The great American adventure
In retrospect, as I recollect, the warning bells had sounded loud and clear on the day I was to take off for the US trip along with my family members.
In retrospect, as I recollect, the warning bells had sounded loud and clear on the day I was to take off for the US trip along with my family members. I somehow had failed to read the writing on the wall. It all started with the reputed home service app, which treated me as a privileged member of sorts and had met almost all its commitments over the past year.
Ranging from plumbing to electrical work they had always sent in their service personnel on time to help my home reemerge from mini-crisis situations. So when I had sought their salon service on the day I was leaving for the US with my family, to my surprise, the hairdresser failed to arrive. In distant Delhi, with traffic jams more frequent than our pearl city, the service provider coolly used it as an excuse to stay off from honouring his appointment, leaving me with a messy thatch of hair on my head. Hardly the start to a 'phoren' family reunion trip which had a marriage scheduled as part of the programme!
If this was the thunderbolt which struck me at 9 am, a few hours later, the mandatory pre-departure Covid test results brought another bombshell along with it. My wife was declared positive while I and my aunt who was accompanying us, were clear.
As I scrambled around to think of postponements and alternate travel dates, the service provider from the testing lab advised us to go for an ultra-fast test once more, with of course a higher rate to be paid. I do not want to recollect what I went through as I awaited the revised results, delivered in our favour barely two hours before the reporting time at the airport!
The grueling non-stop flight to New York tested our endurance to the maximum. At the first point of entry in America's commercial capital, there was more in store as we confirmed our baggage before travelling to the final destination – Cleveland – around three hours away.
At that location, before one could acknowledge and wave at the relatives waiting to take us home, one of the bags went missing. In what was a free-for-all kind of a routine, the passengers were coolly moving off with bags out of the airport exit gate, a contrast to the stiff security routine in our country.
The result was that it took four long calls to the airline helpline staff who finally agreed that there was a switch of our bag with that of some other passenger and after a week, we finally traced its presence in a neighbouring town! It was an Indian family which had inadvertently done the damage and they returned it to us, of course, after due apologies…
After all these mishaps, the stay was quite memorable but the return trip came up with its fair share of adventures. Owing to a slip-up and a delay in submitting a self-declaration Air Suvidha form, we had to miss the first flight, take the next to a different airport in New York, travel through the congested roads of the city which was resembling any Indian metropolis and finally making it in time to catch the tortuous 16-hour non-stop flight back home.
A week ago, as we waited for the cab at the airport premises in New Delhi to ferry us home, none of us seemed to be too worried about the humid weather playing havoc and drenching us with sweat. After all, we were back in familiar territory now. Phew!