Wednesday, February 11, 2009

January 24, 2009

...contd...

I say 24th because it was close to midnight by the time we got home, and started researching the Indian Consulate website. No, there were no last minute miracles where they asked me to board the flight after all. I spoke to R when I got home, and he was on the flight, with another 20 minutes to takeoff. He put Winkie on the phone and never had his voice sounded sweeter. I could hear the catch in his voice as he told me he missed me. Thambi came on next. He heard my voice and the piteous sound of amma...amma...amma...filled the line. R told me that his face had fallen when he heard my voice and it registered that I was not there with him. He kept going in that same vein for awhile, when R finally pulled the phone away and we said goodbyes and good-lucks. He was going to switch off the cellphone after that.

A being there was a huge boost to my spirits at this point. He checked out all the fine print with a thorough eye and shortlisted the things we would need to get done first thing in the morning. In the meantime, I spent some time gathering all the documents I would need to take to the Consulate the next day. It was very hard at that point to focus and be practical for the next step, rather than lapse into a staggering thought process filled with emotions and disbelief. But it was good to have a purpose in life just then. And to know that there was a sliver of hope. When you know that one door has interminably closed, you focus on that one window that could still be open for you, isn't it?

Another 1/2 hour later, we were done. The plan was to wake up at 7:00, leave the house by 8, get to Kinko's, make the copies and get to the Consulate in downtown Chicago by 11:00 sharp. With that decided, we retired for the night. Trying to sleep in the bedroom which was full of the life and spirit of my travelling family was a bit agonising at first. I noticed all the little things that can pinch one's heart....toys that were played with until the last minute, lying around on the floor. Thambi's blanket, still laying open and unfolded from his afternoon nap. A cup of milk we had forgotten to deposit in the kitchen sink. And most of all...that chair. R had been working there all day, and now it sat vacant. By its side were 2 little kid sized chairs, arranged neatly alongside. The boys had occupied one each, and Winkie had been reading to Thambi as usual. All the chairs lay in the exact same position of their last use. Seeing that was gut wrenching. I got inside the covers and tried to distract myself...thinking positively...that this was one night I could sleep without any distractions...without having to pat another little body back to sleep, or take another to the bathroom. The whole night was mine...to rest!

It worked for a bit, and then I called up the friend who had been doing all the initial research. We talked for a bit, and she knew all my feelings...the ones I didn't spell out. She told me it was brave of me to send the boys off like that. Looking back, it didn't feel like there was any other choice. :) I finally slept, though it was not restful. I woke up every few hours remembering that I was alone, and that my family had gone.

When the early light of morning streaked in through the blinds, I jumped out of bed gratefully. It was time for action again, and I wanted action. Had a quick shower, and quickly got dressed by which time A was ready too. Prayed briefly in front of the altar, where I had left all my papers, and we left the house at 8:00 AM. We reached Kinko's only to realise that it would open only at 9:00 AM. So we decided to take the time to have a proper breakfast. From the time this whole thing began, breakfast was the first time I actually began to lighten up. The morning was like a cool balm of sense and perspective that I could apply to my situation and see that all was not lost after all. There was still so much left to be thankful for and smile about. Having the company of a good friend was surely one of those things. Having the love and thoughts of my family showing up in caring sms'es gave my day some very positive vibes. My brother's voice on the phone as he spoke his concern, my sister's I love you message on my phone, just as I was finishing breakfast, the bride-to-be's message of support that she was praying for me, A's light and cheery conversation, the wonderful and warm breakfast on that cold morning, the amazing cups of coffee that I downed liberally...everything was such a blessing, and I was more keenly aware of this bountiful energy now that I was coming out of the fog of my disappointments! I actually began to accept my situation and began making plans for what I would do for the next 2 weeks if I had to spend it alone here. Watching Slumdog Millionaire was definitely a part of it! :) Life was good!

And thus, with the renewed sense of purpose and a lighter heart, I finished my work at Kinko's and we headed to downtown. We reached the Embassy doors about 5 minutes before 11:00. It was locked, and there were no lights inside. My spirits took a quick dip again. How much of a yoyo of emotions we subject ourselves to! We tried the help no. that had been listed. No answer. We decided to wait it out and see. Sure enough, within 5 minutes, a casually dressed gentleman walked out of the elevators, looked at us disinterestedly, unlocked the doors and walked in, while signalling for us to wait. Once he had switched on all the lights inside, he motioned us to enter. And while he was doing all this, I tried to calm my wildly beating heart and briefly did my own simplified version of the the jyothi meditation. I had taken to doing it lately, and it also gave me some measure of peace and a sense of control in a situation...that even if everything else was beyond my control, this was still the one thing I could do, and do well....wherein I close my eyes, and mentally picture the divine light within my heart, which grows bigger and bigger with concentration, and then radiates out of me touches everything around me, till all is engulfed in this bright radiant light of love, and any sparks of ignorance is completely annihilated with the energy of my thought. I love this form of prayer, because it releases me from asking anything specific and thus imposing my will on God. Rather, by spreading light, you submit to the glory of God and His Will. And thus, while that gentleman was opening doors and switching on lights, the brightest of lights that I could envision in my mind's eye, spread throughout that room and everywhere around, through the channel of thought. And now, it was time to go in...

We briefly explained my situation to him. His face was inscrutable as he replied that they were visa officers and the office was open for emergency visas, not passports. Still, there was no note of finality in his voice...it was open ended as if saying....let's see what can be done. That was my first real glimmer of hope. Another gentleman walked in and they discussed it together. He took my passport in to show a senior officer. The rest of the exact details are blurry now. They put me on the phone with another senior officer who said he would do what he could. The main problem was they could not issue me a fresh passport at that point because the lady handling it was not on duty, and it was a lengthy process anyways. What was obvious right from the start though was that whey were very open to hearing out my plight and helping my situation. That was the kindest thing of all. How much of a difference it makes when you have a sympathetic ear at the official end of things. It took the whole 2 hours, for them to offer me a viable solution. They gave me options, to come back on Tuesday and get a full 10 year passport, since the wedding was only on Feb 1st. But then I had all these plans for reunions for all those days before the wedding. So given my urgency to travel, they gave me the last option....an emergency extension for 3 months on my passport, enabling me to travel out and in for these 2 weeks and a chance to renew my passport properly after I came back. I took it!

Looking back, this whole thing was a miracle. It could have completely gone the other way where they showed scorn at my lapse, and refused to accommodate my desire to travel asap. They could have dismissed me and asked me to come back the next working day when passport services were open. But they didn't. Those 2 gentlemen got on the phone with the passport officer, followed all her instructions, hunted around for the right stamps and made the comment in my passport and legally sanctioned my travel. What a huuu...uuuge blessing. I am forever grateful to those 2 men for the extra lengths they went through, and it is clear that the love of the divine opened their hearts as well and facilitated the process smoothly. I folded my hands in grateful supplication, and one of them shook my hands warmly and wished me luck. We left the Consulate. It was now time to call the Airlines.

I called them on our drive back home. There was an available seat on that day's flight at 6:45 PM. It was earlier than the flight I was initially supposed to take. It was already 2 PM. I would still have to get home, get my bags and head back to the airport at least by 4:00. I asked them to book me in and en route, called up a neighbour friend of mine and requested her to print out my e-ticket and drop it in my mailbox to save on time. She did. We picked up a burger at a drive in on the way and got home by 2:45, I should think. While I was checking the mailbox, A walked in and tried to disarm the security system with the code I had given him. Only, I had not given him the right code. The strain of all the recent events had taken its toll on my memory and presence of mind and I gave him the wrong numbers to punch in. The system did not disarm, and I punched in more possible nos. none of which were right. The alarm went off in a deafening roar, and the system locked us out. Calls came in from the security company, and we tried to reset the system above the din of that horrible noise. It took well over half an hour to set things right again. By this time, my patience was stretched to the limit and I just wanted to give up on the whole fight.

Somehow, we managed to get out by 3:15, and got to the airport by 4:00. Ample time to check in and report to the gate. A did a couple of rounds of the airport, while I checked in. Once I was well and truly through he made his way back home, mission accomplished.

Me, I was in a huge state of relief and exhaustion. But the adrenalin rushes kept me going. It has always been a dream of mine to travel alone. Ever since I had the kids, I had forgotten the pleasures of travelling with a single bag, with the least no. of things thrown in, watching the movies to my satisfaction, sleeping whenever I chose and not worrying about diaper changes in the bathroom. In fact, as recent as 2 weeks back, I had been telling a friend how wonderful it would be to travel alone. You know what they say about being careful what you wish for, for it might just come true. It proved so in my case.

When I got on the flight, I made a series of calls...to the folks in Mumbai who were to pick me up, to my father, my in-laws. Everyone was delighted, amazed and relieved that the tension was over. When I spoke to my in-laws I was told of the intense prayers of a grand-aunt, who had been unable to sleep all night, thinking of me. When I spoke to father, I heard the happy relief in his voice as he contemplated seeing me again. When I spoke to the bride's side in Mumbai, they put me on the phone with R who had just landed.

I will digress with a small narration at this point. After R had switched off his cellphone after talking to me, he was still very tense about how things were going to shape up. How would he manage the kids by himself? How would it go for me the next day? All these thoughts bogged him down, and as he looked around quietly, he noticed a flight attendant some 3 seats ahead of him, standing in the aisle, talking to one of the passengers. In her hands, she held a magazine, the cover of which now became visible to him. And there on that cover, in a corner was the unmistakable picture of Sathya Sai Baba. He does not remember any vivid details about it, just that His face was on it, and looking directly at him. This was the highest sign of benediction for him at that point. In that frazzled state, that pictured conveyed all the blessing and all the strength. And immediately, all worry left him. He knew that everything would be fine. We all were being taken care of, so what more need to worry??? The rest of his flight went off very well. The kids didn't sleep much, but neither did they trouble him. They remained in cheerful spirits, and R was labelled the hero of the flight....the only single father to fly unaided, with 2 young kids!! This story, he told me much later, but the blessing of which he was reminded of, when he landed and the first thing he heard was that I was already on the next flight out.





With all the necessary calls made, I switched on my walkman and settled back to relax. I was really going to enjoy my solo travel status to the full. It was a very rare opportunity. :) But thoughts still swam in my head. To me, this coming trip was meant to be about celebrating friendships, and the bonds forged in childhood. It was to be about family and reuniting with the dear ones. And in all these aspects and more, I was already finding fulfilment through the events that had unfolded. Already, it was the celebration of friendship, through the lovely souls who gave me the support I needed. It was a complete celebration of family...through the emptiness I felt without the presence of those who have always completed me...through the love across the miles that made its warmth known. In all essences, the object of my trip was already fulfilled. Now, only the specifics remained...

The journey was uneventful and smooth. I even managed to take some pictures on the plane...of a beautiful dawn just breaking on a clear blue sky, and a sea of milky white clouds frothing beneath. And even though I was travelling alone, I always managed to gravitate to those moms who were travelling alone with babies. It was a wonderful feeling to carry the bags of one of them as she struggled with a handful toddler in the transit lounge. I guess I could have stayed well out of everyone's way, and kept to myself and enjoyed the peace. But, once a mother...always a mother. And she was so grateful for the extra pair of hands. And that's the power of blessings....when they are showered on you, you just have to shower them on another....it is very hard to keep it contained.

The last few hours of the flight stretched a little, but we were finally in Mumbai at midnight on the night of the 25th. I was back in my homeland to usher in the new Republic Day...the one day that could have delayed my entire journey, had it not been for that spark of divine light that moved the mountains for me...

...to be continued...

30 comments:

Thiru said... Best Blogger Tips

OMG!!!!!! But I'm happy that everything went well... you handled the situation very well akka...

s w a t said... Best Blogger Tips

I don't think I have enjoyed reading anything as much as your account, of late T!
:)

manisha said... Best Blogger Tips

i am usually a silent reader, but this account is so exciting and wonderful, and lovely, that i have to delurk to say, please update soon. that was quite an adventure for your family. love, peace and hugs to all.

VJ said... Best Blogger Tips

Hi Tharini,
Great to hear.. all went well!
cant wait to hear the details of the action packed trip now.

Anonymous said... Best Blogger Tips

HI Tharini

You write beautifully.

Glad to see that it worked out well at the consulate. I have had the same experience of finding out my passport expired --> right at the check in counter!! I found the consulate employees to be very understanding and helpful that i got to travel the next day as well.

Enjoy reading your posts! Very touching and spiritual too!

Peace!
- Shree

Sujatha said... Best Blogger Tips

Great Post! I loved the way you had tried to bring out the spirituality in this post. Loved it.
Suja

viji said... Best Blogger Tips

Hi,
Mine expired in Jan 09 and I forgot about it till now.Your post reminded me to renew it asap.Really admire the way you managed to come out of it.

Thanks.
Viji

Tharini said... Best Blogger Tips

Thiru : Thanks. Looking back, I got very lucky!!!

Swat : I think there was enough thrill in this to make it a good story! ;)

Manisha : Welcome to the blog, and more so...the comment space! Thanks for the love and the peace and the hugs...all 3 things, we all could do with more of!

VJ : Ahhh. You're one step ahead of ne. I thought I could take a break now..:)

Viji : Go do it. I am happy if my mistake serves to remind another to be more careful!

Tharini said... Best Blogger Tips

Sujatha..Thanks. To be honest, I never really tried to bring it out...its just something that is always there...sort of like the background music of my life, faint at times, more easy to tune in to at others...its ever present.

Shree : Wow. A soul sister in this voyage then! :) You would have known the exact ordeal...

Piper .. said... Best Blogger Tips

whoa! what an adventure you had! :) Hats off to you girl! I cant imagine what I wouldve done under the circumstances!

Kodi's Mom said... Best Blogger Tips

abs awesome. I agree that it is a miracle - so many things could have gone wrong. I am so so glad it all worked out, despite so many tense moments.

~nm said... Best Blogger Tips

I had tears in my eyes when I finished reading it. Even though everything went well for you guys but I pray never again! :D

Ardra said... Best Blogger Tips

Dear Tharini,
I cannot begin to explain the effect this post had on me at various levels...
but I'm sure you'll understand.
The way you tried to remain optimistic throughout- especially during that night alone at home with all the belongings of your dearest ones around you...
the way you tried to seek strength,
the way you counted your blessings-
your husband's tryst with Faith inflight...
so inspiring Tharini...
am feeling so glad and blessed myself...
love and hugs
ardra

Mama - Mia said... Best Blogger Tips

:)

awesome as always Tharini.

and the day i travel abroad, i will remember this experience.

cheers!

abha

Poppy said... Best Blogger Tips

What a beautiful beautiful story T! I have missed reading you. I was with you every moment !

sumati said... Best Blogger Tips

helo this is nice post..thanks for sharing.keep ur good one.

Nino's Mum said... Best Blogger Tips

Sniff, beautiful post Tharini, can't wait for the following parts.
I loved the link on the jyothi meditation. Was moved beyond words reading about your and your husband's faith in the divine - you reminded me of someone very dear to me.

Collection Of Stars said... Best Blogger Tips

WoW Tharini! Amazing. I had my heart in my mouth when I was reading this post and was praying that the end would be positive. I am so glad everything went just fine for you.

Subhashree said... Best Blogger Tips

Whew, what a drama T! You are truly blessed.

AP said... Best Blogger Tips

on you tharini! only you can go through such situation with out breaking down... only you can find such positive energy and thoughts during difficult moments. very inspiring. i am glad you made it to india. waiting to hear all about the rest of your trip and thambi's birthday celebration.

sai_nila said... Best Blogger Tips

Tara, I have goose pimples as i read it and more so tears in my eyes when i read the lines where ur dh saw swami's pic in flight. i wish i could just talk to u. interestingly 3 days back i had a dream that i meet u and ur family in ur chennai home. i hv not seen u or talked to u but had this dream. its really so true that swami's divine play made the authorities in the consulate to be so considerate and do the needful. (given the fact how the govt staff are usually). i learn so much from ur posts.
it also opened my eyes about wishing carefully. sometimes, i wish for some things just out of frustration of the situation that later i regret for.

Anonymous said... Best Blogger Tips

Hi Tharini,

I am an avid reader of your blog and I love the way you write.

I am so glad everything worked out fine - but the way you have written is amazing. Unbelieveable -
I was missing your update on blog so much I started reading again all the entries from 2008!!

I cant wait for accounts about bil's wedding and meting your dear friend.


Sujatha Ramesh

Cantaloupes.Amma (CA) said... Best Blogger Tips

Lovely ... feel good post ! So glad things worked out for you !

I must add the folks at Indian Embassy are really great !! We needed their emergency services sometime back and they went out of their way to accommodate us and help us out ! Those folks are kind people with a heart !!

Tharini said... Best Blogger Tips

Piper : I am sure you would have done well too! Somehow when you are forced to face something...you find a way to make the best of it! Sort of like an innate defense mechanism..

KM : Yeah, me too!

nm : Aww. So the account was so boring that you had to yawn and a few tears streamed down??? :D

Ardra : This was truly a journey for me on many different levels. I am happy that it is for you too. I am happy that you feel blessed. Playing the instrument for this connection is a blessing in itself. Hugs!

Abha : I hope you remember this way before you travel and everything is in place for you when you do! :P

Poppy : Thank you so much. Could sense your warmth and it makes me happy.

Sumati : Thank you.:)

Nino's Mum : Hugs! Did I now? Glad then. Very glad.

CoS : Thank you. :) Thank you so much.

Subha : Drama it was indeed. Divine drama! :)

AP : Thank you dear. I realise I have a lot of writing left to do now...will get to it soon. :)

Nila : Thank you Nila. Dreams are yet another medium of connecting, aren't they? Its almost portentuous to me that you dreamed of meeting us in our Chennai home...esp., since we are even more consumed with thoughts to go back home, esp., after this trip. Wow. I have also wished many times that I were left alone, whenever I got esp. frazzled with the boys. And this time when I got it, I realised how empty and meaningless it was. The day they leave home to make thier lives is not going to be a very pretty one, at this rate!

Sujatha : Lol. I admire your enthusiasm at reading back on old posts. Thank you for making your presence felt in comments. Its always nice to come upon a new reader.

CA : You know...I have always heard of more callous stories w.r.t Embassy officials. I am glad you and I have had such positive experiences.

Raj Krishnamurthy said... Best Blogger Tips

Wow!...Quite an adventure. I guess in the end, not renewing the passport was a blessing in disguise. I was so prompt in doing mine right when approaching 6 months to expiration.....only the embassy/UPS lost the passport. Yikes! and they gave me the run around to get a new one.

I am glad all went well and you guys had a fabulous trip.

Mystic Margarita said... Best Blogger Tips

What an adventure! So glad everything turned out ok. You're always such a joy to read :)

choxbox said... Best Blogger Tips

WHOA!

we had a similar experience with our passports - the american embassy in london lost them. the guys at the indian consulate were awesome. mebbe i'll do a post on it some time!

now going off to read your next post.

Aditi's Album said... Best Blogger Tips

I was in tears when I read your account. I admire your courage to send the boys and R away. To remember to pray at the altar in such tense moments is something most of us forget and I'm so glad it al l workd out well for you. May Baba bless you and your family always.

Girl Next Door (gnd) said... Best Blogger Tips

Incredible! cannot believe that the gentlemen at the indian embassy were so helpful!!
I've NEVER had a good experience at the indian embassies in the US. Always a third degree treatment, with the woman at the counter having a constipated look!
SO glad that it all worked out well.
The fact that you stepped up to help the other mom - awfully sweet!

Fred Smilek said... Best Blogger Tips

Wow...glad it all worked out...great composure you handle the situation well.

Fred Smilek is the acting president of the Society to Save Endangered Species. It was founded two years ago by Fred Smilek along with his two best friends Charles and Jonathan. http://www.fredjsmilek.com

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