Rajani joined the queue outside the Bengaluru airport. Her heart thudded, she felt faint – was that Mrs Swamy? The Chemistry teacher? Oh what if it was! What if she asked whether she had taken leave? What if…
“Ticket please.” The CISF guy waved his hand in front of her face. Rajani smiled in apology and relief (the possible Mrs Swamy had vanished). She peered into her bag for the ticket.
Her heart which had just begun to slow down, went to into overdrive once again. Where was her ticket?
She scrabbled around for it hysterically in her oversized purse. When she found it, she triumphantly handed the security officer her phone instead of her Id.
Flushing, she retrieved her phone and handed him her college Id. The CISF guy wasn’t very convinced (perhaps she looked too young to be in college or perhaps he was just brightening up his dull day) and demanded some other Id. Rajani disappeared inside her bag once again and emerged victorious with her voter card.
He waved her in.
Holding her head high, she attempted to sweep past the expressionless security officer, but her efforts at appearing cool, calm collected and elegant were wasted.
The strap of her unwieldy bag was stuck under the trolley behind her. She pulled ineffectually at it before bending down to release it – the entire contents of her bag spilled out at the entranceway. She had of course forgotten to zip up her bag.
Reddening and almost in tears, Rajani scrabbled around for her secrets belongings scattered on the floor. The queue behind Rajani grew longer and restive. A fellow passenger took pity on her and helped put back her stuff into her bag.
Finally, she managed to escape (minus her dignity).
“Hello? Yes Papa, I am at the airport. No I haven’t checked in yet. Yes Papa, I will. Okay Papa, Harsha is calling. Bye.”
“Hello. Yes I just entered. No, I will manage – I just have to pick up my boarding card…I mean pass and go for security check. Nothing to it. I told you, both Papa and Bhai are very busy with the arrangements. They couldn’t spare the time to come all the way,” arguing with Harsha she stood in the queue. “Relax, I will manage just fine. I have traveled alone before. Yes I am in the baggage check in queue. There’s loads of time, nearly an hour before the flight departs. Which flight?” Rajani looked at her ticket. “Air India…”
“Excuse me,” the helpful middle-aged guy standing in the queue behind her, eavesdropping shamelessly on her conversation, tapped her on the shoulder, “this is the queue for Indigo.”
“Indigo?” Rajani swung around. “Ohh!” She looked around wildly, “Where…?”
“Over there,” he pointed.
“Excuse me, excuse me,” she pushed and shoved past the milling passengers and stumbled headlong towards the counter at the far end of the airport struggling with her wheel-less bag and purse. Passengers crowded the Air India counters and Rajani looked helplessly around. Where was the queue? Was this convoluted line the queue? She would ever reach the counter? She would be stranded at the airport, forever and ever and Harsha would think of her as an incompetent nincompoop unable to manage anything alone. Nooooo….
“Excuse me Miss…” an official looking guy with a walkie-talkie accosted her.
She latched on to him rather hysterically, “I have to catch a flight to Air India, I mean to Delhi from Bang…”
“Please show me your ticket,” he interrupted her and flicked it from her hand, “You are late! Boarding has closed for this flight.”
“No!” Rajani gasped as she went hot and cold. No this couldn’t be happening! What would everyone think? “No! Please do something. Please do something. I have to get on the plane. Otherwise I have had it. It’s an emergency. Oh please please do something,” Rajani’s tears started flowing.
The officer blenched. “Let me see what I can do.” He disappeared with her ticket. “Stay here.”
Not that she was in any state to move. Rajani stood there desolate and quite panic stricken. What if the guy didn’t return? What if she couldn’t go to Delhi? Should she call her father? She looked at her phone. Two missed calls from Harsha and three from her father. Her heart thudded. Had Harsha gotten to know about her goof up? She was talking to him when the guy behind had…oh no, she groaned. Perhaps he had already called her father. Where was the Air India officer? Bhagwanji please please set everything right, please Bhagwanji please she wept into her kerchief.
“Relax everything is sorted.” Rajani looked up at her savior. He smiled at her and held out her tickets. “I booked you in on another flight to Delhi which leaves an hour later. Come along and check in your baggage.”
“Oh thank you!” Rajani gushed wiping her face while trotting behind him. “You saved my life. Thank you.”
“It’s okay.” He brushed it off. “It happens to the best of us and you are just a school kid. If your parents had informed Air India, we would have arranged an escort for you. But here she comes.” He nodded towards a buxom no nonsense lady.
“Which flight?” The lady was grumpy and twice Rajani’s size.
“But…” Rajani bit her tongue and swallowed her protests. She allowed herself to be escorted and guided through security check.
“Hello Papa. No I missed the flight.”
“Yes Papa! It was a nightmare.”
“But…but…” Suryakant sputtered and choked. “But what will happen now?” His voice sounded faint. Rajani was surprised. Her cool calm unflappable Papa was sounding panic stricken. Just like she had been.
“Papa! It’s okay Papa.” Rajani soothed. “Don’t worry. It’s been sorted.”
“Yes Papa. Once nice officer got me another ticket for the next flight.”
“But how did you miss your flight?” He was sounding like the Papa she knew.
“I don’t know Papa. I really don’t know…Harsha is calling Papa.”
“Okay talk to him. Text me the flight details. And….and don’t tell him you missed the flight.”
“What should I say?”
“Say…say your flight has been delayed. If he asks. Otherwise just keep quiet.”
“Hello Harsha. Yes…yes I checked in. No. No problem. Yes I should reach by 11 pm.” She coughed. “No, actually,” she coughed again and scratched her head, “actually the flight is a bit delayed.” She said in a rush. “Yes, that’s why. Yes okay bye. Yes see you soon.”
Rajani let out a deep breath of relief. Phew.
The lady escorting her took her duties very seriously and even accompanied her to the washroom. Rajani was terribly embarrassed and tried to distance herself from her ‘nanny’ but without much success. Rajani thought several times about sending her back but chickened out at the last minute, what if she goofed up again? What if she boarded the wrong flight? She dithered and chaffed right up until it was time to board. She stood up and joined the queue. Feeling more confident now that her destination was in sight, she smiled at the dour lady. “Thank you. I will manage.”
“But it is my duty is to make sure you board the plane.”
“I will manage from here. I just have to follow the crowd and get onto the plane.”
The lady shook her head stubbornly.
Rajani flushed and looked around embarrassed. She moved away from the queue and muttered, “Look I am not a kid, I am nearly 21…”
“What!” The lady started. “Why didn’t you say so earlier? Why waste my time?” She walked off in a huff.
Avoiding the million expressionless eyes focused on her (and only her) she slid back into the queue.
Please Bhagwanji, no more mess ups please.
Calvin’s having fun with his imagination 😉
Click here for Chapter 128: First Look