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Sabya's hurried trip to Kolkata followed by a funeral!

 
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sabya99
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Joined: 19 Dec 2011
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Location: New Jersey/CCU

PostPosted: Wed Dec 20, 2017 6:27 am    Post subject: Sabya's hurried trip to Kolkata followed by a funeral! Reply with quote

Sabya’s hurried trip to Kolkata followed by a funeral!

One afternoon after lunch I got email from my bother: If you want to see mom for the last time please come to Kolkata now! I got the message and got back to travel arrangements as soon as possible. I was determined to reach Kolkata within 72 hrs by any means. This time I did not wait to take a flight from JFK as that will take four hours of extra time. From the web (Priceline) I got AI ticket to CCU via BOM and DEL with reasonable price and booked immediately. Not much preparation was needed as I was mentally prepared for this particular trip for some time. My flight starts from Newark (EWR) airport. It is a small but efficient airport compared to newly built desi airports. Only surprise I had was they unlocked my luggage and searched everything inside. AI 144 is called New Jersey express as large Guggu population fly this way. But I noticed that NRIs from all parts of India were present. Bulk of the long distance flights from EWR use a set of parallel runway suitable for simultaneous operation. AI 144 was completely full. Our B777, took some time to taxi to north end of inner runway. I noticed at that time outer runway was receiving incoming aircrafts. Take off was smooth and soon our flight direction was changed from due south to north. We avoided crowded NY City airspace but somehow ended up over the east coast further north. It was getting dark and by 45 minutes our first meal was served. Sausage pepper, bread, vegetable curry, salad and landmark sweet Gulab Jamun.
I was watching real time map as also the land below to figure out our flight path. We were flying over US East coast, soon the estuary of St. Lawrence River appeared down below. We have crossed the US-Canada border and our aircraft drifted away from land to Atlantic Ocean. It is getting dark now, I closed the window. But I could not close my eyes as memory of mom appeared before me. I had to spend long restless hours. Real time map showing we are on a flight path middle of Atlantic Ocean and heading for Ireland. Entire cabin is asleep, perhaps only I am having restless night. Soon another round of food was served. This was a sandwich, omelet, bread with jam, some fruits and coffee. Who wants coffee in the middle of night? I noticed we are heading through central part of Great Britain over to North Sea. As usual turbulence increased considerably. My map indicating we are heading for Latvia, then south of Moscow. Gradually first light of day appeared and we headed for south Russia and Caspian Sea. I understood the flight path; we are heading for Iranian airspace, then Arabian Sea to BOM. As we entered Iranian airspace real time map switched off. GOI did not want to publicize our flight path in hostile airspace. That is a good decision.
Soon bright sunlight all around us, aircraft losing altitude. It is heading for main east-west runway. I could clearly see the high rise buildings of south BOM. Then a smooth touchdown, as the aircraft left main runway I could see the new majestic terminal. But it looks not so big compared to DEL. Will it be able to handle BOM traffic load?
Once inside someone shouting: New Jersey passengers come on this way. I laughed at him; we are from USA not New Jersey. Then our passport was checked manually against an Excel spreadsheet. This was the first out of three check points I had to face. This area had insufficient space and only way you could get out is to go up. I had to climb two story up by stairs. Then another check point for transit passengers. Here I noticed three computers and my luggage and passport was correctly matched. Large crowd suffocated this area and I was asked to proceed to transit lounge. This was a nice well lighted area with adequate resting space. I noticed airport have undergone expansion. Slums around the airport are far away now and in between a LH B747 resting happily. My connecting flight to DEL was about 6.00PM local time. This time check in was smooth since they used computer terminal and they announced I have 23 kg luggage. BOM take off was smooth and AI served, sandwich, omelet, salad and cheese puffs. Landed DEL around 7.30 PM. Ground handlers helped us to connect with international connector for CCU. It was late by 1 hr at AMD airport. As Kolkata flight departed, dusty, smoke filled India’s capital faded away down below. It was dark all around. Dinner was served and I requested vegetarian food. After some times I noticed aircraft (B787) losing altitude, but no light could be visible. Usually approaches to CCU are well lighted! Why this black hole?
Landing and reception by Kolkata immigration: Suddenly I noticed strobe lights are flashing down below and aircraft flying over that lighted path. But all around us very dark, I could not see Ganges River! Then I felt steady down ward flight along the glide path. Now I could see the perimeter road and brightly lighted security wall. We landed on R 01, south side of main runway. We got out by alpha taxiway to secondary runway, which was acting as taxiway at this hour. I could see immigration counters from inside the aircraft and Singapore and Chinese planes parked nearby.
At the immigration check point a middle age man looked at my face for sometimes as if I am coming from Mars. Perhaps he was thinking what I was doing at 1.00AM? He asked me in broken English; why you are in Kolkata, do you have home here, how many brother/sister/cousin you have here, how long you are in USA. I could not take that trash anymore and replied mom terminally ill. I must go home now! Please let me go. In a second he stated stamping my passport and let me go.
It is all over!! : Walking through that majestic terminal was comfortable and a large walkalator took me out to the taxi stand. As we were driving through VIP road I noticed it was dark gloomy and lifeless. Midnight cool breeze refreshed me. As I approached my neighborhood, it appeared dark as black hole, not even street dogs. Once in front of my house I noticed faint lights from upstairs living room. I barged in as fast I could. On a sofa mom is lying still, passed away few hours ago! Candles, flowers and wrapped in silk sari with a Geeta (Hindu holy book) nearby! Everybody speechless and waiting for my arrival. I kissed her goodbye!
A Hindu Funeral on Ganges River ! : As per Hindu religion departed soul travels to heaven which is perhaps located in faraway place like Andromeda galaxy. Hence soul needs food for nourishment, fire for warmth and light to navigate. Priest asked me to offer rice, sesame seeds, honey, milk and fruits on an earthen mantle. Fire was lighted on sandal wood and a camphor lamp was lighted up by priest. Amidst chanting of Vedic hymns we prayed for safe journey of the soul to eternity and ultimate salvation. Then priest asked us to take a dip in holy Ganges River. From river bed I looked all around: in front of me mighty Fort William ( Water Gate ), my right side second Hooghly bridge and on the left Kolkata’s iconic Howrah bridge.
In the evening, whole family and friends gathered in our living room. Someone played mom’s favorite songs hoping departed soul will visit us again and again. That night I went to bed with this memorable song: https://youtu.be/nLadfdu7Doo .
Departure from Kolkata via DEL.: I left home very early in the morning before any one is awake and arrived NSCBI airport by 7.30AM. At that time domestic part was very crowded but international part not so much. Once inside I noticed a large crowd has gathered in front of AI counter, most were dark skinned bongs catching international flights form DEL. It seemed to me vast majority were heading for LHR. Yes hundreds of students, workers and NRIs from England using this international connector. City of Kolkata is out of luck as lack of political patronage have deprive it from direct LHR bound flights many years to come while ME3 airlines making a handsome profit even with one stop flight. AI 021 was completely full and passengers even crowded immigration check points! This time Kolkata immigration did not give me any trouble. Once inside international departure area I was greeted by smell of masala dhosha and sambar (South Indian delicacy) from nearby food court.
At that time there were five aircrafts parked: Emirates B777, Two A319 of Druk air (one for SIN and other one for PARO), Regent Air with its brand new B737 going to Dhaka, and brand new B787 of AI . At times it appeared there were more Bangladeshis than Indians here. But Dhaka has lot more international flights than Kolkata, why they need to come here? In the domestic area all aero bridges were fully occupied mostly by Indigo and Go Air. Departure area seems to be well managed. There were good number of duty free shops selling from Vodka to Baluchari sari.
Kolkata to Delhi only two hours: Our B787 pushed back at 10.30AM. I could see wide open Delta taxiway but aircraft took taxiway F north then secondary runway briefly and then Kilo taxiway .From a distance new terminal looks blue as so many Indigo planes were parked over there. We took off facing south smoothly leaving behind dusty sleepy Kolkata. Sandwich, French fry and Golab Jamun with coffee was served. Over Lucknow pilot announced a sand storm over DEL airport, our flight was put to a holding pattern for 20 mins. But it landed smoothly and after ten minutes of taxing parked at T3. I have seven hours of waiting time for AI191.
DEL-BOM-New JERSEY-Home: I walked into IGI international terminal through a shopping arcade full of liquor shops. I noticed both sides had thousands of Vodka bottles, then rack full of black labels! Since when desi folks became that alcoholic? Then I noticed the smiling face of Lord Budda. I took a seat nearby, hours later I felt hungry, but no food court like Kolkata. A nondescript restaurant selling meat products discretely possibly for fear of veggie lobby. Nearby a small ice cream parlor, I settle down with a few scoops of Hagen Daaz. AI191 parked around 7.30PM, and I was told the same aircraft will fly to Newark. Initially very large number of business class passengers checked in, then I got a seat at the back side of the aircraft. It was a short flight less than two hours, but delicious dinner was served; boneless lamb curry and rice and sweets.
It seems chaos and BOM airport are synonymous; through a poorly lighted passageway New Jersey passengers were segregated. A few security personnel jumped on us for passport checking. I almost lost my passport and other travel documents. We climbed up two flights, the brass chandeliers here were ancient perhaps Emperor Akbar used them! I ended up in a very brightly lighted lobby with rest rooms on both sides flanked by diamond shops. I knew people of BOM are diamonds lovers but do you have sell them in front of rest room? After a final round of security check I boarded the B777 heading for New Jersey. An hour later food came in: sausage peeper, bread, salad and gulabjamun. I felt we were flying over Arabian Sea with little turbulence but real-time map not working. Aircraft 100% full and passengers asleep. Four hours later AI served food again, this time bread, omelet, fries, sweets and coffee. I noticed first light of day and real time map working now. We are south of Moscow, heading west for Norway coast.
Our flight path touching the southern tip of Greenland and away from Arctic Circle. Once we were on Labrador Channel again food was served. As we approached Canada dark cloud covered the land scape. Once in US air space we were flying over the Hudson River. Just an hour before landing we were served with heavy breakfast; bread, sausage, cooked potato and sweets and coffee. Aircraft crossed city of Newark, I could see my familiar landscapes. Then a few miles south it took a sharp U- turn to north and landed on outer runway smoothly and quickly left the runway to a holding area in between runways. Right at that moment a United wide body aircraft took off from inner runway with thundering noise. Then we crossed inner runway to terminal B. I was home in less than an hour and since then I am still searching Mom where are you now?
Comments: Most NRI will face this type of situation in their life at least once. I was prepared for this!
This TR not directed against anyone’s religious belief.
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PAL@YWG
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 20, 2017 9:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sabya,
Please accept my heart-felt condolences. Consolation is that you could see your mom's face one last time.
People like us (who have elderly parents) dread the moment when phone rings at the odd hours!

On your TR: Very well detailed, compensates the lack of pictures. Why you had to take BOM-DEL-CCU v.v when it could have been BOM-CCU v.v?
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himmat01
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 21, 2017 11:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sorry to hear about the demise of your mother. My heart felt condolences to you and family.
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The_Goat
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 21, 2017 5:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sorry to hear about your mother, Sabya. Accept my heartfelt condolences.
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dan
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 21, 2017 10:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Very sorry to hear about your mom, sir. Kindly accept my heartfelt condolences. It must've been very difficult to travel in such circumstances. God bless.
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ameya
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 25, 2017 3:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Very sorry to hear this. Sincere condolences.
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sabya99
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 26, 2017 7:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Forum; thanks for all the condolence posts.
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stealthpilot
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 01, 2018 2:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sorry to hear the bad news, my sincere condolences.
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sumantra
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 16, 2018 12:02 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sir, on behalf of all of us who have read and admired your TRs over the years but may not have replied: please accept our sincere condolences.
You would have found it extremely tough to have relived those extremely painful moments, and yet shared your experiences with us: this is really admirable. May the Almighty give you the strength to bear these troubled times. As always, your descriptions are incredibly vivid, and detailed.
What I could figure from the trip report was that your itinerary would have been the following (I am putting in the scheduled timings, you have written about the delays):

AI 144 EWR-BOM-DEL [01:15 pm - 07:10 pm] {B77W}
AI 022 DEL-CCU [08:15 pm - 10:20 pm] {B788!} you got a one-off B788 on this route. This is generally a narrowbody route, usually done by an A319 in the lean season, and an A321, otherwise. Since you were on an international flight/international connector(s), your Customs and Immigration was at CCU.

AI 021 CCU-DEL [10:00 am - 12:05 pm] {B788}
AI 191 DEL-BOM-EWR [09:00 pm - 07:15 am] {B77W}

The itinerary was not as time-efficient as a JFK-DEL-CCU connection and vice versa, but I guess you got a good deal which suited your timings, and also got you to have all Immigration and Customs at CCU itself both ways (as applicable), unlike a JFK-DEL-CCU connection, which to be time efficient, you would have had to go through AI 764.
As you rightly mention, AI 021 connects very well to AI 111 DEL-LHR [02:45 pm - 06:55 pm], but from what I gather, the numbers still do not justify a direct CCU-LHR connection. Hence, the connection via DEL.

Thank you for the extremely detailed report, which would have come under very trying circumstances, as you recollected those extremely difficult days.
Sincerely, Sumantra.
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