So we are back! Its been 2 days since, and we are yet to unpack, and yet to settle back in. Winkie is yet to go back to school and I am yet to have a chance to collect my own thoughts and have the chance to communicate every significant highlight of this whirlwind, eventful mini vacation of ours! But it has to start somewhere, so let me begin with how I ended up missing the flight that fateful Friday night....
It was one frenzied day of packing. R was working from home that day and would wrap up by 5:00. Our flight was at midnight and the cab was to come pick us up at 7:30 PM. It was a completely crazy day and there I was popping into the doctor's office for a last minute followup for Winkie, and last minute stops at the pharmacy for stocking up, and last minute drop-offs of books at the library! And somehow, miraculously and to the point of drop dead exhaustion, we we were ready to roll by 7:00 PM. The boys were downstairs, all dressed and eating some upma at the table. I hastily spooned some into 2 bowls and rushed it upstairs for R and myself. I am halfway up the stairs when I see him at the top, a harried look on his face.
Please tell me this is your old passport...he says.
I am irritated. What is the man going on about at this late hour. The cab was due in 15 minutes. What do you mean...I ask him in some confusion. He points to the expiry date in the passport. December 02, 2008. 2008!!!!
Oh my God!!!!!!!!
My heart literally stopped, and then picked up with some heavy palpitations. I cannot describe the complete horror of that moment when the full impact of that particular fact washed over me. A million images in split seconds. Things I would miss out on. The only one not being able to travel. R looked haggard. Defeated. He had been slaving at work, and he was just not in a position to deal with this. Neither was I. There was some conversation then....about what this could mean, what we could do. Some of it useless, helpless....some of it, a measure to gain some ground on the situation. Looking back, those 15 minutes of early (relatively) realisation helped us with the course of action later on.
Slowly, we overcame the painful impact of that moment and resigned ourselves to whatever was to happen. At that early hour, I did not think very positively about getting any help from the Indian Consulate etc. All I could focus on was that I would not be to travel that night. We decided to go to the airport as planned. R had this crazy idea that perhaps they might let me travel after all, since I was going to the home country of which I was citizen after all. Yes, yes, we had very little lucidity by then.
The ride to the airport was sheer agony. Thambi was on my lap and inundated me with so much love and kisses that I realised another new dimension of what I would miss if I didn't make it out that night. His 2nd birthday!!! How could I ever miss that! R and I held hands and tried to calm ourselves down. It was horrible. Even now, as I relive that evening, I am filled with dread.
We reach the airport and hand over the passports to check in, hoping it will be ok. But no. It is not. The check in guy sees the expired date, looks inside for some extension stamp, finds nothing and looks over at us, confused. The situation is now painfully clear. I will not be able to fly. So what do we do now???
We step aside from the counter and collect ourselves. Its time to be practical. By this time, my heart is beating at its regular pace and I feel the cool head of sense rising to the surface. I urge R to travel as planned with the boys. He looks skeptical. He is truly exhausted and wants to take the easier way out and not have to travel with them alone. Besides, how would I manage what needed to be done alone???
After we had found out at home, I had rung up one of my best friends and she and her husband started researching on the Consulate website for possible options for me. Their feedback helped us make our decision now. As it turned out, the Consulate was open for just 2 hours...from 11:00 to 1:00 on Saturday for emergency visas. Note that it was for visas, and not passport services that it would be open, but this was my earliest option. Other than this, I would have to wait until Tuesday, because Monday was Jan 26th. Republic Day.
And so I urged R to go. The Airlines had told us that there were enough booking available during this lean period of travel. An d it would always be easier to find a booking for one person as opposed to 4. And I would be easier for me to run around for my passport, without the kids in tow. And worst comes to worst, it was R's brother's wedding. And he should not miss the wedding of all people. Better 3 people attend the wedding than all 4 miss it, somehow. And thus, with all these thoughts, and my own sense of bravado that I would be fine, R decided to go ahead with the boys. But not before calling upon our friend A, to come pick me up and take me home. Being a weekend, he could take me to the Embassy and lend the moral support we needed at this point.
While R checked in with the boys, I called up our family back home and gave them the news. It was taken very calmly, and they gave me sweet words of support to say that everything would work out well and to give it my best at the Consulate the next day!
Saying goodbye to R and the boys was the hardest moment. We explained it to Winkie and he was upset for a few minutes but then gave me a hug, told me to come soon because he would miss me and then got excited to go on the plane. Thambi had a milk cup plugged to his mouth and looked at me curiously as I waved him goodbye, not knowing whether it would just be a couple of days or 2 full weeks before I set eyes on him again. A was waiting at the curb and as we pulled away, I watched my family disappear inside the airport.
...to be continued...