After spending eleven years of very enjoyable and fruitful time in Kuala Lumpur, we were leaving the place forever. It was a very emotional moment for both my son and me. All our friends had gathered around us and we were waving our last goodbyes to each other. I stifled my tears as I hugged everyone. My son too was extremely teary to leave his friends, especially his best friend forever, Parth. Though we felt deep sorrow in leaving such good friends, we were also a tad bit excitied too. We would be going to Stockholm, a completely new world for us. We were headed straight from the tropics to the north pole. It reminded me of Satyajit Ray’s Bangla classic Gupi Gayen Bagha Bayen, travelling from the deserts to the poles in one clap of their hands.
With all the formalities of check in and immigration done, my son and I sat down at a cafe , the nervousness and anxiety alleviating slowly. We were now looking forward to the new country, new place, snowy winters, long nights, short days and what have you. We like travelling light but this time round we had our laptop bags, hand luggages, and snow jackets that we could not squeeze into our hand carry ons. In short are hands were quite full. Soon the flight going to Stockholm was announced and we made our way to the boarding gate. We were on the Turkish Airlines and hence the flight route was via Istanbul where our wait was for 2 hours. The flight to Istanbul was uneventful. We did all the mundane things like watching movies, reading a book and of course most importantly sleeping as much as we could.
When we landed in Istanbul it was 6 in the morning. We sauntered to the food court for a bite ,then went looking for our departure gate. Istanbul airport was a huge one and it was teeming with passengers, crew members and airport officials. There were people who were scurrying to the departure gates, throngs sitting at cafes sipping on coffee, some others lined up at the serpentine cue before immigration, some checking out the dutyfree shops and of course there was a huge crowd before the monitors that showed the departure gates. Istanbul had one of the busiest airports I had ever laid my eyes on.
Anyway we hastened off to gate 505 for our flight to Stockholm. My son was excited and was dying to meet his father who had gone a few months ahead of us. Half an hour before the flight time it was announced that the flight was delayed by another two hours. Thereafter 2 hours became 3 and then 3 became 4. My husband called me up to say that I should be prepared for flight cancellation because there was a snow blizzard in Stockholm and everything had come to a standstill.
Sure enough, moments after I spoke with him the airlines announced the flight was cancelled and we had to spend a night at Istanbul. My son was extrememly dissappointed that he would meet his dad another day late. I consoled him saying if he could wait for a few months, what was another day. All the passengers in my flight were taken to a counter where a new boarding pass for the next day was handed out and we were told to go to the ‘Turkish Airlines Travel Desk’ for accomodation arrangements. A very kindly soul pointed out to a general direction of where we needed to go.
My son and I went off to that general direction. Since we couldnt locate any of our fellow passengers we asked another airport personnel where to go. He in a very gruff manner said ‘upstairs’. But going upstairs meant, doing the entire rigmarole of putting thorugh x ray all our hand lauggage and laptops and laptop bags and snow jackets, et all. My son scowled saying his neck was hurting as the bags were heavy.
After the luggage X ray we went up and hey presto, landed at the same area where we had seen a sea of people. We stood aghast, all lost, wondering where to go. We found an enquiry counter and asked the pretty lady where the ‘Turkish Airlines Travel Desk’ was. She glared at us for a while, since we broke her conversation on the phone for such a trivial question. ‘End of the corridor’, came the brusque reply . Now, we were in the middle, so we looked puzzled as to which end we needed to scurry. We did a mental eeny meenie miny mo and decided to go right. And lo behold, there was a Turkish Airlines travellers lounge. We lugged our bags to to the lounge. The sweet lady sitting there had a radiant smile. I asked her if all the passengers of stockholm flight were at the lounge. She frowned and shook her head. She had no clue as to what I was saying. I explained that the flight was cancelled and we were suppose to go to the ‘Turkish Airlines Travel Desk’. The good lady asked us to take an elevator down to an airport hotel right below the lounge.
We lugged our bags again down the elevator to the hotel. There was not a single soul in sight. We walked to the reception, there was a half dozing young man , who at our query looked a tiny bit annoyed. He asked us to go up again and go right at the ‘end of the corridor’. My son losing his patience wailed, ‘not again’.
We trudged up the elevator with all our bags and baggages, waded through the teeming multitudes of passengers of different nationalities. Though we should have been in awe of the size of the airport and how busy it was, right now our aching bodies and tired minds just wanted to find the ‘Turkish Airlines Travel Desk’.
We reached the end of the corridor and found another harrowed Stockholm passenger who was screaming at an Airline Official. We went to him and asked if he was lost as well. He said he was at his wits end trying to find out the travel desk or get any sane information from the airlines authorities. He too was running from one end of the corridor to the other. We went back down in the elevator and we came right before the counter that gave us our new boarding passes. There were a few crew members sitting and having lunch, we scurried to them but of course it was of no use because they seemed to know nothing that would help us.
Thankfully an official hearing all the hullaballoo and commotion created by the other gentleman with us, came towards us and told us that the travel desk was outside and we needed to cross the immigration for it. In the mean time some other beleagured passengers from the same flight joined us from different directions. We all showed our respective passports. The official pointed to the immigration counters for passengers from Europian Union and America which had serpentine cue before it. He looked at our passports and shook his head saying Indian Passport Holders need valid Turkish visa or an EU card. My son and I were at the end of our tethers. We had been running from pillar to post lugging all our paraphrenalia, was it all for nothing!
We gaped at each other miserably when a sudden thought struck me and I told the official we had US visas. This seemed to please him quite a bit and he muttered that in that case we could be given visa on arrival. Our happiness knew no bounds. In fact we were so delighted to hear it that my son hugged the official in his joy. The icing on the cake was that the immigration counter for South Asian Passengers and the visa on arrival counter had no lines, the officials there were merrily chatting so it took us minutes to be through with all the rituals of visa and immigration.
It was a huge weight lifted off our shoulders. Our fear of getting left behind allayed ,we heaved a sigh of relief and sauntered off at last to the ‘Turkish Airlines Travel Desk’. Istanbul here we come even though only for a few hours.