Sunday, January 13, 2008

Yichang to India - Of Dead Toes and Magic Gates

This is my fourth year as a med student in China and it will be the first time I spend the winter break [also the Spring festival/Chinese new year] in India.
So after all the hassle of the last few months I finally decided to run off to India for a while and spend a good five-six weeks in my motherland as a lazy Indian and part-time guide.

With this in mind I contacted Firos, our Sri lankan Airlines Officer and 4th year med student of Yichang for tickets. The tickets were confirmed without much trouble. But as seems to be the trend this semester, there is always something waiting to go wrong.

When I went to the bank to withdraw money for the ticket, the ATM there faithfully debited the amount from the account but somehow forgot to hand it over to me. It just thanked me in the firm but polite manner of ATMs worldwide and asked me to take my card and leave. Fortunately there was a security guard there who helped me file a complaint. I have now been told that it will be at least a month before I get back that money.
I did manage to pay for the ticket though and also got a train ticket from Yichang to Beijing.

So now it was D-Day, the day I left Yichang. After doing my packing, I took a shower and set about getting some last minute preparations done. I suddenly noticed that there was something odd about one of my toes. It had gone completely white, totally drained of blood. At first I thought it was just the cold shower I took and so sat down to rub some colour into it. You see, after a fire in one of the Chinese student dorms, we are not allowed to use any heating rods or hot blankets, so my only option was to rub it down. After about 15 minutes, I decided I needed a second opinion. I called Oswin into my room and we put our medical heads together. There was still 'pain sensation' in the toe and so we unanimously declared that it was not dead even though it looked like a lost pale ghost among the other healthy pink ones. Still, we were undecided on whether to go to the hospital and risk missing the train. Finally though after half an hour, the toe began to show signs of life and I'm glad to announce that he is doing quite well right now.

The Yichang-Beijing train journey was very pleasant and quite uneventful. I had a whole soft sleeper cabin for myself and it was truly "yi lu ping an" [Peaceful travel] except for the 10 yuan spent on the Chinese breakfast.I had a very good time in Beijing as well, renewing old friendships and making new ones. Had a great dinner courtesy of David [Dai Hui], my friend in Beijing who I lived with when I was there to get my passport work done.
At the airport I was joined by 5 of my University mates who had flown down to Beijing that morning and would be with me on my flight to Colombo.
The flight was pleasant with good food and nice movies even though there were some strange fellow passengers...

The plane dropped us off safely in Colombo and we were taken to the "Sunflower Beach Resort" for the night. I got a single room with a comfortable bed. But I soon realised that I had to share my room with a whole squadron of mosquitoes. I had to wrap myself up like a cocoon with a big white sheet to get some sleep at the "beach resort".
After a modest breakfast, I was out on the road with a jovial "Drive-for-Hire" guy from the Sri lankan Airlines, who drove me to the Airport.

Upon arrival, I was informed that I had to get to Gate no.10 in order to board the flight to Mumbai. After waiting for quite a while outside Gate no.10 [as it was still quite early] an airport employee came up to me and announced that the Gate had been changed to no.3 and that it was open now. So I walked across the airport to get there. I went through the Security Check-up... even our shoes were being X-rayed. After being cleared, as I was tying my shoe lace, another guy came up to me and told me that due to some technical difficulties the Gate had been changed to no.12. After some snorts and audible sighs, my fellow travellers and I trudged back to no.12. On the way I passed a lady who was being told that the Mumbai flight would be at Gate 1. I successfully rescued her and lead her to the safety of Gate no.12. After once again going through the motions of removing belts and shoes, we got our boarding passes stamped and we settled down to wait for the plane. After about 10 minutes a sheepish looking person came up to us and told us that the gate had been changed to no.8. There was much gnashing of teeth now but I couldn't help laughing. Once again we trekked through the now familiar corridors and reached Gate no.8. Here we had to stand behind a long queue of people who had mysteriously arrived out of nowhere and who were boarding the same flight. And by the time it was my turn, it was already the "Final Call" for flight 145. All this really got me thinking.... maybe arriving early is too over-rated.

When I finally landed in Mumbai, it took longer than usual at the Immigration counter because the officer was not too impressed with my "issued-in-Beijing" passport. He wanted to see my Chinese student ID and appeared to read all the Chinese in it.
I also had to open both my bags at the screening place just before the exit because they seemed to think that my baggage contained illegal/dangerous/unidentifiable objects, they failed to mention which one it was.

Once outside though, I found that my mother was waiting for me and so was the driver. And I was home.
All said, it was a pretty good trip. Yes, it was.

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