Saturday, 20 November 2010

Part II: Oh, it’s not THE END yet!

As we woke up mid-morning on the day after the Reception party, the day seemed promising. We spent the afternoon visiting couple of relatives and as per our plan; the second leg of our double honeymoon began that evening! We were to fly to Delhi that night and within a couple of hours, catch a connecting flight to Leh. But then, half day into the ‘promising day’ we just learnt of the Delhi-Leh flight being pushed by a day and that meant, we had an entire day to spend in Delhi! We contemplated cancelling the entire trip, fearing another series of cancellations and delays as was in leg one. But well honeymoons don’t happen often, and besides this time there was no deadline to abide by for our return, we were just heading back home after the trip, so we decided to go for it. We spent the whole of next day in Delhi doing nothing but relaxing, relaxing and more relaxing. It was only here, we realized how very tired we really were! The past few days had been in such fast pace, we had no time to even think!

Early next morning we landed in Leh to a freezing 6 degree Celsius! It was way colder than we had expected and our already tired bodies were trembling in the chill. We had to ‘chill-out’ in this weather for an hour before we could manage to get a taxi to take us to our hotel room. I lay there huddled under the thickest of thick comforter I could find and had two pairs of socks on. My body refused to heat up for the next couple of hours. The entire day, the sun was nowhere to be sighted. Late afternoon, geared up in all the winter wear we could lay our hands on, we ventured out to get some fresh air and some food. Just a few steps seemed very strenuous. We found ourselves gasping for breath and halting every few minutes. The altitude difference was beginning to take its toll on us. Hubby dear, who seemed to be coping better than me, did all he could to keep me warm. Rubbed my ice-cold palms and feet, tucked me into woolens, got supplies of hot water and besides began to wonder if it was after all a right decision to fly to Leh. But yes, it was! Leaving aside the fact that I was freezing, the sights Leh had to offer were breathe-taking: white snow-capped peaks all around… reminding of the popular Mani Ratnam number; almond-shaped-eyed cute locals scurrying around doing their daily chores; tranquility that was so wonderful and enchanting.

Vegetarian food was a rarity there. After hunting down for an eatery serving vegan Tibetan cuisine and giving our taste buds a treat, we headed back to our room. The day went well after all. Next day though, was not as good. A bout of cold and cough troubled my husband. With every passing hour, this seemed to be aggravating and by evening, he too seemed struggling to walk just a couple of steps in the chill. This prolonged into the next day and now the worried wifey, suggested we go to a doc. We switched roles and now I was the care-taker and he, the patient! Mid next day, we met a physician, who diagnosed his condition as AMS – Acute Mountain Sickness! Whoa, after our round of Sea sickness, Air sickness and now as if to fill the void, here comes Mountain sickness! He assured us that it’s pretty normal for tourists to fall prey to AMS and it’s caused due to the high altitude of Leh. He spoke us out of our plan of wanting to return sooner than our 6-day stay in Leh. As adviced we hung on and tried to enjoy the remaining two days, which seemed the longest from among our vacation days.

Finally, it was the night proceeding to out departure from Leh and soon we were flying to lower familiar grounds. We were so glad we made it through till the last day, without much difficulty in spite of falling sick.

Well, if you think this was the end of our adventure… you are in for more surprises! We get that wretched news again… our flight to Delhi is delayed by an hour! This meant we were left with just about enough time to catch the connecting flight to Pune. Hope upon hope we prayed that we make it on time without any further delay.

No points for guessing… yes, as luck would have it, the flight delayed further by twenty minutes and also the baggage collection took ages, we missed our connecting flight and were left stranded and stressed out in Delhi! Oh my… talk about getting jinxed!

Weary of running behind time last two weeks, we just let it go by for the next hour or so, and did nothing but just sit sipping on some cola. Eventually we started working out options to get home at the earliest. Flight tickets for the same day were sky high and train tickets were not available. Hmmm… after another hour of juggling alternatives, my husband ventured onto the various airlines’ kiosks to try his luck. Unexpectedly, I soon got a call from him saying he has got amazingly cheap tickets in a flight which was to take off in another two hours! I learnt some cancellations happened and there were few seats available and we were lucky to get hold of two of them! I still cannot pin point which lucky star smiled upon us that moment.

We hurried our way to the check-in, where we met with some confused officials who seem to be mixed up about the flight details, since this was a cancelled and re-scheduled flight, the details were not clear to them. For a second they even told us there is no such flight! Our fingers were never uncrossed. After much clarification, they cleared out tickets and at last let us board the flight.  

The biggest surprise came as we hopped onto the aircraft and checked for our seat numbers… we find them to be in the Business Class! :) So much for the anxiety and trouble we had to go through for these seats. We travelled back to Pune in comfort and style!

In an hour and a half we had a glimpse of the aerial view of Pune. I was finally… oh finally reaching my new home. The sense of relief and excitement that flooded through me, took precedence over every other emotion. Hubby dear, looked at me and smiled. After all that we went through, each and every adventure and hurdle that was thrown at us, we were glad we faced it all, together.

As the flight prepared for landing, he warmly took my hand and said ‘Welcome to Pune’! :)

Friday, 19 November 2010

Part I: The Hunnymoon saga!

My life as Mrs. Shirali began on the 29th of October 2010. Every little thing was perfect about the day and my heart swells with ecstacy, each time I think of the way things unfolded.

A couple of days after the momentous day, we flew to the Andaman’s for our Honeymoon. This was the first of the two trips of the double honeymoon that we had planned out for ourselves, before we finally made our way home in Pune, to start our domestic lives together. Two weeks of touring excited us. Little did we know that the excitement in store was more than double, in fact… much more than expected!

The Havelock Island, in Andaman was our chosen retreat. Oh boy, was it some treat to our eyes! The ambiance was absolutely serene and beautiful. Just the kind of place the romantic-dreamer me had dreamt up of going to, with my sweetheart. I couldn’t help but recollect a poem from my collection, dated early 2004 (…6.5 yrs back!!), and be awed at how absolutely realistic the poem seemed today, to every word in it as if written while at Havelock with my husband! Sigh… guess its serendipity!


(May 3rd 2004)

They walked together,
Hand in hand,
Leaving behind footprints,
On the beach sand.
Moonlight smiled upon them,
As the water kissed their feet,
Cool breeze ruffled their hair,
A lovely tête-à-tête.
She nestled her head,
On his shoulder,
Looking at the vast stretch of blue.
The moment was beautiful,
The timing was perfect,
And he whispered, ‘I love you...’
She smiled and looked,
At his handsome face.
She loved him too,
And told him so.
As they begin their new life,
As husband and wife,
They are glad they have each other,
For now and forever!

In the wee hours of the day that we were to leave the island, we stood by the beach; completely in awe of the loveliness… we noticed the water level to be much higher and the breeze much stronger than the days prior. Nothing alarmed us though; we were absolutely smitten at Havelock and would have loved to stay on longer than our scheduled plan of 5 days at the heavenly paradise. As if providence heard us, all of a sudden our timetabled schedule began to take a new route.

As per the scheduled trip, Andaman was a 5+1 days plan, 5 days in Havelock and a day in Port Blair before we caught our flight back to Chennai the next day. And the same night, we were to travel to Bangalore for our second reception hosted on the 7th of November, which was the following Sunday.

Now, as we stood in our 5th morning at Havelock with 11’o clock ferry tickets to Port Blair, we were informed of a predicted Cyclonic Storm causing rough waters, due to which all ferries were being cancelled, to and fro Havelock. That left us stranded in Havelock for at least another day. And the plan was such that, if we were to catch our early morn flight from Port Blair to Chennai the following day, we should have been on that ferry today! To add on, there was just one ferry per day shuttling between Havelock and Port Blair. The next day too, our ferry ride to Port Blair was not promised, since no one could really predict the schedule of the Cyclone! We were left with no choice but to re-schedule our return fight to Chennai. After a lot of discussions with families back home, and considering Mr.Cyclone’s likeliness to linger on at Havelock for longer than a day, it was decided to push our return by not a day but 2 days to avoid likely further postponement. According to this new plan, we land in Chennai on the 7th, the evening of which, we were hosting a Reception party in Bangalore! From Chennai, the two of us would join my brother and a friend who were driving down by car to Bangalore that morning. This meant we would be just a couple of hours early for our own party! The relaxed pre-planned schedule was just beginning to look action-packed on paper…! We could just wait and watch how it would materialize…

Well, now that we had an additional day in the paradise island, we decided to make the most of it. Without missing another minute, we zoomed around in our rented Honda Activa exploring the divinely lovely roadways and hidden beaches… so scenic, so beautiful… getting an extra day to enjoy this awesomeness was truly a blessing in disguise!

The next day, we woke up real early to make it on time to the specially arranged Ferry to Port Blair. We were told it was on first come first serve basis. And since a lot of people were marooned in Havelock, the Ferries could get crowded soon. Upon checking out from our beautiful bamboo cottage, we reached the ferry boarding point with bag and baggage, just to learn… that again all the ferries for the day have been cancelled, but if the rough water calms down a bit, the ferry could come in by early afternoon!

Wow…now we were in trouble! We could not afford to lose another day… the Reception deadline kept popping into our minds with every passing hour! We just prayed that the sea would calm down a bit in a while, to allow the Ferry come along to take us back to Port Blair. There was nothing more we could do… hence, we decided to let our hair down and enjoy our last few hrs (…hopefully!) in Havelock. From a nearby shop, we bought a cozy looking hammock and headed straight to the beach…! The water had receded drastically, and there was an eerie silence owing to the missing splashing of waves. However, our holiday mood not having receded much, we put up our hammock and comfortably snuggled in and enjoyed the few moments by the sea side!

In about an hour or so, we headed back to check on the status of our ferry. Well, good news! 3 Ferries were expected to come in a while. We sat there and waited. And soon, the lovely sight of an approaching ferry made us smile… yes; though we loved this island and loved our extended holiday time… we were anxious to move forth with our other plans too. We were soon seated inside and finally sailing. But the joy of finally getting onto the much awaited ferry was short lived as both of us fell prey to the rough seas and threw up owing to sea sickness!

After the 1 hr’s ride …what seemed like eternity… we finally docked at Port Blair and headed straight to a hotel and checked in for the night. A day and a half that we had in Port Blair; was utilized to explore the places of interest the capital city had to offer. The day was pleasant and we went to bed hopeful of getting home soon the next day – the day of the Reception.

At the airport, we are welcomed with the (not-so-welcoming) news that our flight to Chennai had been delayed by an hour. This day, every single hour counted. As soon as we landed in Chennai, we were to get onto the car and get going to Bangalore. So an hour meant a lot! Working out options, we booked flight tickets from Chennai for the two of us, as it would give us a couple extra hours in Bangalore.

Once we boarded the flight, we felt at ease, we were finally getting home. Or so we thought! The flight was smooth… until we neared Chennai. All of a sudden, the brightness outside, dimmed and all we could see was clouds and more clouds. The turbulence gifted me with tummy churning air sickness. I sat there gripping tightly at the armrests, with eyes tightly shut, praying for this not to be my last flight ever! It was that scary! The pilot struggled to stay in control and the attempt to land was futile. With a final heave, the pilot pushed the aircraft above the thick clouds and we heard them announce that owing to storm condition in Chennai, the flight was being diverted to Bangalore for a while and would return after a while. ‘Wow, did God hear our prayers?’ we thought, as we looked at each other questioningly. We were landing in Bangalore sooner than we thought! Eventually we learnt, this was not a shortcut… but was just another long chapter of this long saga!

The flight landed in Bangalore soon, alright. But little did we know then that our request to let us get off was going to take much longer than the duration of the flight itself! The airlines officials had to run through some security checks and get permission to let passengers get off, off schedule. Sounded simple, but this took ages! Meanwhile, we had asked family to cancel our tickets from Chennai to Bangalore, which thankfully was done on time and hence with full reimbursement. But my brother and his friend, still waited in Chennai just to confirm that we really did get off that aircraft in Bangalore for sure and not get forced to fly back to Chennai. Because, if we are not allowed to get off, and if they too start their drive, we wouldn’t have any means of transportation from Chennai to Bangalore, having just cancelled our flight tickets! Things were so messed up by now, and we were too tired to even curse our unlucky stars!

We were stranded in the aircraft for 2 hours before they let us go. After what felt nothing short of a mini hijack experience, we finally made our way through the exit of the airport where we were so glad to be reunited with and greeted by family! The two hours ride from the Bangalore Airport to the Reception Hall was fully utilized to strategize our next agenda – buying replacement reception clothes for me…! My meticulously selected reception ensemble was with my brother, who after getting the assurance of our successful exit from the aircraft, had just begun his drive to Bangalore through the stormy weather, which meant he wouldn’t be on time for the Reception party! So much for pre-planning! A quick check at our watches told us that we had exactly 3 hours to putting things together before the party started!

After meeting the families and feeding our very hungry tummies, we set out on our mission. As expected, it was anything but easy to shop for party attire, in such a hurry. My husband’s cousin brother had an idea! He felt built wise, I was not too different from his wife and hence, I could fit into one of her suitable saris without much trouble. Having not many options left, we settled for this one and not wasting any more time in the mall, we made our way to their house. There began the ordeal of selecting the right sari, which not only fit me well, but also looked appropriate for the occasion. In about half an hour and loads of discussion and trials later, I was armed with ‘my’ alternate party-wear and was all set to get dressed up at the parlor.

Another hour later, there I was standing with my smiling groom beside me, on the stage of our reception party hall! Phew!! Some relief it was to both families, for just having the two of us up there on time. The party was a grand success. After a whole lot introductions, smiles and hand-shakes and 5 hours later, we reached home dead tired and slipped into deep sleep the moment we crashed into bed.

This was definitely the most eventful day in both our lives till date.