Monday, November 24, 2014

Mr Murphy joins me in my trip - Mumbai-Agra-Chennai-Mumbai

Murphy's law: "If anything can go wrong, it will"

So  the very same Mr Murphy sneaked in with me on my trip (I had to deliver a lecture in a pre-conference workshop on research methodology). I had to go to Agra via Delhi, then to Chennai and back. Of course I must admit that most of the time Mr Murphy was reasonably well behaved, but he did keep doing bits of "Tamasha" off and on. :)

Actually, he started it even before my trip. I have a niece in Agra. That was an attraction. An added attraction was that my niece has the friendliest 1.5 year old daughter. I think this baby thinks that the whole world is her friend. More about her later

When I told my niece I was coming, she was delighted and we had agreed that I would stay from Thursday afternoon (after my workshop) till Sunday. Soon, other plans crept in, and I had to be in Chennai on Saturday. So I told her "Sorry - one day less". And then it turned out that there were no suitable flights to Chennai if I left Agra on Saturday morning, so I had to cut out one more day. My niece said "As long as you don't cancel it, that's fine"!

I set off out on Wednesday. I landed in Delhi at 1.20 PM - earlier than the scheduled time, thanks to the 'Indigo Standard Time' that the airlines loves to talk about. Two doctors from Kolkata joined me in exactly half hour and we set off by a pre-arranged car for the 4-5 hour ride to Agra. For no reason at all, I had imagined that the new expressway (it is about 2 years old now) made the trip as short as 3.5 hours, and I was surprised when the driver said it would take about five hours. He obviously knew why it would. He had planned it with Mr Murphy :) He stopped at some place just before the express way, mumbling "I will just be back". The "just" turned out to be a little over half hour. He came back and we continued. We later had another break for tea, and so it did indeed take us five hours!

The two doctors were booked in one hotel and I was booked in another - Hotel Japyee Palace, the venue of the conference. Dr L who had arranged for my booking (she was arriving later that night) had written an email - "If there is any problem, please contact Mr. S, and he will help you". I guess Mr. Murphy had some inclination about Dr L's mail and took advantage of it. When I reached the hotel and gave details, there indeed was a problem :). So I called Mr. S, had to wait for about ten minutes and in spite of Mr Murphy, it got sorted out.

Hotel Jaypee Palace is shaped like a quadrilateral - with gardens inside. My room was reachable with a reasonably short walk, (realized that much later) but the young executive who escorted me, must have also had a pact with Mr. Murphy. Or - he must have thought..."this lady does not exercise enough"! And took me by the longest route possible. By the time I reached my room, my husband called. And I told him "Dear, I have made up for missing my morning walk today". He very gallantly said "Maybe you should stay on there for some time".

And then, having settled in, I decided that I was not getting out any more and opened the room service menu. I glanced through and decided to order only the Amritsari Paratha (everything else seemed to be just too expensive, whoever was paying. And I knew that I alone would not be able to finish it, which meant that food would be wasted). Usually any restaurant serves at least cut onions, some raita and/or a bit of vegetable with a paratha. When mine came, I had only some pickle as an accompanying dish :).  I told Mr Murphy - "Okay, I am going to relearn a lesson I learned... be happy with what you have. Do not crib about what you do not"! And I thought "That's one up to you, Mr. Murphy!"

As I got comfortable and was about to turn in for the night, Dr L. messaged me "Our workshop has been rescheduled from the  morning to the afternoon"!  Okay Mr Murphy - you won this round. My time with my niece was coming down to less than 12 hours.

The next morning, I caught up on a fair amount of work in my luxurious hotel room. Mr Murphy - I suspect you were tired and caught up with your sleep at this time and some more:). At lunch, I was thrilled to meet Drs Bhavin Jankharia and Ravi Ramakantan, who had come to conduct another workshop. They are both from my city of Mumbai, but I rarely get to meet them there :D. Having some time to catch up with them was indeed a bonus.

By now, Mr Murphy woke up. Our workshop was supposed to begin at 2.00 PM (One notice said 1.30 PM, another said 2.00 PM, so we gave the benefit of doubt and chose the latter). But... the people who were conducting the previous workshop must have bribed Mr. Murphy and they had no inclination to finish. We then told the young event managers to be firm and get them out, and they did! We got our hall by 2.30 PM. And - the next... we had a really low turnout. Dr L and the two others from Kolkata who had done a lot of work to organize this, felt really sorry, but obviously some of the work they had delegated to the main organizers had not been followed up. But, all of us enjoyed conducting the workshop and so did the small focused group of participants.

And then Mr Murphy must have thought - "I have had my main dish, (low turnout), but I need some dessert". And from the time I met my niece and family, went to their home and left it next morning, he really got some choicest dessert! The cab driver who had promised to take me back to Delhi the next day, suddenly backed out. (I wonder if the young Sardar, got to know about Mr Murphy's date with me, and was worried). Dr. A from Kolkata and Dr L spent a few hours alternately cajoling drivers, till one of them finally agreed :) And the next morning he landed at the Air Force base gate by 9.30 AM, though he was asked to report at 10 AM. And I thought - Aah , I have beaten Mr. Murphy at his game :)

Little did I know that he had to have his last laugh (well not quite, but I will come to the last, later). The driver called from the gate, as instructed, handed over his phone to the Sergeant who spoke with my niece and got her approval to send him in. But in a couple of minutes the driver called again and said that the Sergeant would not let him in. She quizzed him and learned that...... "the driver did not have his license!!!" (He had a substitute challan, but the Sergeant could not accept that. According to rules, he was supposed to keep the original license and give it back to the driver on his way out)

Okay Mr Murphy - you did have an additional helping of dessert :)

My niece then arranged to drop me at the gate and she remarked "Aunty - this driver looks like a kid". I told her that I could not care less if a new born dropped me to Delhi airport that day - I just had to get there :). To give him credit, young Vikas drove *very well* at a steady 80 kmph. He played old Hindi songs, taking care to lower the volume every time I had a phone call, and brought it down still more, when I dozed off for a bit. He got me to Delhi in exactly four hours.

"Aah - Mr Murphy - bye for now", I mumbled. "Huh," he said. "Are you kidding. I need to come all the way with you to Chennai and then back to Mumbai." I pretended not to hear that.

I got into Delhi T1 thinking that I had a good two hours to catch up on some reading. After all now, airports are declared silent - with no announcements. But I had not bargained for their doing a MAJOR renovation.  And the sound of drills going wheeeeee wheeeee all over, was what I had to put up with for the next couple of hours. Good bye my book!

I tucked into some sandwiches that my niece packed for me with love, and then thought of some coffee. Then I decided - "Indigo gives me black coffee at Rs 60/- and I am not getting milky coffee at double the price". Guess what happened in the flight??  When they started serving, there was some turbulence, the seat belt signs came on, and the stewardess announced "We regret we will not be serving hot beverages, due to turbulence".  I settled for Nimbu Paani (again telling myself to focus on what I got, instead of what I could not get).

I opened the bottle and took a sip, savouring the cold drink, telling myself "maybe this is better than coffee". And.... the seat belt sign goes off, and the stewardess opens the flask of hot water to serve another passenger.... you guessed it... black coffee! I could sense Mr Murphy having an expression of a 100% glee, thanking the hostess for not saying that she was not serving hot beverages only for a few minutes"

For the rest of the three hour flight, I practised not thinking about the coffee!

I reached Chennai and my little-less-than-two-days-stay there was great. I think the lovely weather  (something rare in Chennai) made Mr Murphy take a break. I even hoped that I would leave him there, but he somehow found me and quietly accompanied me on my Meru cab to the airport. For the first time I tried paying online through the app. It took some time for me to get the acknowledgement, by which time, the driver was politely impatient - telling me that if he stayed longer, he would cross the mandated 5 mins and get to pay a fine. I paid him in cash. Just as he got in and drove off, I received the acknowledgement :) :) Okay, okay Mr Murphy - I noticed you. You need not seek so much attention!

I got into the plane and set Meru an email explaining this and asking for a refund. They responded soon telling me they would. "Yay - Mr Murphy - you lost this one!" And I decided - "I am having nothing on this flight (I was full anyway, after a great family get together and lunch) - and I will not give you an opportunity for mischief here :)"

We landed in Mumbai early last evening, and the baggage arrived on to the belt before we did. In all the din in the baggage hall, I did not hear Mr. Murphy singing loud and clear "Vasu ma'm - I have saved the best for last" (Vanessa Williams, if you did not sing the song as well as you did, I would have hated it from yesterday :>)

I came out of the airport terminal. I called my driver. The call would not go through. He has a 2nd number and I called that. It rang and I disconnected it as is our usual protocol. He would drive to the pick up point as I walked out there. Suddenly my phone buzzed. It was his wife saying "Ma'm this phone is with me today. If you like I will call him for you". I said okay to her as I could not connect to his other number. To cut a long story short, no one could. His wife, my mother in law, my son and my husband (from Chennai!) - none could reach him.

I waited for a good 40 minutes, hoping he would at least think of coming and checking out, but apparently he did that just after I got into an auto :) Soon after I reached home, he called (from another phone), and my mom in law told him I had reached and asked him to return. Apparently he had a new cell phone, and had done some setting change, by which he could neither make nor receive calls! (I still have not figured out how he managed that, but he got it corrected this morning) :D :D :D, With that, Mr Murphy must have decided "enough is enough". I had a couple of hot dosas for dinner, had a lovely chat with my mom in law and turned in for the  night - back in my cosy bed!

Epilogue: Had this happened to me about 10 years ago, I may have cribbed, raved and ranted at every step. Life has since taught me a lot, and I was able to laugh as things happened and as I related the set of events to people in the last couple of days. I was a teeny bit irked in Agra when the cab to Delhi was not getting organized, but that was only because I felt I could not get enough time with my adorable grand niece.

Let me add a bit about her. She was asleep when her parents came to pick me up at the hotel. When we reached home, she woke up. She saw me, gave a beaming smile and waved to me! I don't think I have seen too many toddlers wake up with a smile, less who smile at strangers, and only this one who smiled and waved. When her mom set her down, she chose to 'get into my shoes' - literally. She wore them and walked all over the house for the next half hour :). She spent the next three hours with me, chattering away in her own lingo. And the next morning, she woke up in time to yap some more and say "Bye" with another huge smile. God bless you little Raaga!

And finally - "thank you Mr Murphy, for the practice sessions! Without them, how could I know that I have learned all that I have read in wisdom literature, or heard from wise folks? I know for sure that I came out well. I am still beaming about the fact that so many things could happen unexpectedly and teach us to value all that happens right. Mr Murphy - does that make me a winner? I guess it does - but let me generously call you one too". After all life is all about Win-Win" 

The focused participants (the two in front were faculty)
- we hope they will change research!


My grand niece - stepping into my shoes - literally :)
A part of the Agra Fort - clicked from the cab!


Enigmatic Libran said...

Nice blog. Reminds me of my own trip recently to Brazil. I almost gave up wondering what the universe was conspiring against us. Subodh and I had registered for the conference (that was 25K each) in July. To avail early discounts we had booked tickets for travel and stay at Rio and Fortaleza (around 1.2 lakhs each) in September. We had no information whether our papers had been accepted. We applied for a Brazil visa somewhere on 15 Oct through an agent. Suddenly around that time, the organizers put up the programme on the website, and I was surprised to see my name as speaker in a panel discussion. No one had informed me. I shot off some emails and thankfully got to discuss the plan with the other speakers on Skype. The Murphy business had started with our travel agent saying the Brazilian embassy at Mumbai was not willing to accept emails/ pdf versions of invitations and we had to procure a hand signed invitation. It was rather frustrating. Subodh had to rush to Mumbai, and after much cajoling they accepted our papers saying they would not start processing them until they received the hand signed invites from the conference organizers. To make matters worse, we would receive our passports and visa only on 12 Nov! We were to travel on 13th night!
Then out of the blue, we got invitations saying that we were both speakers. So the organizers would pay for our travel and stay. We asked them to reimburse our already booked tickets and they said it was not within the purview of their rules. We were advised to cancel our tickets and book again (though the exercise cost them more than our early bird tickets). So we asked them to book us via Amsterdam like our initial tickets and they said it was too expensive. They booked us via Paris, and we cancelled our tickets (Had a midnight scare where I woke up from my sleep to discover that the dates of my ticket were wrong! Good that I woke up at 3 am, right for Brazil time!) We had to cancel our initial tickets, and our hotel bookings and suffer huge cancellation charges. The saving grace was being awarded fellowships, so we got our registration fees back. The visas were collected by our agent on 12th Nov. Phew!
But the worst was yet to come. On 12th night, at 10 pm, I got an email from the Brazilian agent that I might need a transit visa at Paris. Almost screamed in despair! Then began two hours of google search to find loopholes and clarifications to that rule. I escaped as I had a valid US visa which would suffice. But Subodh had no such luck. We began hurried calls to Brazil and they said that it was easy. The French consulate could give us one electronically. But nothing could be done sitting in Wardha. Our initial plan was to leave for Nagpur at 5 pm on 13th Nov and get on the early morning flight to Rio via Paris. Now Subodh got on the 7 am flight to Mumbai to try and get a transit visa to Paris. The travel agent said he had nobody who could come and deliver the papers to us at the visa office. The office closes at 12 noon! Nerve wrecking moments! The people at the French visa office were polite, but said they couldn't help. We called up the conference organizers who said our tickets were non-refundable so they could not help. We arguing into midnight at a Mumbai hotel on 13th night. Once midnight passed, the clouds cleared and we made the final decision. It was almost as if the jinx of 13 was gone! We rebooked Subodh's tickets via Abu Dhabi, all the while cursing the hole it was causing in our wallet. I travelled on schedule by Air France. He arrived the next day by Etihad. We arrived separately and left separately.

All the while my imagination was working overtime, wondering which of the 9 flights we took would crash! Couldn't find an explanation on why destiny would want us to travel separately!. Thankfully all's well that ends well. Thankfully we had a great time at work and leisure in Rio and Fortaleza. But I will think twice before planning an important trip on the 13th!

Anonymous said...

You didn't tell us if meru made the refund finally or Murphy got it?

Vasumathi said...

Anshu! Your post makes mine pale in comparison :) Thank God everything went off well - okay - except for the hole in your pocket!

Kaushik - Yes - I managed to fool Mr. M - another M called Meru refunded my M :)