“I can’t say no to Everest, and so I can’t let you say no to me” – I explained to the attendant at the China Airport.
I was flying to Nepal via Guangzhou, China. Owing to adverse weather conditions our flight had been redirected to a smaller airport in a nearby city called Nanning. Owing to security reasons, associated with an international flight; we were not allowed to get off the plane. So, our plane waited there for about 6 hours, anchored just a few feet away from the terminals and the emotional climate inside experienced much turbulence as we waited for the weather to stabilize at Guangzhou.
It’s incredible how hungry humans can get when we are locked with nothing to do! The food and drinks started running out. Not anticipating an extra stop just an hour before the scheduled landing, the airlines had not stocked an extra meal, so the Air hostesses controlled the situation with regular announcements and creative dispatches of small snacks, and water in 2-hour intervals to control the commotion. By the time the weather cleared, and the flight was allowed to leave Nanning, I had, of course, missed my connection to Nepal. I quickly turned data on and checked the next flight was to leave at 3;30 pm, less than 2 hours away.
Guangzhou airport is huge. We walked for 10 minutes or so in search of the connecting flights and information desks. As we walked frantically trying to figure out the next flight out, the reality of a seven-hour lockdown at a large airport started to sink in. Lines were colossal everywhere we looked. I waited in the queue for a few minutes, but upon no movement after 20 minutes, I decided to move forward and take my chances.
People murmured “We have to stay the night here.”
In normal circumstances, there is a high likelihood that I would have accepted the reality and figured out a plan for my day break in Guangzhou by now. This time it was different though. And so, to the next 300 or so passengers in the snake-like curled queues, I repeated “Excuse me – I have to meet my group by midnight tonight” and took a step forward. One of the passenger mocked and shouted, “Everyone needs to be somewhere,” as he blocked me from moving forward.
So I stopped and with full conviction replied, “Sure. How about if you can prove your urgency is higher than mine, I will help you get ahead else you let me go” and I proceeded to explain how sixteen of us were leaving for EBC next morning at 1:30 am. And how difficult it is to take two weeks off for a full-time employee and mother of two. And how little the chances are for such opportunities to reoccur.I also reminded them how inconvenient it is for a group to start at such a negative note when one member fails to show up. Either my argument was compelling or my chant a source of headache, but the bottom line is that people around him gave him a stare ushering him to let me pass, and so I did. By now, with a group of folks cheering me in the lines behind.
As I sprinted to the counter, I was not happy to see the inefficient working style of the administrative staff. Five members were grouped on the same counter discussing a single passenger’s situation even though the lines were continually growing. I tapped on one girl and asked: “is there is a chance you could help me while the others helped the other passenger.” She looked up and stared for a bit as I repeated: “I NEED to be in Nepal today.”
“No flights available to Nepal.” she replied
“There is one at 3:30 pm.”
“Are you 100% sure. Please check. Maybe there is one seat.”
“I am sure.”
” Fine. Then get me on any flight through anyplace in the world, on any route that helps me reach Nepal by midnight.”
“What do you mean?. You can take the flight you missed today, tomorrow.”
“There is no tomorrow,” I shouted.
“No flights today to Nepal”
” Well, then look at flights to India and India to Nepal. India is a bigger country. You must have many flights out…”
“What???” By now the five folks were staring at me.
“Listen I don’t have the courage to say no to Everest, and so I can’t let you say no to me. Just figure it out. I am leaving today and reaching tonight.” I proclaimed.
Puzzled she waived at her colleague. And then she waved at me, signaling me to wait and left.
Meanwhile, the EBC trek group had started assembling in Nepal, and the WhatsApp group was buzzing nonstop.
I don’t remember what exactly I was feeling at the moment. I do remember staring for long at the door behind which the attendant had disappeared though. I was feeling rather tired when someone tapped on my shoulder and asked”Do you prefer Aisle or window.”
“You can choose.’
“Doesn’t matter. Window.” Was she kidding, or was this the inefficiency speaking? Just a few minutes ago, there was no seat. Now I have an option. I would have gladly sat on the floor if I had to.
“We are taking a chance for you. We cannot guarantee that the luggage will reach since its only 40 min to take off. Is that ok?”
“Can you guarantee I will reach.”
“Yes, you can board. We can’t guarantee the luggage”.
“Fine, then I will take my chances.”.
I grabbed my tickets. Waved them back to the folks in the crowd cheering for me and shouted: “GUYS TAKE YOUR CHANCES” and ran.
As I sprinted to the gate with 25 min to departure, I saw a big sign “FLIGHT DELAYED. EXPECTED DEPARTURE. 4:15 pm”.
We reached Nepal at 9 pm in the night. Nepal’s airport too was under construction. Queues were long, and delays longer with all the manual steps we had to go through to finish immigration and visa processing. As I walked out trying to calculate the essentials I needed to buy again in Nepal tonight – I stumbled upon something. A suitcase, beaming it’s happy, bright green smile welcoming me in the land of Everest.
I smiled, remembering the Shah Rukh Khan dialogue from the movie OM SHANTI OM “Kehte hain ki…agar kisi cheez ko dil se chaaho to puri kayanat usey tumse milane ki koshish mein lag jaati hai.”
My suitcase and I strolled out to find my brother and sister in law waiting for me.
“You made it. ” They cheered.
“The mountain did.” I replied as I hugged them.