Coming back from Kuwait, I had had an overnight journey, complete with a group of Arab women yakking in my year throughout the flight, so I couldn’t even go to sleep. So the last thing I was looking forward to really, was a completely chaotic airport. I don’t know what the deal is with the Mumbai international airport, but lately, it has been an airport from hell. People trying to slither their way forward in the immigration queue, the harassed immigration officer destroying his vocal chords shouting, in vain obviously, to bring some order to the mess in front of him, offloading your multitude of bags from the baggage belt only to discover there are no trolleys for you to carry them on…that pretty much sums up the airport I stepped into.
And add to all this that group of Arab women. Now that was the ultimate cherry on the top.
I met these women first when I was checking in. The business class check in counter is normally not that crowded, but this time, it was. There was set of Arab women at the counter. They were there for checking in, of course, but it looked more like a reunion of friends who have not met in, say, centuries. There were quite a few people lining up behind them, politely waiting their turn to check in, but these women looked quite undisturbed by all that. They took their own sweet time.
They were a boisterous set. I turned to my Mom and said to her, no way I’ll be able to go to sleep on the plane today. She replied that maybe they’re going somewhere else! You don’t know where they’re going. I nodded , hoping she was right. I really needed my sleep, I had a dance lesson early next morning.
Suddenly, I heard my Dad calling me. He was standing there chatting to those women. I went over. And here is the conversation that followed next.
Dad: This is my daughter, she lives in Mumbai. She’ll be able to help you out.
Me (my worst fears confirmed): Oh, so you’re all going to Mumbai? For a holiday?
Arab Woman: Yes, we’ll be staying at the Taj
Me: Oh, that’s nice! Which Taj?
AW (turning to look at each other): Huh?
Me: There are two Tajs in Mumbai, Taj Land’s End and Taj President.
AW: No No No, the Taj, the Taj, the hotel!
Me: I know, its just that there are two of them-
AW: The hotel Taj! You know the hotel? Taj?
Me: Yes, well- Never mind! The Taj…lovely place to stay at!
AW: Yes. And we wanted to ask you what are to good places nearby to visit?
Me: To visit? There are quite a few places. There’s Haji Ali, The Victoria Albert Museum, The Prince of Wales Museum, The Ajanta Ellora caves-
AW: No No No! We want malls and restaurants!
Me(unable to believe my ears): Come again??
AW: Malls. And restaurants!
Me: Malls…and restaurants…??
AW: Malls and restaurants.
Me: Right…ahem…(while screaming inwardly all the time, you’re going all the way to India to visit some malls and restaurants??? Isn’t Avenues (a Kuwaiti mall which happens to be one of the biggest in the world) enough?????)
That over, the flight over, I was now standing at the baggage claim, my bags strewn about me, but with nary trolley in sight. It was, as I mentioned earlier, utter chaos. Heavily crowded, as most people had more luggage than what they could carry by hand, and with no trolleys around, they were just standing around with their baggages. More and more flights were coming in. But the passengers from the earlier flights had no way of clearing out. People were running around here and there screaming and fighting over whatever one trolley that had miraculously appeared. The airline staff looked harassed, as they went yelling into their walkie- talkies (about, you guessed it, trolleys) and passengers followed them around yelling at them.
I’d managed to get my luggage down from the baggage claim and was wondering how to get it to the cab that was waiting for me outside. I had just two pieces of luggage. But I also had two pieces of hand baggage Not impossible to transport, but not easy either. I would have preferred to have a trolley.
Suddenly, like a wish come true, I saw an airline worker with two trolleys. Without a thought, I jumped onto it. A second later, another pair of hands grabbed the trolley too. I looked up. It was one of those Arab women. I tugged at the trolley. She tugged back. I tugged a little harder. She tugged back a little harder too.
I looked at her, pushed back a strand of hair from my face and said to her, politely (at least as politely as you can when you’re so flustered), “That’s my trolley”
AW: Oh no! It’s my trolley!
Me: But I got here first!
AW: No no no! I did!
Me: Are you kidding me? I did! You got here a full 10 seconds later! First come first serve!
AW: I did not!! I got here way before you did!
Me: No you didn’t!!
AW: Let GO! That’s my trolley!
Me: It’s mine!
AW: Trolley CHOR!!!
That shut me up. I was speechless. Speechless not because she called me a chor. Speechless because she called me a chor in Hindi! I had no idea she knew any Hindi! That shocked me. And it shut me up. She saw that, and yanked the trolley from my hands and happily went to pile it with her luggage.
But luckily enough, immediately after that, a huge train of trolleys was brought it. There was somewhat of a stampede as people tried to grab a trolley each. But I managed to wrestle one trolley out of there for myself. And I piled my luggage on it and went out to the cab which (poor guy) had been waiting for me for an hour and a half already.
All’s well that ends well, I guess.