My first trip to United States of America was taken solo, with a delectable tiny baggage in the form of my 9 year old grandson, Shriram. It is not that he tagged on to me. In fact, it was the other way round. I was accompanying him.
It came about like this. My two sons happened to be stationed in Los Angeles, one in North at Ventura and the other in South at El Toro. The former, when he came to Bangalore, tempted Shriram to visit them so as to enjoy Disneyland, Universal Studios etc etc. My daughter was also keen that he should make use of the invitation before reaching the ‘Full Ticket’ age. But, she was not keen to send him all by himself. So, the all too willing grandma, with the full concurrence and financial backing of grandpa was to chaperone the little one during winter holidays. That’s how my trip came about. There was another reason for my husband to send me. He had a lurking hope that I would be able to wean my younger son away from the ‘white’ American girl he was seeing. (In retrospect I can say that we are happy that for once I failed to do so!)
Well, as part of the training to go abroad, my husband refused to do the running around for me. So, I did all the rounds, Travel agent, Airlines, Visa, Foreign exchange etc with my daughter who is an antithesis of me in that while I am carefree (or careless?!) she is extremely careful about her belongings, be it her son, luggage or the travel documents. Sure enough when we came out of the Airlines office after purchasing the ticket, a man came running behind our autorickshaw and managed to catch us after two traffic lights. He had my passport in his hand which he said I had left behind with the Airlines lady!
When I went for the US visa in Madras with my grandson, after a long wait, the consulate insisted on a certificate from his parents saying that they were sending him with me out of the country of their own accord. (probably I looked as if I had kidnapped the child and was smuggling him out of the country !). Luckily,my daughter and son-in law were waiting outside the consulate on the footpath and I could get their permission on paper at once.
When we came to Chennai second time, this time to take the flight, my daughter warned me repeatedly to check that only our ticket flaps from Madras –Singapore were torn off by the airport people and not the ones for Singapore-LA lap as they were notoriously known to do so in sheer carelessness. So, after booking our luggage directly to LA, with all the excitement of boarding for my first trip abroad, I just pocketed the ticket folders after the flaps were collected. Sure enough, I did check it before putting it away to please my daughter in absentia. I saw some things carbon copied on the inside cover and I assumed that every thing was in good order.
Our tickets were for economy class. My grandson and I enjoyed everything from the endless supply of juices, meals and the movies. Nothing could take away the thrill of the first International flight___not even the fact that a bunch of dhoti clad Singapore bound commuters were demanding liquor as if the aircraft was a free for all pub (Madam, Madam, beeer, beeer),nor the way the glamorous airhostess had to use tons of paper towels to mop up the mess on the aircraft floor made by one of them who could not retain his drinks.
Just a couple of hours before reaching Singapore, a kind Indian gentleman befriended me and got my travel details from me. Casually he asked whether he could see our tickets. I was shocked when he told me that I did not have a ticket for our onward journey, i.e., from Singapore to LA. So, the callous Madras guys had indeed removed both the flaps from our tickets! He asked me not to panic. He called the Air hostess and explained the situation to her. She went into the Executive class and told somebody who came out and assured me that we would be taken care of. Probably, this was a common occurence for them to deal with every other day.
Just as the Singapore Changi airport was approaching, we were taken to the Executive class with our “cattle” class hand luggage and made to sit on the luxurious seats. At that very moment, my bladder, filled to a bursting point with gallons of Pine apple juice demanded a visit to the wash room. I was too picky to have used the economy one. As I went and locked myself in the Executive one, the sheer cleanliness of the whole washroom triggered a long, highly relieved stream of converted juices. Even as I was half way through, I heard a frantic banging on the door, “Ma’m come out. It is time for you to be in your seat with the belt on”. But then the God given stream reinforced by the kind hospitality of Singapore Airlines wouldn’t just stop. It was going on and on and on and so did the frantic banging on the door. Finally, just as the aircraft was coming to the end of its circling, I could come out and get myself belted duly. After we landed in Changi, the airhostess took us to their Airlines counter and explained. Thanks to the modern technology, our details were on the computer with also the detail that our luggage had been booked right up to LA. With our boarding passes in hand, we just made it to the LA flight, covering the rest of the journey with no more hassles.
At LA International airport, a burly black man helped me with my luggage. I noticed that my kit bag with the identifying red bow had another name tag on it, a Pakistani one. After the carousel went two times round, I picked it up and tore off the extra tag. Shriram and I passed through the customs with not much trouble and came out to the eagerly waiting reception committee consisting of my two sons, daughter in law and our one year old granddaughter.
We had arrived safe and sound in US!