The nightmare & fairytale of Mumbai airport

Flying over Mumbai I saw all the lights of the city twinkle, all I could think was ‘he’s somewhere down there waiting for me’. The day I move to India had finally arrived! Whilst looking out of the window I saw something I had never seen before; the moon had fallen over. There was a thin crescent moon lying on its back, the moon looking like the grin of the Cheshire cat. Alice in Wonderland. Lauren in India. My Western norms become Eastern nonsense and vice versa, something that makes India a wonderland for a foreigner.

The queue for passport control was huge, a sea of people winding around the maze of drawstring barriers. I started to worry we would miss our connecting flight. I wasn’t wearing a watch so I looked at the information board to see how much time I had left: 14:35 26 February 2006. Did I take a plane back in time? After the confusion, shouting and checking of thousands passport, I collected my luggage and made my way to the luggage x-ray machines.

The stereotypical British attitude. the sacred art of queuing, abandoned me. Mumbai airport a queue is more as vague general direction. As time ticked by I saw more and more passengers simply disregard the queue and head straight to the front. The check-in desk for the flight to Nagpur was nearly closing. Time was running out, unless the information board was correct, which gave me at least 7 years grace.

A lovely Indian couple in front of me could see my distress and asked if I was okay, I explained to them how my flight was leaving soon and they told me if I go to the front they will process my bag faster. So I took their advice and sped to the front, only to be told I had to wait like everyone else sent to the back of queue.

This was when I decided to leave my British urges completely behind, I feel ashamed to admit it but… I slowly jumped several places in the queue. I apologised profusely to everyone I passed and tried to give everyone a small explanation of my reasons. ‘I am really really sorry, I do not normally do this, it is against my morals to do this but my husband is waiting and I am going to miss my flight’. I finally got to the front of this queue and the airport official said ‘don’t worry Madam, you can go straight passed the X-ray machine’. This act of kindness was nice and everything but after the distress of getting to the front of the luggage X-ray queue, please someone at least X-ray my luggage. Oh my gosh.

From the x-rays I had to get on a bus to the domestic airport where my husband was waiting. I still had enough time to make check in. An elderly lady who was on the same flight from London had gotten stuck whilst getting on the bus, the crowd of people waiting to get on the bus slowly grew in number and grew more irate. After ten to fifteen minutes the lady managed to get to a seat. One short bus ride and I arrived at the domestic airport and finally in my husbands arms once again.

The relief of being back with him was overwhelming! Finally after all this time!! We had missed our flight to Nagpur but it didn’t matter so much because we were together at last. The next flight available to Nagpur was not for a while… so after a 9 hour flight, a 2 hour struggle to the domestic airport we had to wait another 14 hours to go home. We sat in departures, watching thousands of people check in. My poor husband had already been waiting 9 hours for me to arrive.

Hours later, it was time to get on our plane. Going through to departures meant the usual Indian security questions such as ‘are you married?, where is your husband?, how many siblings do you have? four sisters… no brothers? I’m sorry’.

Finally we were together again, back in Nagpur. Our ‘long distance marriage’ is now simply ‘our marriage‘.

Wishing everyone a prosperous and happy New Year