’ve had in the short time span of the last few months. Oh well.

The beginning of the year was wonderful and then suddenly declined as I dealt with an injury. Thankfully I recuperated fully from that phase. The rest of the year was a whirlwind, though a busy one…

I started getting used to this being-an-adult thingamajig (grudgingly)

I spent weekends being even more childish and crazy to compensate (I would like to thank my parents for making that possible)

I learnt to stop being devastated when someone was mean (more like, managed to decrease the period of sadness by 2% maybe. At least it’s a start!)

I went on my first official trip for work (living alone in a hotel room isn’t all that great though)

I made new friends and became part of a wonderful work team (which made it hard for me to ever really dislike going to office)

I felt the satisfaction of working in the social sector, when I got a ton of love from the lovely girls I was working for during my internship (you can read about that here)

I made it a point to send up thanks whenever something good happened, however small the incident. Everyday miracles and good incidents are truly wonderful.

I walk into this new year with the hope that humanity wins over all the atrocities and begins moving towards a more kinder version of itself. This year, I want to send out all the positive vibes I can, with the hope that they will be reciprocated.

Happy New Year guys! Wishing you happiness, peace, love and contentment in 2015.

“Hi! Do you have a name?”

It’s quite likely that you read the title and your brain surreptitiously added an arrogant, condescending tone to that sentence.

So now, try imagining a child asking you that, in the most innocent way possible. It’s amusing, very much so, but more than that, it’s surprisingly refreshing because of the lack of awkwardness or formality.

I’ve recently started shopping alone (or just roaming around window-shopping), which I find relaxing (when done infrequently). And it was during one such solitary outing that I came across this adorable little girl who decided she would be my friend.

What happened was that, I was tired of walking (malls can be so huge), and so I decided to catch a cold coffee in this shop. This being a weekend, it was quite crowded, and I was actually quite lucky to get a table once an old couple vacated it. It was a table for two, so obviously one seat was empty.

My first table partner was a girl maybe a little older than me, harassed by life, clutching shopping bags and catching a quick bite to eat. She asked me if she could sit on the free seat, to which I agreed. Then we spent the next ten minutes in silence and without looking to each other and in this time she finished eating her sandwich. Once she was done, she thanked me with a smile and went away.

My next table partner(s) was the little girl and her elder sister. I’d hazard a guess at the girl being around 3-4 years old and her sister would be 6-7 years old. Their mother, who was carrying the younger one in her arms, asked me if they could sit there and I obviously agreed.

The first thing the little girl did once she’d been plonked onto the seat, was to give me a large smile, wave at me and ask me, “Hi! Do you have a name?”. I said, “Yes. I do.”

“What is it?”

“Sanchari. Do you have a name?”

“Yes. It’s Choundalya”

When I looked a little lost at deciphering her adorably lisped version of her name, her mother pitched in and clarified that her name was Soundarya.Then her mother told her, to keep her busy, that she should tell me about her school. So I picked up the hint and asked her about which class she was in, and what her favourite thing to do in school was. Her eyes lit up as she started telling me about her drawing classes.

At this point, her elder sister, who had looked at me apprehensively and not spoken a single word yet, even when I tried to strike up a conversation, tried to catch her sister’s attention and showed her something on the cafe menu which was displayed on the wall. It worked, Soundarya began scrutinizing the menu and its many colours and pictures, and our conversation ended. I realized that it must feel lonely if your sister decides to chat with strangers while you have to wait for her to finish. So I just smiled and lapsed into silence again. But the small conversation I had with that child was enough to get me thinking.

When do we lose our innocent, straightforward manner of connecting with another human being? I had experiences with people of three different ages that day, and they all reacted differently to sharing a table with me. The only adult who sat at the table with me, was absolutely silent, with no eye contact either, and with a clear definition of personal boundaries which adults so love. I am very similar, and usually don’t know how to make small talk, so I was in fact glad that the girl didn’t try to strike up a conversation. I had been moulded by society in a similar way in which the girl had been; we were independent individuals, with clearly defined personal boundaries and we were happy to remain inside that space.

With the children, the younger one, who had just entered regimented society formally as a student in Kindergarten, was the stark opposite. She was happy to see a new face and engage in a conversation with this exciting new person whom she knew nothing about. Her elder sister however, though older by just a couple of years, was different. While she still hadn’t gotten over her natural inquisitiveness, which made her stare at me openly as she tried to gauge my reactions and what I said, she didn’t talk to me at all. She had learned that oft quoted maxim “Don’t talk to strangers” well enough I guess.

It was an intriguing incident. It might have been a more fulfilling world if we could hold on to that childlike inquisitiveness and pure happiness all our lives. But life has other plans; when we’re children, we want to grow up, and when we’re adults, we sometimes wish we were children again.

Could you be anymore confusing Life?

 

Think about it. Think about it. Think about it.

There’s something new I realize about myself every few months, or sometimes, these revelations may come within a shorter period of time.

These are epiphanies; I have always had these traits, but something just happened…some incident or some insightful comment someone makes, which makes that light go on in my head, and I sit back and think, how did I not realize that sooner?

The post’s title may be slightly confusing, but it’s basically one of my traits.

Overthinking.

It isn’t always a bad thing…it brings out new ideas and new ways of doing things. But it just doesn’t help when you’re really confused about something, and need to take a decision. This is what Wikipedia tells me is called Analysis Paralysis; too much analyzing, leading to very less activity.Because I think so much about everything, I generally don’t say anything that I regret later; I’m just too busy thinking about what I should say sometimes. Yes, the thinking is less when I’m relaxed and with people I’m comfortable with.Overthinking was one of the reasons I haven’t been posting regularly.I mean, imagine the possibilities when you’re (over) thinking! Anything from the colours I want to use while making a poster, to wondering about why British accents are so sexy, to thinking if J.K. Rowling will/should ever write another HP book, and moving on to cringing about how I hurt my leg and how ungraceful I must have looked.You get the gist. Anything and everything.There’s usually a train of thought which forms, and sometimes I actually have to stop thinking in the middle of an utterly and weirdly random thought, to trace back the chain of thoughts to figure out how I ended up at platypuses when I started from flax seeds.Oh well. It’s entertaining at least. Sometimes.