Thursday, March 1, 2012

"Oh, m'am, that flight has been canceled. Why?",

said brightly the woman behind the Kingfisher airlines airport desk and looked lovingly at me in anticipation. Astonished, I asked, "Um, whatever do you mean?" It was 5 pm on a lovely Thursday afternoon and the Diplomat, Son and I were trying to get from Dhaka to Delhi via Kolkata on Kingfisher Airlines. I had just been informed that the second leg of the journey, from Kolkata do Delhi, has been permanently discontinued and have been standing there in utter disbelief at the rather unclean Dhaka airport for a few minutes. The airline hostess expressed (a rather misplaced) surprise that I had not checked whether the flight was still on before getting to the airport. Well, you will excuse me, but I am not typically used to checking whether my flight has been permanently discontinued. It is not just part of the travel routine where I come from. So, sorry lady, my fault, I did not check. To her credit, she never lost spirit and started clanking on the computer keyboard with a speed that many an American secretary with 2 inch acrylic nails will envy. Several phone calls (which included the fact that we were from the US Embassy) and endless typing later, we were told that we have been rebooked on an Air India flight from Kolkata to Delhi and will get there that same night. Elated, we promised the airline lady our cat as a gift and pranced through security. Many hours later (why does it take SO damn long to fly to any city other than Kolkata from Dhaka??), around midnight, I carried the sleeping Son into the Delhi guesthouse of YES Bank, where my father in law (FIL) currently works. The guesthouse provided us with wonderful accommodation for 5 nights, which was quite fantastic since the (decent) hotels in Delhi begin at $150 plus a night. So, thank you FIL and YES Bank!
The next morning, over a sumptuous Indian breakfast cooked by the caretaker of the guesthouse, the Diplomat decided to peruse the Indian press. To his horror, front page news was the ongoing demise of Kingfisher Airlines. Which was bad, since out travel plans were to go from Delhi to Sri Lanka where we had rented a beach house for five short days and yes, you guessed it - we were flying good ol' Kingfisher air. Not trusting the airline, the Diplomat decided to call them and make sure we are OK to go. 56 unsiccessfull attempts to call later, after 1 hour and 15 mins of waiting on the line (he endured the worst jazz music I have ever heard) he finally spoke with a representative. "Oh yes, sir both of your flights (Delhi-Chennai, Chennai-Colombo)  have been cancelled. No one contacted you to tell you that" "No, you consummate idiot, clearly NO ONE has called us. We are currently in India, without Internet and highly irritable right about now." At least, this is what I WANTED to say to him. The rep offered unhelpfully to put us on a 6 am flight out of Delhi, connecting though Chennai where the flight to Colombo would be at 11 pm...We declined with what some could perceive as an ungracious attitude. The rep then sighed and booked us on Air India flights, which would put us in Sri Lanka in the early afternoon. Oh joy. Oh happiness. Who's the man?! One hour and 45 mins later, we got our flights confirmed and celebrated by watching an hour of Zee TV (a riveting and popular Indian TV station, which hosts a smorgasbord of TV dramas and soap operas).

Exhausted, we quickly went back and collapsed in bed, awoke 3 hours later, ran back to the airport, checked in and were the last people to enter the plane that would bring us to the gorgeous land of Sri Lanka. After a brief 3 hours during which all three of us were comatosely asleep, we arrived in Colombo at 5 pm, where we met up with my Inlaws. We got into a large comfy van, piled up the luggage and began what was supposed to be a 2.5 hrs journey towards the south of the island, to the small village of Weligama, right outside of which we had rented a splendid villa with a chef. 5 hours later, having spent seemingly endless time struck in traffic, we finally stopped at the ethereal oasis of Villa Vatura. Under the glistening reflections of the large swimming pool, on the teak veranda, the chef had served a heavenly meal of traditional Sri Lankan cuisine, nicely accompanied by a horrendous cheap red wine. After dinner, the exhausted Son went to bed while I poured us a glass of smoky LaPhroaig and lit up an exquisite cigar. Oh, I knew this was the beginning of a beautiful vacation.
The next 4 days I categorically refused to perform any sightseeing or go to anything not directly associated with large bodies of water or food. Then finally, on the last night, we reluctantly climbed back into a frightening large van in the middle of the night and sped back north for a 6.30 am flight - the Diplomat and Son would fly direct back to Dhaka while I went to Hyderabad for a work conference. Once again, I passed through the fateful airport of Delhi with a 4-hour layover to spare but this time I decided to buy myself a pass into the business class lounge. I spent the next 4 hours in the quiet blissful luxury of the lounge surrounded mostly by scruffy men with large laptops and massive plastic bags of duty free alcohol. Two hours later, I landed in Hyderabad, a city that I am currently in love with.

For details on the trip itself, including a long litany on the awesomeness of Delhi and the Taj Mahal and Hyderabad, tune in next time!


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