Saturday, September 22, 2007

Ann Arbor post - part I

Wrote this during April 2006 when i came to US!
Been a while :-)

Dear readers,

As I went through a few events in my life in the past few days I was filled with this unexplainable restlessness. A restlessness to tell all that I was going through, to someone. Also it was a feeling that, I would have found it useful if I had heard all this from someone.

So this writeup is precisely an attempt to record the information I had chanced to come across in my life and to present it to you as a letter.

A letter from a friend who wants to share his experiences. A letter with the message of friendship and greetings!!!

From Ann Arbor* with love.

*Ann Arbor is town near Detroit,USA

Ann Arbor post

Life presents us with a variety of experiences.

Experiences which make us both laugh and cry and a few which leave us somewhere between the two

Experiences which are remarkable and insignificant and a few which falls in between the extremes.

Experiences to cherish

Experiences to forget

Experiences to celebrate

Experiences to mark our life with dots which can be connected at the later part of our life as a line that would reveal the portrait of our life

I knew I was about to be part of such an experience as I was traveling to the Airport with my parents. It had taken a while but the feeling of my first onsite trip was filling my heart with all the excitement it had to offer.

As I watched parents gleaming with pride, my mind was torn in worries of the trip. This trip had a few specialties to its credit.

It was my first trip beyond Bangalore.

It was my first trip outside the country (obviously)

It was my first trip on a plane.

And so on.

I was the most worried about the process that I had to follow during the flight. Though I had attended the travel briefing arranged by my company , I had slept through it like I would have in any other session!!I think its fair to say that no amount of counseling can fully prepare someone for such a huge venture.

I reached the Airport and got in with my luggage in my formal best. I had even worn a blazer to complete the “formal”ity.

Thankfully I had my aunty around who works in the airport so she was there reassuring me that everything is going to be ok and I was going to get through it like a breeze.

There were three flights which comprised my trip. The first leg was from Chennai to Mumbai in Jet airways, the next was from Mumbai to Amsterdam in Northwest, then it was from Amsterdam to Detroit in Northwest airlines again

I went straight to the jet airways stall in the departure segment as I didn’t know what to do!!

After instructions from the Jet airways staff, I took my baggage for my screening. My check in baggage was passed through an x-ray of sorts and the contents inside were checked for any “weapons of mass destruction”. 

Then I went straight to the Jet airways stall where my baggage(both check in and cabin baggage*) were weighed and were strapped with the flight stickers. I was also given the boarding pass there.

Then I went through the security check. Here I was checked with a metal detector and was let through as the only metals I had were coins and the metal in my belt.

After this I was waiting in a hall which had lot of exits. These were the gates through I was to go, to board the flight. But before that I had to wait for the the announcement and the gate number for my flight to be flashed. As I was waiting I could only think what was in store for me in Mumbai as I was unsure what process I should go through over there. Soon my Gate number was announced and I got into the airlines bus after showing my ticket. The bus took me to the plane and I boarded the plane through the “portable staircase”!!!

I got seated in seat which was in the aisle side of a three seater and as I was watching the Chennai MTC buses and suburban train through the window, couple of big men excused themselves and sat in the adjoining seats which effectively blocked most of my view.

Soon the plane started , and after taxiing for few minutes it started traveling on a higher speed on the runway

The thrill of take off is to be experienced to be believed. It’s an experience which gives you the excitement of thrusting into sky with the fetish of a roller coaster.Soon I was in the air and I was presented with the most amazing view, I had ever seen in my life as I gaped into the beautiful landscape which emerged beneath with the pinhole view that I could get. As the plane ascended higher and higher one of the huge gentleman opened up a newspaper which completely blocked my view. 

I laid back into my seat with an uncontrolled enthusiasm which was overflowing through my eyes and my involuntary smile.

I knew I had embarked on the most significant journey of my life yet.

To be continued………………….

Check in baggage – the baggage that shall be carried with the plane in a cargo section. Most airlines allow you to carry two baggages with upto 23 Kgs each

Cabin baggage – the baggage that can be taken with you in the plane. Most airlines allow you to carry a single check in baggage upto 8kg.

You can carry a laptop bag or a handbag in addition to this.



Flight number 0468 en route to Mumbai was fast sifting through the clouds of my beloved Chennai. After a brief demonstration of flight safety techniques, we were left alone except for the occasional interludes by the flight attendants for snacks and other refreshments. I exhausted the contents of the local Mumbai newspaper which carried the “Lata Mangeshkar – flyover story” as I tried to take my mind away from my apprehensions about the travel. There was not much luck with the view as the varying postures of the gentlemen between me and the window presented me openings ranging from pinhole to semi-pinhole sizes.

But the one and a half hours drifted away pretty soon and soon I was presented with the gorgeous view of Mumbai at night!!! The lights shone like the glitter off a pretty lady’s dress as my plane swerved in for the landing. If take off was an unexplainable bundle of awe and excitement then landing can be termed as beautiful bunch of moments filled with thrill and anticipation.

As the plane landed I couldn’t help rambling in my mind as to what I should do once I get down. I got into the jet airways bus and was dropped in at the gate.

What do I do now????

I had absolutely no clue!!

I just took my cabin baggage and strolled towards the exit as I was too afraid to just stand there lest I look like a blinking idiot in blazer. My eyes were scanning for a Jet airways office!! After turning down a couple of offers for a hotel from enterprising gentlemen, I went straight to the jet airways stall which was right outside the exit. As I blurted out my questions in the most nervous form of English available, the attendant quickly pulled in another attendant who was comfortable with the language.

After checking my flight ticket he instructed me to collect my baggage and contact the Northwest airways stall(the flight in which I was to travel to Amsterdam). I went back into the airport by showing my boarding pass from Chennai to Mumbai and tried to blend in with the crowd which was waiting for their baggage.

As if out of nowhere a stout short gentleman emerged and said, “You are chakravarthy from Chennai??” I don’t know how he recognized me but this guy from Northwest airlines told me to collect my baggage and contact the officials who were posted in the northwestern corner of the huge room!!!! (What a coincidence!!).I soon collected my baggage and slowly found my way towards those officials and stood in the queue. Soon it was my turn and a neat looking guy approached me. He requested for the passport,ticket and a few other documents like the deputation letter. Then he mechanically asked a few questions like “did you pack your own baggage”, “did you get anything from anyone during your stay in the airport” etc etc as a part of mandatory check. I didn’t know that I was to hear this a few more times before I reach US.

I was given an “embarkment-disembarkment” form which I was to fill in and submit during immigration.

After this he said there won’t be any more baggage checks until I check out my luggage in my final destination. He instructed me to take the shuttle which would take me to the international terminal.

I walked over to the exit which was right around the corner and patiently waited for the shuttle. My mind was jubilant as I was thrilled to be standing in the “New york of India”,the business capital of the nation,the city full of life and vigor. I have been amazed by the efficiency of dabbawallahs and the entrepreneurship of the mumbaikars which had enabled the city to earn a unique place in the country. I have always wanted to visit Mumbai and regretted that it was going to be a very short stay!!

As I stood watching the bill boards I resolved I would visit the city again and spend the time it deserves. Shuttle services are operated between the domestic terminal to the international terminal of the Mumbai airport for free as a complementary service as the distance between the two terminals was not walkable.

The bus travel was hardly 10-15 mins at the end of which i got down at the international terminal. After roaming about a little outside trying to find out the right gate, I walked into the Gate 2 which housed the Northwest airlines stall.

Soon I found the Northwest airlines office and was in front of a bespectacled young lady who peered suspiciously through the glasses.

I gave her my boarding passes and told her that I have to travel to Detroit via Amsterdam. She got my passport and frantically typed something in the keyboard in front of her!

She then asked whether my cabin baggage can be added to the check in baggage as there was no space in the flight cabin for which I obliged as I had all the required documents in my hand baggage.

After that I was guided to the immigration counter where I submitted the “embarkment-disembarkment form”

As I anxiously waited before the official , he stamped a few stuff onto the form and asked.

“which company are you from??”

I said “Infosys”

And as I waited curiously for the next question, he asked “aur kitna badega shares infosys ka?*”

It took me a while to realize that the question was asked on a lighter vein. I smiled politely and got my disembarkment part torn off and given to me. This needs to be given back when come back to India. Then I headed straight to gate 7 which was printed in my gate pass. But it was only 8.30 pm and my flight was at 00.50!!!!

I called home and reclined into a couch (they have quite a few of them lined up!), reading a book presented to me by my former team mates with a bald headed guy on the front cover who happens to be the CEO of GE(yeah it’s the same book featured in the bill board right in front of shols infy).

After a while I passed the security check and waited in the waiting room which opened up into the gate to the plane. As I was waiting for my flight to leave my country I knew that there will be times when I will be waiting to come back!!

To be continued…………

*-how much more the share values rise for Infosys

Ann Arbor post - part II