Friday, September 9, 2011

The most dynamic person I've known..

My Dada (Grandpa) passed away yesterday. 

Even though he had been ill for a while now with cardiac and arthritic issues, and this was expected sooner or later, the fact that he won’t be around anymore brings back a flood of happy memories of times with him.

There have been issues where we have disagreed with him and fought with him- like every other family- but he was definitely the most vibrant and active man I have known even in his old age.
Dada and Dadi would stay in West Bengal most of the year, and come over to our place for a couple of months every year. 

Being the elder sibling I would sleep with them in their room. He had the most adorable way of waking me up for school. He would start with his daily chores around 4am, all the while humming shlokas from the Geeta and coming to whisper them in my ear every 10-15 minutes. Though (being a person that shows disinterest in any activity of the religious kind) I hardly ever admitted it, I quite enjoyed being woken up that way. 

He would then spoil me by giving me some money (that my parents never allowed!) to spend at the thelas outside school. This was a daily ritual for the months that they were around in Rajasthan.
We would go out to Shastri Circle in the evenings. Him, for his walk and routine of getting the English newspaper (that would arrive in our city in the evening). Me, just for the fact that I could get him to buy me comics (which, again, my parents didn’t show much interest in getting for me! It was a task to convince them to let me get comics!) 

So every first and fifteenth of the month we had special walks to the stationary shop at the Shastri Circle to get my fill of Champaks, Balhans, Nandan and Nanhe Samrat.  On the other days, it was just for the fun of going out and climbing towards the statue of Shastri ji while listening to stories of freedom fighters and such. 

[It sounds cheesy, I know. But I was a greedy kid!]

Those are most of the memories I have of him as a kid.

Then again, one act that I hold him in great regard for, is his kids’ education. Even though they stayed in a small village in West Bengal, and did not have much money, he made sure that his kids- not just the sons, but also the daughter- went to one of the best boarding schools in the country. 
Even with our differences, he was definitely the most dynamic person I knew.

I’ll miss him.

[The post was just written as a vent-out for me, since I have no one to talk to right now, and needed closure] 

Friday, April 29, 2011

Stranded! - Dwitiya

It all started with the eruption of the Icelandic volcano, Efjya.. Ejffya *googles* Eyjafjallajökull. A lot of European airports were shut down, including Frankfurt, where I was stuck for four days.

Here's my story in pictures. This should hopefully keep it cohesive and concise.

[The backdrop is in the previous post Stranded - Part One, which is a hurriedly scribbled affair]

Day 1:

Frankfurt Airport where I was supposed to stay for six hours but ended up staying for four days.

The Longest Day

Rows of cots for people who had already been stuck there for a day.

Everyone was upset and confused over what was going on. And apprehensive about what was to come next.

Most people staying at the terminal were the ones who did not have a visa for Germany. [Those who did, could go and stay at an airline sponsored hotel]

Day 1: By early evening, it became apparent that this was for real. Nothing flew in. Nothing flew out.

Day 1, Evening: They had to add additional rows of cots  to accommodate the large numbers of people. 

Day 1, Night: No activity on runways.

My little bed on Day 1. Covers were provided by Fraport authorities/Airlines.

Ended up shifting base to a corner of the main terminal, where most people were staying put.

Day 2: 
Did not click many pictures on Day 2 since I was panicking by this point and was hoping to get out of there as soon as possible.

New friends.

"What to do?" Just sitting and waiting.

Day 2: Decent (airline) food. Yes, it was indeed good to get something different and palatable after 3-4 meals of sandwiches and soup.

Day 3: 
On coming to terms with the situation, and with some ideas from the family, I decided to click pictures and post on Facebook!
New day. New news. [Although it had no news about any potential changes to our state].

More new friends.

People in queue for clean clothes.  

This was because by day 3, everyone had run of  clean clothes in their carry- on. We had no access to our checked baggage.

Day 3: Sleeping. Talking. And roaming around clicking pictures.

"Doesn't matter if we can't go out!"- This gentleman decided to do some sight seeing within the airport itself! :o)

Finally took a shower on Day 3. All clean. Yes :) [ Clean clothes were provided by our Airlines!]

Sitting and talking. All from different parts of the world.

FOOD! By Day 3, we got some really good food provided by the Airlines. Available 24*7!

Making the terminal our home.

Food and Drinks..

..And some good coffee and hot chocolate!

All this was enough to keep me happy! :D

Going barefoot, because by day 3, my shoes were stinking!  [You don't really think about these little things until  you actually go through them]

The crew that fed us! :D

They had chocolates too! :o)

Finally by afternoon Day 3, the Indian Embassy officials decided to pay us a visit. People crowding around them, trying to talk through their problems.

Talking to the embassy officials for basic requirements like clean clothes, shoes and medicines. [We had ample to eat and drink, but clothes were in short supply]

The embassy got us some clothes, but apparently these were from some Flood Relief Fund. Basically they treated us like refugees of some sort. [Shame on them!]

People still tried to get their hands on as many clothes as possible. [And I ended up just clicking these pictures :@] It was chaos! -- As our fifth grade teacher would say, "A fish-market, really!"

Talking to an Embassy official

Telling them our problems, and suggesting solutions.

Doctors in the group making a list of medicines that would be needed.  Most of the people with conditions like DM and HTN had run out of their supply of meds by this time.

Listing medicines.

A group of people babysitting for another passenger :o)

Evening of day 3. Still no activity on the runway.

As one of them said, "All in band uniform". All in clothes supplied by the Airlines.

The empty pathway. One random guy in the distance trying to make a call from the very German pay phone.

Day 3, Evening: We had come to terms with the fact that it might not be soon that we would get out of here. So why not  make the most of it? So a couple of new friends and I, decided to watch 'The Terminal'. Much fun it was!

There were these TVs that kept on blaring news 24*7. How do we sleep? Well,  AN found a way to turn them off at night! :D

Successful in turning the damned TVs off for a good night's sleep.

Day 4: 
Most of early Day 4 for me, was spent in a queue and in one of the airport offices, since I decided to have a go at trying to get a German visa. 
Rumors were that there was a loooooong queue at the office. This was one of the reasons why I did not go there earlier. 
On getting to the office I found it to be true.
But as I waited there for a couple of hours, and was about to give up and go back, I found that they were making special concessions for Indians and giving them a visa out of turn! :)
So I went in and got my visa stamped! (Yayyy!)

As I got to the main Airline counter to get my Hotel vouchers, it turned out they they were now giving vouchers for just one day. There was no guarantee of how long we'd have to stay there though.
So on discussing with some other passengers I decided to stay put at the terminal. The logic being- a) I'd save money b) I'd find out sooner about flight statuses here than at the hotel. c) I had already stayed here three days, and was well acquainted with everything by now.

So I stayed on.
Day 4: Early afternoon, there was some news of some flights being re-started that evening.  We weren't sure when our turn would come, but it was a start. :)

Saying Goodbyes: Loved this smiling gentleman. He was the epitome of calmness. Busy with his own work, but always greeting everyone with a smile. [Reminded me of the singing guy from FRIENDS for some reason]

Day 4: There were cheers from everyone as the first flight in four days took off for Chicago! 

Everyone was happy now! My main concern was to make sure I got up early enough in the morning to stand in queue for the earliest tickets out. 

Day 4, night: With hopes of leaving the next day, it was time to clean up the clothes line in our corner of the terminal.

My home for four days! :')

The boards were almost empty, but some flights had resumed. They had posted details on this sheet of paper.

Day 5: 
I forgot to mention, we were issued temporary tickets everyday in the hope that flights might resume that day. But the catch was that there was always a long queue to get those tickets too. So I always chickened out.

This time, it was for real.. Some flights had already taken off!

I set up multiple alarms to make sure that I'd be up early the next morning and not miss out on my chance to get a ticket to Delhi. Who knew how long the airport would stay open.. The volcano was still erupting after all.

Day 5: 6.00 am, Standing in queue to get our tickets.

Lufthansa- Who took good care of us while we were at the airport.

MY AIRPLANE!!  I was so excited at the prospect of going back home that I ended up shopping for more chocolates than I had actually brought from the US! Duty free shopping FTW!

We left Frankfurt at noon of day 5. The journey back was uneventful. Full of sleep and watching Tum Mile.

PS: This post in pictures was basically an extension of the Facebook album that I had posted LIVE from Fraankfurt. But I wanted to make sure I chronicled this on the blog, since that Facebook album might very well be deleted.

PPS: The chronology of pictures might be a leeeettle bit skewed, well because it has been an year hasn't it?!

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