“Hey Ashwant! I am leaving to USA tonight. Say bye!” . Bang came the reply from my five year old nephew – “Oh Mama .. Eppovo poran poran sonnanga eppa thaan poringla..anyways have a nice trip”. That was a clever repartee from the intelligent boy (Oh ..Uncle..Just now..I was told that u have gone long time ago..:) ). Mm yep it was a delayed venture!
Yep the land of dreams opened its gates to its own dream land for me – LosAngeles. I am here on a short stay on a official assignment. The project I am in was also a dream project for me in my college days. Whoa! Its embedded systems – I was once fascinated to it and I am yet to get rid of that infatuation. Not bad dating the dream lady in a dream land! But this post is about my travel from Chennai to Los Angeles.
Sunday Post MidNight:
Surrounded by family and friends wishing “Safe trip!”. Being my first flight I really got scared a bit by the number of “Safe wishes” which came my way. The real fright was about missing the wonderful people I have befriended in the last four years of life. From being a shy boy I am slowly transitioning to a gregarious and amicable young man as a result of which I have several like minded friends and I will be missing them. The checkin was smooth and I had to wait three hours on the lounge. Having spent three less slept nights before that It was dame luck that I woke up exactly at the boarding time and boarded the flight to Doha. I proved that I am a first timer by getting help from the man next to buckle my seat belts. I didnt know where to go and what to do for the customs. Nalathamyanthi and Frowards words “Dei nee america poiruvya” were running on the back of my minds:)
DOHA International airport:
Reached Doha at 7:30 AM local time there and it was a relief facing the hot sun after the cold journey. I had a two hour transit time at Doha and roamed around the airport as far as I can. The arabic kids are super sweet and I ended up following two pairs of them. During the security check I was asked to empty my bag and repack them. Anger vented through my veins because the guard said so after looking at my passport. Was it because of my nationality? Anyways the next flight was the longest one. 13 hours and I had carried little cold and fever with me from India. So I wasnt sure whether I could see 4 movies as planned:) I was in cloud nine when I saw two kids next to my seat. But so sad they had been sitting in the wrong seats. A fat non-english speaking muslim lady with that strange biting looks sat next to me.I had a aisle seat which was a great relief. There were kids all around. A little girl kept me entertained throughout the journey. I watched only one movie and it was perfect for the occasion. “Wake up Sid” – I could strike a chord with Konkna Sens character in it. At times I had to wet my kherchief because of the movie:) By now I got my graduation in flying – I understood the whereabouts of things and people inside the plane.
Washington Dulles Airport:
Landed in Washington around 3:30 PM and said to myself finally “It’s America ..Let me check out if it is really as it is shown in the movies!”. My connecting flight was at 8:15 PM and there is some time to roam around and the airport was really too big for the time given. I kept roaming around and spent my first dollars for nuts! I said to myself “I have gone nuts!” and kept strolling along. Back in Chennai the airhostess gave me a strange look when I struggled to push my wheeled luggage. But now I was doing it in style 🙂 Suddenly an airport staff asked me whether I am from India and had custody of an old lady from Chennai who speaks only Tamil in a wheel chair. She flew along with her son and family and it seems she was forced to take a different flight from the family in the transit. She had no details on when and how they will arrive. The whole family’s luggage was with her. I went around and inquired few counters but I couldnt trace another flight from her transit location.
The airport staff was so kind but he groaned that this is not his job! I told I can spend one more hour with them and I roamed around. Luckily by the time we reached the International information center her family members spotted her and they got re-united. I told them that old lady should have gone under lot of pain and suggested that they could have atleast given the flight numbers or a phone number to dial with her. Guys! Its a lesson for all of us.We should try to envisage such situations before it unwinds on its own. The words the old lady said kept lingering on my ears …”Padikka theriyatha nalla evalavu perchannai parru thambi..” But she was not at all scared – very confident and stayed calm and composed trying to explain her best to man who doesnt understand her language. Salute her spirits!
I cant help feeling good in USA on my first day but the best was about to come. I decided to wait for the plane rather than to roam around and went to the destined place. There was a man who must be an Indian waiting next to me and we stared with an usual hello. He asked my whereabouts and on hearing its my first day here he offered me a drive to my apartment and asked my address. But after checking it he told its in the opposite direction to his intended destination. I told him I should be able to get a cab and not to worry about it. I was surprised when he guessed my year of birth exactly and when i exclaimed how he told that he has a son of my age. It was nice chatting with that gentle man – he was actually having a seat in my row but he got upgraded to first class (Well he is an executive with Boeing!).
I was there in the last seat of the plane and hence I am the last to get out too. But this gentle man kept waiting for me and I had to wait for my baggage. It was 11 PM in LosAngeles and I had to wait a long to en quire about my missing baggage. This gentle man was patient and determined to wait for me inspite of me requesting him not to do so.I was about to pull a trolley the way we do in India but in LA we need to pay four bucks for it. Strange you end up pay more for parking and stuff like this in this country. The gentle man was quick to educate me and swipe his cards for me. We were told that my missing baggage will be delivered home and there I was. I was holding a wrong address which his GPS couldnt locate. So I rang up my friends and got the correct one and now this man said “Its getting late. You were hassled enough on your first day! So Come with me I will drop you!”. That was a good 30 minutes drive with him . He was introducing USA for me. He told me more which could have taken atleast a week for me to get those information on my own. He dropped me off and ensured that I was in the apartment and left leaving back a warm heart and business card. Looking back this is a great return to a small deed which I have done in Washington.
I wrote him a thank you mail for which he wrote back..
“This is not a big deal. When you get settled in life help people in similar way and thats how the cycle of life works!”. Well he is in my heroes list! So humble even after honours (IITian with a phd!) and caring guy.
And from there I roamed around a bit for attending a toastmasters meet. While I was waiting for the bus , there was a casual chat with a white lady and we were talking about weather and pleasantries. I was telling about Chennai weather and she asked me “How many years it had been since u left Chennai..” . She was surprised when I told “Three days!”.
“Three days… You look so comfortable and speak good english!..How is that possible?”..she questioned. I told both are possible because back home I used to attend toasmasters where I polished both this skills of mine.
Yep It had been quite a journey from that shy timid teen to this daring , confident and comfortable boy! Yet to be a man though!