Adventures in America – Part 2
Still getting there – Delhi to Boston
We were booked on Virgin Atlantic, all the way from New Delhi to Boston via London. And in typical Indian fashion we made our way all the way through the massive check in line, only to be told at the counter that the flight was running late and we need to get out of this line, and get in a new line to get out tickets changed because we wouldn’t make it to our connecting flight at Heathrow.
Thankfully they put us on a new flight without argument, and promised us a hotel room in London upon arrival, because the delay would leave us stuck there for an extra day. That’s where we met the ’FOMO’ couple for the first time. FOMO – Fear of missing out.
This couple was in their 60s and refused to stand in queue, always snaking their way to the front, to find out what was being discussed there, without them. In the process they pushed ahead and blocked everybody’s path, blocked the exit and refused to move for anyone, even wheelchair passengers were not allowed to pass by them.
Unfortunately for us they were also on their way to Boston, and somehow knew that Kritika was a travel planner, so despite our prayers they kept showing up and directed all questions about their trip our way, instead of asking the staff. As you can imagine other passengers in line at Delhi, were irate and demanded all kinds of compensation from the airline staff, private planes, first class upgrades, written apologies and the like. We kept our cool, picked up our new boarding passes and quietly slipped way from the ‘fomo’ couple and boarded the flight to get to Heathrow.
The flight itself was routine. Kritika is a happy flier, she likes to devour the in-flight selection of food, coffee and entertainment. I like to slip into a seated coma and usually only wake up, in a mild panic, when the wheels hit the ground.
Upon arrival in London we were escorted to another queue to got our hotel assignment and the fomo couple as usual, skipped past this queue and stationed themselves in their own alternative line, causing chaos with other passengers trying to de board and disrupting the previously peaceful queue. UK authorities can be anal about transit visas but since this time it was the airlines fault, we were easily granted a one-day visa at immigration to get out and explore the city while we wait for our new flight on the next day.
We stepped out unprepared into the London cold and queued up shivering and waiting for the shuttle that would get us to the hotel. Dad quickly made friends in line, that’s his gift and being the gentleman that he was offered his jacket to a shivering lady while braving the cold in his t-shirt. I’m usually also compelled by such acts of selfless generosity but the cold brings ouf the worst in me and I would much sooner fight a nun for her garb before letting go of my own jacket. Also waiting in queue were the fomo couple, whose gaze we actively and successfully avoided.
Once the shuttle reached, as expected, the queue broke down, all civility went to hell, and we Indians rushed the bus door like it was the last train leaving for the border after partition. In typical London style the hotel rooms were small, overpriced and the food was bland. We made the most of the night and the next day were somewhat grateful for the one day delay because it allowed us to stretch our legs and get a good nights sleep.
We did not have enough time to reach Central London so decided to spend the day exploring the area near the Airport. So we booked ourselves a cab, and were met by a chatty Uber driver named Baljit Dosanj, who claimed to be a chachera bhai of the famous Punjabi singer/actor Diljeet Dosanj. He gave us many inside stories of their ‘pind’ and after the usual Indian question of ‘when will you and Kritika have kids?’ left us at the high street to explore Hounslow.
For those of you that dont know, Hounslow is a part of London that was annexed by India sometime in the 70s and has the highest concentration of Indians on welfare outside of Kerala. I was shocked to know that the pound notes we carried from India had been demonetized’ so to speak, and we were unable to exchange them at the post office, bank, currency exchange or in shops. Seemed like only the queen herself could change them, and since we didn’t have enough time to visit Buckingham palace, we had to limit our purchases to cash on hand, and pay the rest by card.
We made the most of rest of the afternoon shopping for clothes to use the rest of the trip and visiting Kritikas dad’s bua who lives in London, a meeting that seemed destined, so in the end the extra day was a god send. Our next flight was on British Airways, direct to Boston but the airline had auto assigned us the worst possible seats, divided across the plane in all middle seats, far away from each other and we arrived early to try and change seats so we could be placed nearer each other but the staff at BA have perfected the art of saying Fuck Off without actually saying it and politely explained that we were fresh out of luck as far as they were concerned.
We did manage to play the old parent sympathy card, moms white hair coming to the rescue once again, to seat the parents next to each other but me and kritika were forced to accept the company of strangers for the 8hr flight to Boston. We tried to complete the rest of the check in procedure via the kiosk but were once again tracked down by the fomo couple who found the automated check in kiosk akin to trigonometry and needed our assistance to check in, we pawned them off on a young unsuspecting BA ground staff and ran to security hoping to lose them in the forthcoming crowd of travellers but no such luck. No sooner had we made it through security that we found them besides us again, staring at the departures board in bewilderment and had to direct them to the right gate. Then we slipped away to find a meal and some peace before the flight.
There’s no smoking zone at T5, at least nothing inside the building and our googling told us a few spots where frequent travellers hide and smoke so we quietly screened the terminal building for weaknesses, like terrorists planning an attack, making note of the fire exits and stairwells, but in the end decided to behave ourselves and just go without.
Our gate was separated into 3 boarding groups and we found ourselves at the wrong end of yet another long line, but who do we spot right at the front of the line, yes, fomo couple. Somehow these two had once again slipped their way to the front of the queue. Kudos, despite their age and inexperience these two always seemed to find the front of the line. We happily kept our distance, not wanting to answer any more questions about boarding, seating or the rest of the flight. Because of the heightened security there were American homeland security officials waiting at the gate, hand picking people to re-screen and for once, I wasn’t picked up for special screening, but Dad was not too lucky.
The poor guy had politely offered to hold moms heavy purse while in queue and the sight of an Indian man carrying a ladies purse was enough for him to be singled out and a homeland security officer proceeded to take him away for a re-screrning and swab test, despite his repeated protests that it was not his purse and he was merely carrying it for his wife. The officer insisted that in America, if you’re carrying it, its your purse and proceeded to give him the full American pat-down welcome, while we sat by and sniggered.
The flight was packed end to end and it took is quite a while to convince someone to let us switch seats but eventually we succeeded and made our way to Boston, landing late evening to a beautiful sunset and vast open skies. Immigration at Boston was a breeze thanks to the automated screening machines that capture your biometrics and issue you a receipt that let’s you just walk through the rest of the process, except for the part where the fomos found us again and needed help operating the machine, which due to the extra security we had to refuse. We are not usually impolite to other travellers but this time I feared that any more assistance would see them following us home. Finally we made it home, and what a home it was, an old style brickwork house, surrounded by gardens and beautiful trees in a peaceful residential community of parks and bike trails.
My previous trip to Boston was many ages ago in freezing mid-February and I had vowed not to return there till global drowned Canada and re-climatized Massachusetts, but visiting the family home and its surrounding suburb was unimaginably beautiful and I’ve found a new appreciation for the city and life there.
Over the next few days we enjoyed the pleasures of home and family, took a lovely bike together ride to the lake, visited Cambridge, Salem, Rockport, and took in all the beauty of the north-east in spring.
Time flew by and before we knew it, we were packing for our next flight to the warm and tropical Costa Rica. But of course, as is routine on this trip, the airline cancelled our flight last minute, on the morning of departure, and we had to scramble to make alternative arrangements. So we spent another night in Boston, grateful to get an extra evening with the family there, and catch up on last minute shopping and pick up an extra bag for our flight to Costa Rica.
I’ve attached some lovely photos here, courtesy of Dad who has taken a shine to the camera, documenting this trip beautifully for all our memories. Lots of love to everyone back home, I hope you’ve enjoyed reading and stay tuned for more updates from Costa Rica and Guatemala….