I took a thorough look around the La Hacienda Shopping Center. I could definitely find toothbrush, paste and soap but I was sure not gonna find t-shirts. Not even any promotional ones. At that point, I could have promoted any goddamn brand on this earth if it provided me clothes.
I picked up the items, took another optimistic round of the place looking for t-shirts, it did not have any. I was walking towards the check out when I heard two guys loudly talking in hindi. The voices came closer and finally I saw them stand in the next row to check out.
Something got on to me. I immediately changed rows. They noticed it but remained glued to their conversation about some common person they were bitching about.
“Do you guys live around here?” I asked them in hindi (a very calculated move).
One of them was taller and bulkier than the other. He felt a little hesitant in answering my question and he looked at the other one with a look ‘Dude, you deal with him. He looks like trouble!’
“Yes, I stay here. What happened?” said the shorter, thinner guy in a very calm, warm and welcoming tone.
“Do you know anywhere I can get t-shirts right now? My baggage was misplaced by the airline and I am here for an event tomorrow. I need to buy something to change to” I said, trying my best to sound as calm and composed as possible, without scaring the hell out of them.
The face of the tall guy turned red. As if what he was thinking, was exactly what I turned out. A begger or a theif or a gangster who would first ask for help, then will slaughter them and run away with their money. (To be honest, at that point, I would have just ran away with the clothes!)
“I already did. They are closed”
“Ahh…well, the clothing stores must all be closed. Try those 24hour type stuff like CVS etc.” he said as he moved out after paying for his stuff.
“Thank you” I replied with a smile.
I had only one option- to start walking on El Camino Real since I was more likely to find some store open at 10:30pm on this street than any other street in Sunnyvale. My feet and back now started to hurt.
I walked out of the store and looked around.
This part of the country is amazingly beautiful. Wide clean roads, lots of trees and greenery, a refreshing weather and so much peace. It is everything what New York city is not. On a normal day, I would have loved this relief from the dense jungle of concrete with 1000 kinds of smells and noises, helicopters, police sirens, ambulances, fire engines all going on at the same time, rains and wet streets. If it is not raining, then it is stuffy, hot weather. And above all, people! New York is stuffed with people.
You cannot walk without people bumping into you with their “Excuse me” that sound like “Once upon a time, when the Almighty was writing the destiny for us humans, he wrote that on this day, at this very hour, minute and second I shall cross the street. You have the audacity to question the destiny? How dare you walk ahead of me, in the same direction? Move away you wretched creature. I cannot walk slower or faster than this speed. I cannot walk a step to my right or to my left, however wide this street may be or however much space do I have to walk ahead of you from your side without disturbing you. I will walk as I am destined to. So EXCUSE ME!”
Not to forget their heads would be buried in their iPhones, ears would be stuffed with earphones playing music so loud that you can tell which song is playing while standing 5feet away from the person. I swear one day I would just turn around and lodge at least 10 tight slaps on the face the next time they go “Excuse me” that rudely when they can see I have moved and made way. “Oh, you moved before me saying excuse me? Well, let me be sure, just in case! EXCUSE ME!” If only Excuse Me! could physically slash a person, there would be blood shed everywhere in New York!
A bunch of retard hipsters. Feel like taking up Ra’s al Ghul’s philosophy sometimes.
Right now, though, the whole idea of so much space was not comforting. What I could find in NY within one block of walking, here it might take 2 miles to find.
I took a deep breath and started walking towards the street crossing the parking area.
I turned around to find the two indian guys standing there.
“Where?” I genuinely asked.
“To buy you t-shirt. Hop in, I can drive you to the nearest place that may be open.”
“No it’s fine. I will walk. I don’t want to bother you so much”
“Come one dude. Just sit. It won’t be a problem at all” he said with a tone of finality that now he had made up his mind that he would buy me t-shirt so he would. Nobody must come in his way now. Destiny!
I sat in his Honda Civic.
“Friend, you will have to adjust as my friend has just come to Sunnyvale and all his luggage is in there” he politely requested me turning on the engine.
“I can sit on the roof or in the boot if needed at this point.” I genuinely meant that statement.
Then began the search for t-shirts. One by one, each store was crossing by, closed. We were having the basic conversation about how airlines fuck it up at times, he was talking about some other places he has stayed and was wondering what all stores could be open at this hour. They asked me, what did I do and why had I come here.
After driving around for around 20mins, they finally spotted something.
“There we go. CVS Pharmacy, 24hour store”
He drove in and parked by the entrance. More than happiness, I felt a sudden fear inside me. I sure was at CVS but how I got there, I had no clue. In the whole driving around, I lost track of the route. Also, considering 20mins of driving around, this was not walkable distance to the hotel. My phone battery was about to die. No GPS. Wow! It sounded just a perfect trap I fell into.
I got out of the car and was about to thank them for this ride when the guys walked out too
“We don’t have much to do this evening. Let’s help you find your stuff”
I was amazed. Really? They want to help me find t-shirt in CVS pharmacy?
“What’s your name? I am Gaurav and he is Harish” said the thin guy. He was doing all the talking. The other guy was definitely not happy with all this helping a fellow Indian business. ( I am assuming Gaurav, read on)
“Himanshu. where are you guys from?”
“We are both from Mumbai”
Ahaa….that explains it. Only Mumbai people know how to help others. I can safely say this because I have stayed there for 4years and in Delhi for 2 years. If it was Delhi and I said yes to get into a car, well, let us just say, it wouldn’t have been quite comfortable to sit.
It took us 15mins of going through aisles and aisles of stuff before one of the guys shouted “Himanshu, come here! I found them”.
I ran to him. And there it was, a round rack of t-shirts. I thought it was glowing in golden light. I swept through them and picked two t-shirts, one grey and one black. Took another look and realized, I picked the best ones. The others were surely recycled clothes made from rags of waste cloth.
I picked up a pack of underwear too. It was like a dream come true. Finally, I could shower and feel like a human.
They sat in the car while I stood by the driver’s seat.
“Guys…I don’t know how to…” I began, thinking hard of a nice thank you speech.
“Get in the car. Don’t you have to go back to your hotel?”
“You can’t walk back my friend. It is too far.”
I quietly obeyed and took my seat. Phew!
“So where is your hotel?”
“You can drop me to the same shop where we met. I can walk from there”
“Buddy, don’t hesitate. We have to go back anyways. If you hotel is nearby, we can drop you there”
“Hotel Wild Palms. It is on the corner of Wolfe and Fremont av.”
“Perfect. We will anyways take Wolfe to get back home. We can drop you on the other side of the street. Hope that is ok with you?”
They were talking as if they owed it to me.
“Thank you so much. That would be fine.”
On the way back, I realized, the hotel was far from that place. I would have walked for almost for 45mins before I could have reached the hotel. They stopped the car next to Wendy’s which was right in front of my hotel.
“Alright man. Wish you all the very best for your event tomorrow. Take care. Have fun.”
“I don’t know how to thank you guys. Thank you so so so so much. You saved my life.”
“It is absolutely fine dude. Don’t worry at all.” he said with a genuine, big smile.
I looked for my business card but couldn’t find it. I remembered I gave the last one I had in my wallet, to the guy next to me in flight. Dumb me! Grrrr
I picked up my phone. It was dead already.
“It’s fine dude. Relax” he said seeing me struggle.
I got out of the car and they sped up. On my way back to the hotel, the whole incident started to go over again.
“They were like two angels who met me, helped me and disappeared. Harish and…..what the…I forgot the name of the first guy. I can always…wait…I never took their number. But I could have given my…so now I had lost them forever. May be…that was how it was supposed to be…they were meant to help me…at a point when I needed help…I was stupid…I didn’t even offer my number for the very sake of helping them when they come to NY sometime. I was just too exhausted and overwhelmed. Well, they know my name and New York Film Academy. I am sure, if they want to, they can always look up. But why would they? What if they have forgotten my name by now?”
Lost in these thoughts and feeling so relieved, I reached my hotel room. Kept my dead phone and turned around to look for a charger. Whoa! My charger was in the bag. So now my phone’s dead. And I don’t have a charger. And guess what? I have Nokia E72. No way on earth, anybody would have a nokia charger in that hotel.
“Hello, this is Valerie. How may I help you”
She was this beautiful, charming receptionist at the hotel front desk. At 01:00am, she was so happy, fresh and welcoming.
“By any chance, would have a charger for this Nokia phone?”
She looked at the pin.
“Let me have a look sir. We have a bunch of chargers, this will take some trial and error”
She took my phone and went in. For next 15mins, I heard a lot of rustle and boxes. Then she came out with two chargers. I tried both of them. None got even close to fitting.
“I am sorry sir. That’s all that we have that comes close to fitting in that pin”
So that was it. I was going to be without a phone till my bag comes back. That is, if my bag comes back. Of all the things I cared about was my camera. It would be last thing I would want to lose. I could buy everything else in the bag, 3 times again but not the camera. I was regretting leaving it in there.
“Thank you so much for your help” I turned around, and dropped my phone which opened into its pieces (how nokia phones fall). While gathering it together, I saw something that held my attention. I looked at the data cable port which was a micro USB. I remembered my Samsung phone had a similar charger pin. If I could find that, I may well be able to charge my phone.
“Hey, would you have a charger for this pin?” I showed her the USB port.
She looked around and found a Nook charger that fit perfectly.
My eyes gleamed with joy. I ran to room (figuratively). Plugged it in.
It didn’t turn on. I waited for few minutes. Usually Nokia phones take a while after being discharged.
Nothing happened. I picked up the charger and crawled back to the reception.
“It doesn’t work. Is anything else that I may try? any Samsung charger?”
“Well, let me see. I must have something else.”
She went back again and the same, boxes and rustle. She came out with a blackberry charger with similar pin. I again turned around to run back when I thought – what if it didn’t work too? How about I check it here? And I saved myself from being a total moron again. I plugged it in in a nearby outlet and there, my phone sprung up to life, immediately.
A relief settled inside me. I thanked her and came back to my room. Looked at the watch. it was 02:00am. By the time I was done with shower, changed and went to bed, it was 02:35am.
As I lay in the bed, this fatigue took over me, as if I was sedated. After running around for 52hours straight, I finally got to sleep in peace. Well not really so much peace since my bag was still lost somewhere but it was an end to a physically draining day. I had to get up at 7am again because my event started at 9 and I was supposed to report there at 08:30am. It was around 10miles from my hotel.
The bed felt so cozy and warm. I blinked. It was 06:40am. Aaron was already up. I thought if I didn’t get up at this point, another small doze of sleep might get me late. So I got out of bed. I only know how much of resistance my body exerted on me. But with a conviction, I finally was out of bed.
The breakfast at the hotel was amazing. It took away my grumpiness of lack of sleep. Awesome pancakes with fried eggs. Reached the venue, shot a crazy football event for the whole day without taking any breaks at all. All that we had there to drink was Pepsi Maxx which was the sponsor for the event. And it tastes like sugar syrup even though they say it has zero calories. I tried drinking one but couldn’t finish it.
Around midday my phone rang.
“Hello sir, I am calling from Delta Airways. I am afraid I don’t have a good news for you.”
Damn these people. Who trained them? What was it now? “Sir. The flight in which your luggage was coming lost its way and is now in China. Poor little kids want to take your camera. Being America’s biggest and most responsible airlines, we have to take your permission before we can donate the stuff to them since the flight is not coming back. It is much hassle on our part to bring it back. It is better we dispose it off”
“Sir. The flight by which your luggage was supposed to come….one second sir”
She put me on hold to talk to another person, at the worst possible moment in that sentence. I could have taken a cab and reached the airport at that moment, out of sheer rage.
“Sorry about that. Sir, the flight is delayed by 4hours. So we will be able to deliver your luggage only by 5pm.”
“That’s fine. I am anyways out till that time. Thanks.”
Why would they do that? What have I done to Delta? Why? WHY? – were some questions raging in my head as I resumed shooting.
At 03:45pm my event manager gestured that it is a wrap. He was biting through a chicken leg piece. I and Aaron looked at each other. We were dying of hunger. We decided we must exit this place before he thinks of some more shots.
The had given us black t-shirts which I had to wear above the t-shirt I was wearing. If I had known I would be provided t-shirts at the venue, I wouldn’t have gone hunting for it. Never mind. I was boiled inside those two layers of clothing. Shooting the event in direct sun of California, I was more than well cooked.
At 4:45pm I reached my hotel lobby. A guy entered with me and stopped at the reception. I crossed the desk heading to my room when suddenly it struck me. I took two steps back and looked at the bag the guy was holding.
IT WAS MY BAG!!
I ran to him almost knocking him down and snatched the bag from him.
Totally puzzled at what just happened, he said in the most confused tone “And…that I assume…would be your baggage…May I know your name….sir?”
“Himanshu Dubey” I said, not even looking at him. I was busy opening the bag and checking its contents. Everything was in place. Well, not exactly in place but in the bag. It seemed they played soccer with my bag. But the good part was, it had my camera in it. I switched it on. It was working fine.
“Then…please sign here”
I scribbled my name and disappeared. He must have thought what a douche I was.
My room was at the extreme back side of the hotel. I ran to my room with my bag, Aaron behind me. Quite close to my room, I head loud screams of a girl. Chinese girl to be honest. How I knew that? I don’t know. But it was obvious it was a Chinese girl. That was some lovemaking I must say.
Red light. I tapped again. Red Light. Again. Red light. My room won’t open. Aaron tried his card, same.
I took a deep breath. I knew what could have gone wrong. I walked back to the reception trying not to pay attention to the screams.
“Sir, I am sorry but there is no credit card associated with that room. That is why we have revoked your access. We need a credit card in order to let you in”
Amazing. Just what I was waiting to hear. American Logic at its best.
“So you are trying to tell me? The room I checked in yesterday, stayed one night, had breakfast in the morning, where all my stuff is kept in, I can’t get back there? How did you let me in yesterday?”
“I don’t know sir. I was not at desk at that time. Your event manager spoke to Valerie and she arranged everything. I am just doing my duty. If there is no credit card authorization associated with a room, we cannot grant access to it”
I called up my event coordinator, Nisha and she spoke to the receptionist. A couple of minutes later, the receptionist gives me back the phone.
“I won’t talk to her, she is screaming at me”
Deep breath. Deep breath.
“Nisha, I will call you in a while. Let me sort this out” I disconnected the call gathering all the patience I could.
“So, let us sort this. First, help me out here. Can you explain me the situation? Why was I granted access and now why can’t I get it?”
“Sir. Your stay has been fully paid for using a third party website. We do not get the credit card information from that website when we get a booking. But we need a credit card for incidental records. Only then we can give a room to a person. That’s the law. We were told that a credit card authorization form and picture would be sent to us by fax/e-mail but as per our records, we have not received any of it.”
“So all you need is a credit card?”
“Yes. It will not be charged sir”
I pushed my card across the table.
“I have a debit card. I think that should be fine?”
“Absolutely sir. There you go”
She scanned my card and flipped two new access cards across the table in a fraction of a second.
I walked back to my room. The girl was still screaming. But it seemed the position was different this time. Totally ignoring, I entered my room.
Aaron, who was waiting at the room, asked me “What happened?”
“Nothing. Just a slight confusion. Don’t worry”
I took a shower, shaved and changed into my clothes. Heaven. I had planned to meet one of my Indian friends who was in Santa Clara. It turned out he was very close to my hotel. The plan was to meet him and chill for a while. I got ready, took my camera and rushed out. The girl was still screaming. That is some stamina (at least for screaming!).
I met him after a long time. And in conversation he got to know that I had not eaten anything since morning. He had some left over rice and curry (rasam). I have to admit this. I am not a fan of rasam or sambhar. Not that I hate it. But I would never order those things. But, that day, it tasted like the best thing I had ever had. It took me a minute to lick the plate clean. Not that it was not well made (it was indeed delicious!), but hunger has this tendency to make things taste better than they are.
Sitting in his peaceful home, with golden evening light coming through the windows, sound of kids playing nearby, it was so serene. It was like a bliss to me after so much of rough time I had had so far. I was in my own world just breathing.
After hanging out with him for sometime, I came back to hotel, and as I was crossing that room, a huge, tall, fat typical american nerd type guy (glasses, long hair and disgusting look on his face) came out followed by a pretty Chinese girl. Damn! I was right. It was a Chinese girl. Looking at the guy, nobody could have made out they had been having sex for over 4hours now. Or even more. But looking at his physical dimensions, the screams were probably because of his weight than anything else.
My flight was at 11am the next morning.
“Mr. Singh. Pick me up at 9am from the hotel. My flight is at 11”
“Don’t worry sir. I will be there” the typical Indian assurance.
So my taxi was booked. I slept early that night to make up for my lack of sleep and rest. I was genuinely glad that this adventure was over. I couldn’t sleep too well. I would wake up every now and then to realize, there was still time to sleep.
I got up early and enjoyed the amazing breakfast, in peace. Nowhere to rush, nothing to do. Then I locked my room and came to the lobby to wait for my cab.
At around 09:30, I called up this guy
“Sorry sir. I am stuck in traffic. I will take another 30mins to reach your hotel.” The typical Indian timing.
“I am sorry but I will have to take another cab and go. I won’t be able to wait for that long”
I asked the hotel guys to get me a cab. In 5mins there was a cab at the hotel entrance. I looked at the hotel, the surrounding roads, El Camino Real and the Wendy’s. I couldn’t help but smile how last 48hours had been for me. The drive to the airport was something I don’t even remember. It just passed by like a flash.
I wanted to thank the lady at the Delta Airlines counter for getting my bag to me. But I reached airport barely in time, thanks to Mr. Singh, to make it to my flight. I was finally going back. back to NYC.
“I will come back. I will come back very soon. I like this place” I said to myself as I handed my boarding pass to the security personnel. I had checked in my baggage this time. Interestingly they asked me to pay $25 for this. I didn’t care.
Sitting in the flight, I felt the exertion of all the not eating and sleeping. I felt tired. There were so many things that awaited my attention in NYC, I felt a time bomb ticking as I came closer and closer to my reality, New York City.
“Sir, would you like some beverage?”
“ahh…what options do I have?” I said, lost and sleepy.
The End. (Phew!)
“Sir, would you like some beverage?”
“ahh…what options do I have?” I said, lost and sleepy.
Making a ‘dude, really? take a coke and shut the fuck up!’ face, he said, “I have coke and juices, Orange, Apple, Tomato…”
“Tomato” I said, confidently as if I have been waiting to hear that option. He gave me a glass and a can of 100% Pure Organic Tomato juice.
Tomato??? What made me say that? Of all the juices, I chose tomato? I was genuinely exhausted. But to think of it, it was not that bad since the last couple of days had been an adventure totally uncalled for. This flight was taking me back to NYC. I was more than happy. (Thank God he didn’t say potato.)
Few days back
I entered the booking number but the machine couldn’t find my boarding pass. After 5 tries, I could have smashed the screen. A nearby customer service agent saw that. She hurried up to me and asked for my ticket. I gave her the confirmation number.
“Oops. Sir, you are late for this flight. The check-in counters have been closed”
My heart sank. No, I had to go. This couldn’t have happened.
“I have already checked in. I only have my carry bag, so if you can please give me my boarding pass, I should be good.”
She took out her walkie and had some gibberish conversation with the boarding gate staff. How do they understand each other? It goes like…Crackle!! I have a passenger kldkjavkjlghliruulsahjkfgkjlafklweyht…another crackle….fklngrleghbfhsal dahfag;oarhgoiah aklfdn;ahgor;iuhohgojhg…Crackle!
“Alright sir, I am going to print your boarding pass. But for future reference, you are late. You must report to check-in earlier”.
I want to learn that language so bad! It is pure genius I tell you.
She gave me my boarding pass and I ran to my gate but immediately had to stop. The looooong queue for security check. And security checks in USA are very different from India.
Indian security checks – keep all your stuff in the small tray (wallet, phone, keys etc). Then walk through that age old wooden metal detector doors. An extremely enthusiastic police officer will await your entry (sarcasm intended). With a poker face, he will ask you to raise your hands, he will then hit your ass with that little black thing in his hand that will beep twice. Then he would take your boarding and stamp it so hard as if he can see his wife’s or boss’s face in that boarding pass. “Suck it bitch!” BAMMMMMMM! It is a usual noise at airports actually. BAMM! BAMM! Attention Passengers BAMM! Flight S2 12 BAMM! is rea…BAMM! Please pro BAMM!…..12.
USA security checks – Take out all the liquids from the bags. Take off your belt, shoes, watch, jacket, wallet, keys, coins, phone, laptop, camera, i pod and anything that may possibly contain metal. They all most rip you off. Then walk through the X Ray machine, followed by a person who ask you to stand on a mark. No beeps, no touching. Then you may go and wait for your bag.
As I was about to take the bag, an officer pounced on it.
“Sir, I am afraid you bag has certain prohibitted or unsafe items that must be immediately identified and removed. I will request you to come with me to that table. Please do not attempt to touch me or the bag while I am in contact with the bag. Once it is clear, I will put it back in the X ray machine. If it comes out clean, then I will hand it over to you. Do you think there is any item present in the bag that might be dangerous to other passengers in any manner?” I felt like being sarcastic but then luck was not really in my favor. I chose to keep shut. I just shook my head in an obvious no.
If underwears, socks and t-shirts may kill people or if a camera can shoot bullets, then yes, I had shitload of stuff that may be dangerous. It basically depends on how skilled the person is or how much of dedication he has to kill. My bag provided plenty of killing tools to a person who really wanted to kill. Choking by socks, using underwear elastic to lodge poisonous darts into people’s neck could be some possible ways.
He took my bag to the table and checked it thoroughly. What followed was unbelievable. He took out my shaving foam, shower gel and shampoo.
“I am sorry sir. 4oz is the maximum allowed size for liquids and gels in the cabin baggage. I am afraid you cannot take these with you in the plane. What do you want me to do with these?”
How about you take a shower right now? I am sorry. He was actually very polite and was just doing his job. But I was out of patience as well as I was about miss the flight if he did not hurry up. I knew the answer to his question by experience.
“Ok sir. With your permission, I will arrange for those items to be disposed off immediately. Please come along and claim your bag.”
He removed those items and then put my bag back in the scanner which came out clean. I ran to my gate and handed my boarding pass. As I began to proceed to the plane, the lady standing at the gate, stopped me.
“I am sorry sir. You cannot take that bag in cabin. It is bigger than the allowed dimensions. I will gatecheck it. When you reach LA, you will get it back” she snatched my bag, wrapped a tag around it, and stuck a similar tag on my boarding pass which had hand written words, LAX.
All the of the above things happened within a span of 30seconds or may be less. Before I could react what happened, my bag was gone and I just had my boarding pass in my hand. She sure has some awesome measurement experience. I saw a man taking my bag towards the aircraft. I ran for it.
“Excuse me, I need to take things out from that bag.” I shouted.
“Sure sir, feel free” he stopped. He was a smiling, young kind of guy who definitely was recently hired.
I opened my bag n took out my passport folder, ipod and headphones. Something told me, I was not going to see that bag again, soon. So I found it wise to hold on to my essentials.
Sitting at my seat, the realization hit me, it was a six and half hour flight.
The last bag just crossed me, the belt was shut down and everyone around left me standing there, alone, living my nightmare. My bag was lost.
“Excuse me, I can’t seem to find my baggage which I was told I would get at LA. It was gatechecked at JFK”
“Sir, can I have the tag number?”
“Sorry sir, I can’t find that tag on the system”
“So does that mean you guys have no clue where my bag is?”
“There is a possibility that the crew didn’t scan it. So the bag might be somewhere at LA airport but is not entered in the system.”
That sounded perfect. And it is LA airport we are talking about, one of the busiest in the world. If a flight goes missing here, they might not be able to find it, sure they would find my bag.
“Well, then can you please find it? I have to have it. It has my camera and other important stuff”
“Sir, give me 15-20mins, I will get it traced personally”
I walk around the airport, anxiously waiting for the time to pass but the world suddenly was moving so slow.
9,448,223,396 years later
“No sir. I am sorry we cannot find the bag. Can I have your boarding pass again?”
I gave it him. I was scared what if he burns it and laughs at me “You shall not pass!”
“Are you flying to San Jose after this?”
“Ahh, yes I am. My flight leaves at 05:50”
“That’s my answer for you sir. Your baggage has been through checked. You will find it in San Jose”
“Are you sure? Because the tag says to claim it in LA”
“I am absolutely sure sir. Please proceed for your departure. Have a safe flight”
“Thank you” I left the counter, half believing what he just said. Something inside me told me, I would not find the bag in San Jose.
San Jose airport
And went the last bag. Yes, my bag did not reach San Jose. I was not even close to being surprised. That was a small propeller aircraft with not more than 30 passengers.
I walked into the Delta Airways office.
“I am sorry sir. Let me check it for you.”
She was very prompt. She immediately called up LA airport and then sent some instructions on her computer simultaneously.
Overhearing the conversation, I realized, they found the bag. Phew! Half relief. They found the bag shortly after I left the counter.
“Why did you guys not board it in the aircraft when you knew the passenger was going to San Jose on that flight and he did come looking for the bag?” said the lady at the desk. She seemed genuinely annoyed.
“I am very sorry sir. I have retards sitting there in LA. They found your bag, they knew you are flying here. But they still did not load it. They are planning to send it by the next flight.”
That was some relief to hear about. At least my bag was not lost.
“And when is next flight?”
“Ok, I am here for an assignment, I have my camera in that bag, my clothes, everything. There is no way I can do my assignment tomorrow without that bag. I am a photographer and I have been hired to cover an event. Without my camera, what am I gonna do tomorrow?”
I made up the story. The truth was, I just needed my clothes and stuff. The camera I was going to shoot on the next day was rented already. But then, that was the only viable option that could pressurize them to get my bag as soon as possible. Also, I so wanted to click pictures with my camera.
“I am very very sorry sir. I will try my best if they can tag it and send it by the next flight, whatever airline that is. I would say, you please head to your hotel. I will give you call. And if possible I will get it delivered to your hotel. If not, you may have to come and pick it up”
“Thank you. I really appreciate that”
I stormed out of the office. The next challenge was to get to the hotel. Unlike LA, this airport was like Lucknow. Small and deserted.
I walked out and on the other end, were the shuttle service cars. I walked to one of them.
“Yes, please sit” replied the guy in hindi, opening the car door for me.
That was such a relief. Though it didn’t do anything but the very thought that I have someone who speaks my language was a relief.
He dropped me at the hotel and left me his number for any traveling needs anytime. Typical Indian I must say.
“Hello sir, I am speaking from Delta Airlines regarding your baggage. I am afraid I don’t have a good news”
“And that would be?” I said, annoyed at the dramatics, half expecting her to say “somebody accidentally opened the baggage cabin mid-air so all the bags flew off. Did your bag fall in your hotel? If it did not, I am afraid we lost your bag”
“We could not arrange for your bag to be shipped tonight. It will surely be coming tomorrow morning. I deeply regret the inconvenience caused”
Something started to grow across my body. A strange sensation. My clothes felt like they were made of steel. And full of dirt. I wanted to take a shower and change to fresh clothes. The feeling slowly settled in, that I didn’t have my brush, clothes, my slippers, anything.
It had been an amazingly long day for me.
I woke up at 8am to catch up breakfast. We reached the location, few miles away from the hotel, around noon. And we began shooting some left over interior scenes from day 1. Followed by a lot of stuff till late evening. Then I had to light up a bonfire scene (my favorite stuff). The lighting up itself took 3hours.
By the time it was dark, we were ready. That scene took the longest to shoot. We wrapped at 1am. (Now July 14. I know it is obvious but you would realize why I am emphasizing it).
The plan was to drive back to NY at night. Even though, everyone was tired, and sleepy, this had to be done. I decided to be Camille’s navigator who was driving the equipment van, which was a commercial vehicle. That meant, we could not take the expressways adding another hour and a half to the journey time.
Our phone and laptop batteries were dying. Which meant, no GPS and no communication channel. Camille’s phone had fallen in the lake, so it wasn’t much helpful anyways (also, iPhones suck!).
This by itself is another blog entry. So I would not give away much details here. A lot of detours, asking around, guesswork, breaks and screaming, we finally made to NY by 05:00am. Dead tired and extremely sleepy, I reached my apartment by 06:00am.
I opened my laptop to find my ticket to San Jose. Wow! I found out the flight was 01:10pm. To reach JFK at 12:10, I needed to be out of my house by 10 which meant I had to get up by 9am. Oh perfect. It was already 7am by the time I arranged everything. I had a lot of pending stuff to do since I was away from any internet and mobile phone connectivity for last 3days.
I tried to sleep. But by the time time I actually fell asleep, my alarm went out. I ran to my bathroom with a severe headache.
I reached Penn Station from where I had to take a train to Jamaica to get to JFK. I couldn’t find the entry for the platforms. I went roundabout the station 3 times (as if expecting that each time I go around the CIRCULAR penn station, it would be different). I missed the train I was supposed to catch in order to reach on time. In my desperate attempt to exit the station, I took the elevator going down (why? I don’t know. I specifically remembered walking down to the station, so the world was definitely upstairs.) I was in a state of trance.
As I reached down, Bang! The entrance to the trains. I realized I passed those escalators 3times but never noticed they actually lead to the trains to Long Island, what I was looking for.
I had to wait for 20mins for next train.
Back to reality
In flight I could hardly sleep, I wasted my time talking to the guy sitting next to me or watching stuff on the stupid entertainment system. Luckily, I had eaten at LA airport so I was not hungry at all. I had actually gobbled a veggie burger at Ruby’s diner (which was so delicious, I highly recommend it to all) along with fries and a thick, super awesome chocolate shake. I got to eat after 24hours, so I almost licked the plate clean. The last meal was the lunch at shoot. (Yeah I know. it sounds fucked up. Yes, it indeed was!) To add to my misery, I gained 3hours of time while traveling to LA, making my day longer.
I must buy toothbrush, soap and a t-shirt at least. The idea suddenly struck me. I ran out of the hotel, my fellow cameraman, Aaron, following me. He was staying with me and was to shoot the same event with me.
We reached Walgreens, which was nearby. The clock said 10:01pm. I tried to walk inside. The doors were locked. The customer service representative gestured “we are closed”. I missed it by 1min.
I looked around. Everything was closed. Except for a food store.
I understood, it was not going to be a pleasant night. It was already 36hours without any sleep for me and the adventure had just begun. I walked to the food mart.
To be continued…
Abhishek had moved to a new apartment and I was visiting it for the first time. He also had new roommates. Meeting him was something I always looked forward to. Though I did have certain obstacles in doing something that simple and straight forward as it may seem. A crying girlfriend and irregular schedules of both of us were the primary ones. I don’t want to describe the former factor in much detail here. But I am sure all the guys know how girlfriends react when you decide to visit your friend for a day or two who stays close enough to reach by local but still far enough to not be able to meet often. They find it extremely competitive to their position. And add the line “I would be back monday morning” to kill the last few remains of peace in your life. “So you will stay at his place the ENITRE weekend?”…anyways not the point of this post (though would love to cover it soon in another post).
I reach his apartment and the first person I meet is Mahesh followed by Abhishek Palit. “Cool guys” I thought. As we reached his room, he introduced me to Vishwajit aka Vishu. Lean and dark wheatish guy with very sharp features.
“Hi…Vishu” he extended his hand.
“Himanshu” I smiled back.
“Ahh…Himanshu…you know even I have a friend named Himanshu”
“ahmm…that’s interesting….” I replied unsure of what to say next.
Abhishek got lost in doing something while Vishu continued
“Do you play guitar?”
“Nope I don’t” I humbly replied still smiling.
“My friend Himanshu, he is an amazing guitar player”
“Do you sketch or paint?”
“Ahh…no..I don’t sketch” the smile reduced a little.
“My friend Himanshu is brilliant at sketching and painting”
“Do you dance?”
“No I don’t dance” I still tried to act neutral though it was getting a bit annoying now.
“My friend Himanshu has won so many awards for his dancing”
“Do you play football?” (I am stressing hard to remember the name and football is closest I can remember…may be something else but it was a sport)
“I am not a football player”
“My friend Himanshu…”
“is a state level football player” i finished his sentence…
“yes…how did you know that?”
“Not that hard to guess you see”
“And you know what? my friend Himanshu…”
“ENOUGH!” came snarled Abhishek. It seemed he was listening to all the conversation.
“Does your friend Himanshu know photography?”
“My friend Himanshu is a very good photographer”
“Does your friend Himanshu know Photoshop?”
“My friend Himanshu is expert in Photoshop and all of the designing software” (Today, Abhishek n other NIFTians have turned out to be such AWESOME graphic designers…now when I think of it, that statement doesn’t sound so strong…I am a graphic designer but Abhishek is the ‘master’ in Abobe Master Collection CS5 😀 )
“Does your friend Himanshu know video editing?”
“My friend Himanshu does and he is frigging good at it”
“Does your friend Himanshu know web designing n programming?”
“he is an artist..he doesn’t do..”
“MY friend Himanshu was the best at programming in school and he could design flash web pages when most of us didn’t know how to open word. Also, he is very good with computers and gadgets. And there are a thousand more things he can do well…I can keep counting.”
He was serious. Very serious. Pissed off by what had happened. I nudged him to let it be but he continued
“The point here is, every person has got some talent or the other. Everyone is unique. STOP this FUCKING COMPARISON…else I am telling you…it won’t be good….”
Hell he was loud.
Vishu kept quiet. I had never seen Abhishek get so serious about something like this. In fact, he is a person whom I am scared of the most. Because he has this super annoying habit of picking on everything I say and I have to admit, he always manages to find stuff to make fun of me making my life miserable. One chuckle is enough to boil my blood twice in a second. However, if anybody else even tries to pick on me, he can’t tolerate it.
I was so amazed to have witnessed this kind of a conversation. I never thought Abhishek would be so proud of me for all those things he counted.
The environment cooled down soon. Everyone resumed normal conversations. Even Abhishek and Vishu were then talking normally as if nothing had happened. Though Vishu didn’t behave like that ever again. That incident left a deep mark in my memory.
Today when I think of that, I feel so awesome and lucky to have a friend like him. Just a random memory!
The recent setback really affected my life. I was miserable. I would dream about that interview. I could not think of anything else. Worst part was coping with people. Well, extremely curious people.
This is a completely true incident with no dramatization or elements of fiction.
June 21, 2011
The handout for my VISA application stated very clearly that I must not bring any electronic devices with me. So there I keep my iPod and phone. Further it said, dress like you are going for a job interview. My blue shirt and black formal trouser. I have never quite enjoyed wearing formals. I think it is more to do with the psychology than any physical discomfort caused by the attire. Somewhere, deep inside my head, there is a simple equation Formal = Slavery. One should be free to choose his attire. Of course, the purpose decides how one would be dressed and I guess that much can be left on an individual to decide.
The entry time for the VISA Interview was 9:00AM. I left my house (Noida) by 07:45 taking enough buffer time for metro delays, traffic and other unfortunate events that love to surprise me when I need them the least. However, miraculously I was in front of the building at 08:30.
It is very simple to identify USA Consulate even if you can’t or don’t read the boards. The only embassy with a hoard of people (at least 100) sitting outside on the sidewalk while only 20 candidates in the actual queue to enter the consulate for the interview, is the US of A.
Then I noticed. They had a counter to submit any electronic devices. I did not let that affect my thought process. Little did I know I would think about it…very soon!
Moving ahead, the second point is a window where a poker faced woman with specs (Indian) asks you very obvious questions from your application to verify all the information is complete and eligible for next round. I cleared it and this gave me a great confidence.
The next window is where they take your fingerprints to digitally sign your application.
The last stage takes time. And this waiting drives you crazy. Even though you have been rehearsing everything from last so many days, at this point, your anxiety reaches the peak. A little more and you would definitely require medical attention. Specially to look at people walking away from the consular windows WITH their passports in their hand and a sad, about to cry face. At the same time, you do see certain super happy humans and it gives you courage. The whole game gets too much to think of.
The handout also said that one must not speak to the consular unless asked for and one must only give the information asked for. Telling more than what is required or not giving sufficient information may lead to delays or even denial of the VISA application. This point kept on lingering in my head.
I was completely lost in all the Punjabi murmur around me when my number flashed on the window right in front of me. I am still getting the creeps while writing this. I walked to the counter. Probably the longest walk ever. On the other side of the glass sat an African-American lady in her 50s and she did not look happy. As if her coffee smelled like her own piss or she had real bad trouble this morning, thanks to last night’s feast of masala Indian food or she had caught her husband cheating on her for an Indian guy or the consulate told her she would be sent to her native place or may be she just hated the color blue.
“Hi how are you doing? Can I have your passport?” she said like she wanted to dip it in her coffee mug and chew.
I pushed it across from the little slit.
“What kind of VISA are you seeking?”
“F1” I answered.
“What is your latest qualification?”
“Masters in Film and Television Production”
She began typing something.
“And why do you want to go to New York Film Academy?”
“To study cinematography”
“But you already studied film making. What’s the difference?”
“I want to specialize as director of photography and learn about cameras and…”
“It is film making end of the day. Aren’t there any good courses in India? Bollywood is a big industry. You can learn so much here.”
She continued typing.
“There aren’t any good cinematography courses here…”
“I am sorry but I cannot grant you this VISA. You need to get more settled in your field. You have just graduated. You VISA application is denied. Here is your passport and some information about this denial”
She handed back my passport and a small booklet saying 214(b).
“Next” she shouted. Another number flashed on the screen and a young girl behind me said “Excuse me”.
WHAT THE…..IT WAS OVER!
I left the counter…blank, unclear of what just happened, unable to gulp it down. I had prepared every document, ran around the whole city in that summer heat getting everything sorted. My admission was approved at NYFA. Everything was ready. But all seemed in vain now. No VISA meant nothing.
It waited for a month anticipating this interview and it took only 5mins to blow it off. I simply had no clue how to react to that. I had almost believed that I would be in USA by September. Now it all seemed like a joke. Just that nobody was laughing. Gathering myself, I began walking out of the consulate.
What would they do if I break the glass and grab the neck of that woman? She won’t make it alive out of my grip I swear. (What would they do? Well, now when I think of it, I was at the embassy of United States of America. Nobody would have ever been able to prove that I was born. Everything about me would have ceased to exist.) In all probability, she must stay somewhere close. She would walk out of the consulate in the evening. How about I catch her then? Never in my life had I felt such rage for anyone. I looked at her one last time. She didn’t look back. Obviously she was busy screwing up the happiness of that girl who didn’t seem happy either. I continued walking wondering what next? I was having a real tough time, for the first time in my life, accepting things.
I didn’t realize when I was already at the sidewalk, outside the embassy. The last 5mins were playing in my head again and again and again. If only I would have said this, if only I would have answered like that. What would I tell everyone? How embarrassing it would be to face everyone. Why embarrassing? It is not my fault. But I could hear some voices laughing and mocking me.
I signaled an auto.
“Central Secretariat metro station?”
“Nahi ji, Race course chhod denge. Chaliye” (No, I would go to Race Course station).
I didn’t really care at that point. I sat in. However, my day, had just begun. It was just 10:30.
So, I was determined to walk back home. There was a surreal peace around me. Didn’t feel like taking out my headphones and just killing it. BHAR HOSPITAL was glowing brightly. It is actually Bhardwaj Hospital but all of their letters never seem to work. Once it even used to glow as BHARDWA HOSPITAL. Reminded me of the times when at night we would come here to pick something very basic that a chemist would usually have like injection for tetanus or even water at times but they would coldly deny the very existence of any such thing. How convenient!
Walked a little more. Head heavily clouded with thoughts. Unable to think of one thing I begin randomly taking down each thought one by one and therefore the next paragraph would be seriously random. Reader’s discretion solicited.
Cell beeped. Think of colors. I don’t think I would be able to. However the person requesting it is one of the few I can trust so I honestly explained my state. Cell beeped. Support granted. Read the message again. Think of a color. Replied ‘White’. However, no reply now. Much appreciated. Red car stopped by me. A very homely looking couple asked me “NH24?”. “Take right from the next circle and left from the main road. Head straight and you would eventually merge NH24” i replied. They moved ahead slowly thanking me with a smile which of course I reciprocated. Whom should I ask the way? Shit! I know the way. I know more than one way. Not a good idea. Leaves you with a question mark. Questions? too many. Half of them uninvited and remaining invented by me. Answers? Oh yes! all have answers. Trouble is the acceptance. Acceptance accomplished. Time. I know the answers, I know the time they will be with me. But time isn’t moving. Hell it is not. Every day has 24 hours out of which 18 I am awake and conscious. Of each second passing by. Want to experience unconsciousness.
Unpleasantness? Problems? Issues? None. Its all smooth. Is that the point? No I guess not. It the silence before the plunge. The moments one must be feeling before bungee jumping. Each second moving like an hour. The road is wet. Street lights are on. A young man is walking ahead of me, earphones in his ears and grooving to something upbeat. He too is thinking a thousand things. His walk and his constant effort to keep his head in the music, on the road and nowhere else is the evidence. People I am angry with and people who are angry with me. They bother me sometimes. I am indifferent mostly. Again not a good sign. Complexities? Layers of truth? No control. Not by choice. Wish Ctrl+Z was in real life. No regrets. Still. That’ how it is. Trust is so costly. Belief is so difficult. I even have blind beliefs. Trying my honest best to channelize my thoughts, streamline my energy and concentrate. Chopping out unnecessary parts of my life. They are just cobwebs as of now. Memories unresolved. Images undeveloped. Incidents. Accidents. Life beyond.
Cell beeped. Where are you? Atta?. Another pillar of my life. Denial is again possible. The light from the street lamps is making beautiful patterns. Wonder if I have to light this kind of a scene, will I be able to achieve this? Rustle of my jacket, my footsteps, breath…sounds of my own thoughts. Some are so loud, they are finding their way out from my lips. The sound perspective. Why do i ignite hopes which I know have very less probability? But I am just being fair. A little extra. Everyone craves for it. Few lucky ones get it. God has a plan for sure. As somebody says. Wish I could have a copy of it. Faith. Faith. Some more of it. Helps. But why do people ask me? Will I pay them when I will earn? Curiosity. Human Behavior.
I have already crossed tea point. Last I was here with Vasundhara and Sankalp before they were going to IIT Kharagpur. That was a nice day. Probably today I just wanted to delay my reaching home. The air I am breathing in, all alone, is giving me a kick. The dampness and coolness. The questions? The futile statements. Love for sure isn’t the only emotion you can survive on. People love you. You love people. But you may still not want to talk to them. You may still not want to share things with them. Maybe because you love them. You are scared of being judged. You know them. You know what they will think and say. This prejudice kills the point of a conversation. You escape. I can’t stand absence of an objective. And around, I can’t see people with a plan. May be everyone is not supposed to have one. Why am I a control freak? Why can’t I just let things go as they are. I always want to interfere. Want them to bypass me even if I might not change anything. I always want a choice. I may not practice it. But I want it. Makes me feel free.
I think the aural perspective helps. I don’t need headphones. There’s pep in my step. Well, as of now, that’s it. A man just passed by me. Drunk. Sloshed. Stinking. He’ll just puke. Glad I won’t be around. I am nearly reaching home. Thought process is on. Can’t find the right expression to write here everything. Moreover, don’t want to write everything. It questions the spontaneity of the moment. I am now in complete conversation with myself. Hope no one talks to me when I enter my home.
I rang the bell. Entered my room…..wore the mask.
I woke my whole family up in the morning at 6. I got ready and reached the bus stand on time.
However, something didn’t seem usual. There was no sign of a Volvo to Varanasi. One was marked for Allahabad which ideally should have departed at 7. Further inquiry revealed a devastating scenario that instantly ripped off all my happiness.
THE BUS SERVICE WAS ON A STRIKE! Mind it. Specifically the Volvo service to Varanasi and Allahabad.
Reason? SOMEBODY had abused the driver in the morning. Anurag are you reading this one? I tried my best but could neither find the abused or the abuser. I wanted to see them if not anything else. How amazing is that? Cancel a bus service because of an abuse. Of what I know of bus staff, they just love to remind each other of the immense love of their sisters and mothers at every instant, required or not. Wonder what kind of an abuse actually managed to upset that dude? And no son of their mother from the UPSRTC department had the guts to come and solve dam’n problem. I left the bus stand by 9 realizing nothing good is coming my way.
Bottom line – My shoot plans never saw the daylight. I am sitting at home now writing this blog. Will look for a similar setting to carry out my shoot in Lucknow somewhere.