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Saturday, December 25, 2010

An Ode to Y'all

I came to Jordan a scared and paranoid soul. I was worried no one would like me, I’d be the ‘foreign’ little child who kinda crept along the outskirts of the group. I would not be smart enough to converse intelligently with these exemplary co-students and I would fail at Arabic, especially given my history with languages. Ya. Sometimes I wonder why I even embarked on this trip. How was I to know that my deeply entrenched low self esteem would be knocked straight out of the ball park by this amazing group of students I have been privileged to share this out of the world experience with.

Oh you dearest of friends. You all have made me a better person, someone I’m kinda OK with being. You were my oasis of strength, support, fun and comfort in this absurd, soulful, chaotically colourful and challenging three months. I doubt I’d have loved these months as much without you. Thank you, for teaching me, amongst others that:

  • Texas is actually pretty OK
  • There is a difference between the South, the Deep South and then Texas. What I’m not sure but hey! You got to begin somewhere right?
  • ‘Foreign’ is a term of endearment – who knew that being culturally insensitive/racist/ethnocentric was in fact a show of love???
  • The frattiest bro you’re likely to meet is a sucker for a stuffed toy, a yellow baby chicken to be specific.
  • It is possible to be really good friends with Conservative Republicans. Yes multiple. I’m still a flag burning liberal socialist though, not to worry.
  • Being tossed over someone’s shoulder is a particularly unpleasant experience
  • Glee brings people together. Oh wait… I already knew that!
  • Riding a horse sounds like the scariest thing ever.
  • Your friends are musical geniuses when drunk and tone deaf when sober
  • An abandoned rubble pit on a steep slope is actually a fun place to hang out at when drunk
  • UN parties are fun to crash. As are US Embassy parties. Especially if you’re an Indian dressed as a Texan and your friend is a Texan dressed in your Sari
  • Feathers make for great fashion accessories
  • ‘Sounds like my prom night’ (a friend’s invention) allows for waaaay more versatile usage that ‘that’s what she said’
  • ‘WORD’ is a really popular slang term. Who knew?
  • People will pretend to find law and legal discourse interesting just coz they love you so much
  • It is possible for 23 completely different, polar opposite, disparate people to be really good friends, to get along, genuinely like one another and make a lasting impression on your life
  • Your tribe is forever (well a really long time if nothing else) – the memories, the lessons and most importantly, the people

The Airport Sagas

Airline companies are not my friends. Airport lounges on the other hand, are. I have spent many an hour at various airports globally, sitting right in front of the Check in counter, in the desperate hope that somehow my luck turns, just once. That… is yet to happen.

My freshmen year I had what my family lovingly called ‘the travel jinx’. My university forgot to pick me from the airport for orientation which please note was my introduction to American college life. I got dropped off on the side of a highway that year, spent 80 USD on a cab ride from the airport and then would have done so again had it not been for the generosity of a stray college professor who drove me, in the hope that one day, somewhere, someone would return the favor and look out for her own college-aged daughter. The climax was my return trip home however, when I spent 37 hours at a particularly boring airport due to rain in Chicago and then got held up at London airport because they didn’t like the look of my replacement ticket. The domestic leg of my trip home met with a similar disastrous fate when Cyclone Aila hit Kolkata, my final destination and I got to spend 7 hours on the tarmac of a State which was controlled by separatist militias and then flew back to where I had started from 12 hours earlier. Yes. That was a memorable trip.

Anyhoo, we all assumed that I had broken the junx when I succeeded in crossing both the Atlantic & the Pacific in the same year, without any mishaps. We rejoiced. Especially when I managed to avoid the snow storm of 2009 that descended upon Europe and the East Coast, stranding travelers across all major Western airports. I had ebaten the system and could finally breathe a sigh of relief.

And then of course Gulf Air ‘happened’ as we would have said in school. The Gulf Air roundtrip was a good Rs 10,000 (USD 200) cheaper than the Royal Jordanian flight and allowed me 1.5 times the weight limit. A golden opportunity, yet another airline triumph, I was on a roll. Or so I thought.

My ticket home said my flight left at 1330 hrs. their website was down for the three days preceding my flight. I didn’t think to call up as I assumed they were legally bound to inform me or my travel agent about a change in schedule. Oh but what was I thinking! Is Gulf Air legally bound to anyone but their own inefficiencies?

I reached the airport, close to 3 hrs prior to my departure only to find my flight was boarding. In true Jordanian style, no one at the Check In counters had any idea as to what was going on, partially to blame was the fact that Gulf Air, has no official counter at the airport or even a sort of office where they can pretend to sit and deal with problems. My flight had left at this point so after much running around and tracking down of airport managers who could call Gulf Air employees only to be handed a retinue of excuses, I gave up in sheer frustration and bought the ‘last’ ticket on the Royal Jordanian flight home. I have never bought a ticket this last minute before so maybe I’m overhyping the situation but somehow I find myself, yet again stranded at a rather boring airport for 9 hrs with no viable food options around and my ever cheerful mother 500USD poorer. Hail Airlines!

(Interesting Fact: Airport employees, in three different continents now have seen a sobbing Paromita Sen, which is more than can be said for some of my closest friends even.)

Airlines That So Far Have Tried To Screw Me Over:


British Airways

American Airlines

Spice Jet

Gulf Air

United Airways

Ones That Haven’t:

AirIndia (Really. No Joke)

Royal Jordanian’s fate is now hanging in the balance