When the flight landed in Bombay, I looked around to see where is the terminal for Dubai flight. I couldn’t find anything. I spotted a man wearing a light blue shirt and holding a walkie talkie. I assumed he would be an airport employee and I walked up to him and asked
“Excuse me Sir, where do I catch the flight to Dubai?”
He looked at my face, then at my back pack and again at my face. His facial expression changing from shock, surprise and finally to anger.
“This is the domestic airport. You need to go to Sahar airport for international flight” He spoke
“Oh! Where is Sahar airport?” I asked
He stared at me with a look that said,’ which planet are you from?’
I suddenly felt so mad. I was angry with Appa for not telling me what I should do? at least he could have told me that there are two airports in Bombay. How was I supposed to know all these? I have never been to Bombay before. Appa knew that, didn’t he?
“Where are you from?” He asked
“Hmm” He grunted as though I was excused for my ignorance.
“You need to take an Airport transfer bus to Sahar”
“Where do I find the bus?” I asked
He stared at me for a few seconds. Few seconds that felt like a life time. I had no idea what else to do, so I continued to look at him.
“Come with me” He barked and started to walk.
Come with me? To where? I wasn’t going to follow a stranger. Besides this was Bombay. The place where my mother’s cousin vanished. I remembered Amma telling me about her cousin who was studying in Bombay. Apparently she went downstairs from her 2nd floor apartment to buy milk and was never seen again.
I watched the man speaking something over the walkie talkie as he walked. Then he noticed that I wasn’t following him. He turned around to look at me
“Are you coming or not?” He yelled
I looked around trying to figure out what I should do? There was plenty of people around and I knew to ask for help in Hindi( bachao!! ) if anything went wrong. I decided to follow him. But I was afraid. I didn’t want to vanish in the streets of Bombay.
He nodded at the security guard standing near the glass door and walked out. He reminded me of George.
I too nodded my head at the security guard and tried to walk out. The guard held his hand out and blocked my path.
“Madam, ticket” Security guard asked me.
The man in the blue shirt and the security guard was looking at me and I quickly opened my back pack and got the ticket out.
“No luggage?” Security guard asked me
“only this” I pointed the back pack
“ok. Go” He passed the ticket back to me.
The man in the blue shirt started to walk towards the counters on the left side of the lounge.
“Taxi, hotel, 5 star hotel” Someone at the counter started to shout as soon as he saw me walking towards the counter.
entey ammo, this man is sending me to some hotel, I thought. I quickly turned to run back in to the airport. Only then I realized the security guard is manning the exit gate and there is no way he would let me in. Technically I was in between the devil and the deep blue sea. One side was the streets of Bombay, the other side was the ‘taxi, hotel, 5 star hotel’ and a guy wearing a blue shirt.
I wanted to scream bachaoo, but the words didn’t come out. Suddenly thorugh the glass partition I saw a group of men coming out. Everyone around me started to run towards the group of men coming out of the exit gate.
“Sir, Sir Sir” Everyone was screaming and shouting and I saw a man in the middle of the group. He had his arms foldedand was saying namaste to everyone around him. When the group reached the place where I was standing, he nodded his head when he saw me.
It took my panic mode brain a few seconds to realize that the guy in white pants and white shirt, who just smiled and nodded at me was SALMAN KHAN!
I had watched his Mainey pyar kiya movie few months ago.
Oh my goodness, Salman Khan! I saw Salman Khan in real life, I wanted to jump and down. I was so excited, I turned around to see Salman one last time.
There he stood with his hands at the hip with the walkie talkie still in his right hand. He looked so angry and disgusted with me
“You get the bus here” he pointed to the 3rd counter and stormed off. I knew I should say my thanks, but I was still trying to see where Salman went. I saw Salman getting in to a car and he went off.
I remembered the Thanks I owed and I turned around to look for the guy in the blue shirt. He was already inside the domestic terminal.
Too bad I muttered, but never mind. I met Salman Khan!
I paid 25 Rs for the shuttle service to the International airport that is provided free by the airport authorities. But I was too excited to notice that.
My flight to Dubai was at 5.40 pm. I had to wait almost 4 hours at the Sahar international airport. Fortunately I had taken a novel with me. I opened my back pack to get the novel. I noticed my text book inside. I had an exam to write when I come back. I should be studying. I looked around. Some people were laying down on the seats and sleeping. Some were talking.
Arum padikkunnilla, pinney njan mathram enthina padikkunney(no one around me is studying, so why should I be the only one studying?). I took the story book out. The plot by Irwin Wallace.
A little while I felt thirsty and I walked to the coffee shop. I looked at the menu that was on the wall.
I saw the sign for Beverages and under that I spotted Cappuccino.
Oh I would love to have a cup of Cappuccino. I checked the price. I saw the $ sign and then 3.75. Dollar? In India?
I checked again, everything was in dollar. May be it was just a sign, so I asked the guy at the counter
“How much is the cappuccino?”
“Dollar 3.75 madam”
“Dollar? Why it is in Dollar?”
“We only accept Dollar madam?”
“Huh? Why? This is still India, No?”
“That is our policy madam”
“So you don’t accept Indian Rs?”
I never understood how India worked. The Rs in my hand was the currency used in India, but a coffee shop that was in Indian soil only accepted American Dollar.
Only in India, this would happen. I was so angry with the system. I walked away disgusted, thirsty and angry.
I regretted not taking a bottle of water with me. I checked my backpack to see if I have any candies. I saw my red colour passport in the outside pocket. My Malaysian passport. I leaned back on the chair and gently held my passport in my hand. With this passport, I could leave India any day. But would I? Could I?
Each moment in India was a struggle. I always had to fight for my survival. I remembered my life in Penang. It was so peaceful. No one ever cheated us. I remembered my friend Siti, I wondered what she would be doing now? I remembered our neighbour Mr. Ooi and his mother whom I used to call Nenek (grandma). Nenek used to make the best pisang goreng (banana fritters). She spoke Hakka and I never understood what she was telling me. But she knew I loved pisang goreng and whenever she made it, she always made sure that I got some.
I wanted to see all of them. I wanted to go back. I could go back, but I knew I couldn’t. The most important people in my life lived in India. I simply couldn’t walk away!
I felt I was being tied down. I wanted to be free.
I hated Amma for coming back to India. If she didn’t, then I would have never been close to Ammachi. I would have never done medicine in India, I would have never fallen in love with Beautiful Eyes.
‘Nina,Do you regret falling in love with Beautiful Eyes?’ Sensible one asked.
No, No, No. He is the best thing that ever happened to me. I replied
But, I tried to explain
‘No but Nina, there is no but in a relationship. Either you are in or you are out.’ Sensible one spoke.
Emotionally Beautiful eyes was like my anchor. He was my support. But there were so much about him that I didn’t know. He kept telling me about war with the Indian government. But he never once told me what exactly he does. He never told me how he got so much money in the locker. He never came to see me off at the airport.
I didn’t want the sensible one to think that I have second thoughts about Beautiful Eyes. So I continued to read The plot.
Eventually I heard the announcement that flight is ready for boarding. I felt excited. I was going to see my father after a long time. I was going to Dubai.
3.75 dollars for a coffee that time..christ..thats atrocious..cant believe they were overpriced even back then..
I wanted to scream bachaoo, but the words didn’t come out.. ;-P
I don’t know what I would do if I saw shahrukh or abhishek or hrithik like that …may be just stare huh!!!
gafoor ka dost!
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How old were you at that time.
It was funny to read your story. I am sure i woukd have reacted the same way as you.