It happened to me again. It is just unbelievable. I think I am going to have some plastic surgery done. There is no doubt in my mind that I look like someone the whole world wants. My wife says it is my natural shifty look, but it has to be more than that. You should see some of the really shifty looking lot who whistle past Customs all over the world. Them and Indian VIPs who can cheerfully stroll past six officials with nine suitcases and a retinue of flunkeys and what do they get...they get a salute.
What do I get, great weary traveller of the world? Imagine, for a moment, thanks to the rain in Mumbai, four flights from the Gulf circling the city looking for a chance break in the low cloud cover to land and doing so in a span of ten minutes of each other. Now you have 1100 passengers, all overloaded with hand-luggage, mewling, pewling kids in tow, this being the holiday season, a six-hour delay doing nothing to improve moods and an Immigration hall the size of a badminton court to get people through.
One hour and thirty minutes of pushing ,shoving, shouting at those who jumped the line, generally elbowing, shinning, kicking and warring, manners flung to the winds, courtesy towards ladies and the infirm and frail not even getting a small walk on part in the proceedings, one passport is stamped and Vohra is through to baggage carousel which now playing host to rain soaked luggage resembles a pool and has everyone slushing about. On then to Customs where half a dozen denizens of against 'phoren goods' invasion do duty.
Now, I have an uncle. I have several uncles but this one ( along with aunt) has asked for a small microwave oven and I am carrying it in my suitcase, having shorn it off its packaging so that I have only one item of luggage. So, it goes through the machine and I am about to pick it up when this man walks up to me and says, what is in this. Fair enough. I tell him it is a microwave oven. He says, you are carrying a microwave oven in your suitcase. I say, yes. He says why would you carry it in your bag, is it old, didn't it come packed. Legitimate inquiry. So I give what I think is a charming laugh and say, it was more convenient for me to unwrap it and pack it in my suitcase.
He does not laugh.
Why would you not carry it in its original packaging, he asks.
Because that would be two bags and I don't have anything else. He says, when did you buy it. I say, last evening. And you came home, unpacked it, then repacked it in your suitcase?
Open your bag please.
Please open bag and stand away.
Next thing I know, there are three other guys who have joined this little convention on convection and they are now saying, open it.
And I am saying, if I can find the flipping key, which does very little for an already shattered credibility and I know my daughter said, Dad, remember here is the key, don't forget, but where is here?
At last, key discovered, and the bag opened.
The microwave is taken out and sent for inspection. Some ultra violet ray business while I squirm in mortification. A bigwig goes past carrying four cases and a microwave oven in its original packaging.
Twenty minutes later, twenty minutes of complete vulnerability and uneasiness later, the microwave is returned and a disappointed Customs official, now refusing to help me repack it tells me to carry on. Into the rain where the now exposed microwave oven gathers water and probably plans to short circuit.
The pre-paid taxi stand gives me a ticket for car number 6743 and standing there in the rain, you guessed right, that's the only number missing.
I am home.
Article by Bikram Vohra
Courtesy: Gulf Today