Tuesday, April 22, 2014

An encounter with a would-be thief

I had gone to the GPO in Sector 17, Chandigarh on Saturday to mail a letter by registered post.

By the way, this involves a long process if your mail is overseas.  The person at the counter will view the envelope/parcel suspiciously, knock it from all angles to make sure it is properly sealed. Then, they make you sign a form where you have to list its contents, value, name and address of the sender and receiver. Whew!

It makes sense if you are sending a large parcel, but you have to do this even for a simple letter and a photograph.

Anyway, I was in Sector 17 GPO and queued up dutifully behind a couple of people.  There was a young girl right before me.  She was a lawyer by the looks of her, white salwar kameez with a black coat.  She was carrying a stack of letters that she had to send by registered post and was chattering amiably with the person before her. A friendly sort,  I thought.

After she was done, she took a seat to sort out the papers she had in hand.  I took my place at the head of the counter and was promptly directed to get the declaration form from another counter.  I collected the form and sat down beside the lawyer girl and started riffling through my bag, looking for a pen.  As usual, when you really need these things, they are seldom there.  The lawyer girl got up to go. I decided to go out of the GPO and buy a pen.

There are a lot of helpful people who sell wrapping paper, gum, pens and sticking tapes right outside the door of GPO.  I stopped by the first one and asked for a pen.  As I looked in my bag for the wallet, I realized with a thudding heart that I had left my wallet on the bench when I was riffling through my bag.

I ran back inside the GPO and found the lawyer girl practically sitting on my wallet and talking to someone. I picked up my wallet from under her and went back to get the pen.  The lawyer girl stood up immediately and left.

I returned with my pen and started filling up the form.  A young man who was sitting on an adjoining bench came up to me and said that the lawyer girl had returned as soon as I left and sat on the wallet.  He said if I had returned a moment later, the wallet would have been in her bag. He had been watching her avidly.

The girl was probably not a habitual thief, I do not like to think so.  But an honest person would surely have tried to return the wallet to me, tried to run after me.  Now that I think back upon the incident, it was rather strange the way she was chattering away with all and sundry.  She had chattered and smiled at me when I sat down beside her as well.

The girl's face keeps swimming before my eyes.  And I shake my head every time I think about this incident.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

USA visit - October 2013

I returned from a month long USA visit 15 days back.

This was my first international travel ever.  Hence everything, the long journey, the overseas travel, the new country, was all a first experience for me.

Initially I was anxious that my luggage weighed too much.  I was anxious about my travel to Delhi to catch my flight in the wee hours. I was anxious about being able to follow the directions that were being given to me.  It helped that I was accompanied by my grown son.  It was good to have company while traveling, to have someone to talk to and to hold your purse while I went to the loo.

The journey was so long, I felt it would never end.  After a while the choices on the in-flight TV seemed rather limited.  I looked at the places we were going over on the monitor on the plane.  We traveled over Asia, Europe, London, over the Atlantic, New York, down the West Coast. Soon sleep took over and all I wanted to do was sleep, which was fitful and not very restful.  When the landing was announced and the 'plane hovered over Houston waiting for clearance to land, I looked out of the window, trying to get a look at the place I was visiting.  I could see a lot of green coverage, and very few buildings.

We walked through long corridors towards the immigration.  My first impression was that there were very few people there.  Sure there were lines in the immigration, people were being quizzed and cleared, but it was nothing like India, which ALWAYS teems with people.

My daughter was right at the gate of our exit.  There was a blur of greetings and hugs.  In my first act of disorientation, I opened the left door of the car to sit and looked amazed at the steering wheel there.  I did this a number of other times as well.  The right hand drive needed getting used to, even for a back-seat driver.

The roads seems very bare.  Only a few cars zipped alongside us, darkened window wound up tightly.  There was no eclectic traffic on the roads like in India where cycles, scooters and three-wheelers drive along co-exist happily on roads with cars and trucks.  Apart from that the topography seemed quite India-like to me.  It was still planet earth!

As soon as we got to my daughter's lovely little apartment, we chose to bathe before going out for dinner.  I was dying to sleep, but wanted to eat before sacking out.  We went to a little Thai place close by.  We were served water infused with chunks of fruit.  Straight off a long flight, my son and I were parched and drank the tasty water gratefully.  We were pleased with one noodle dish, but not so with a red curry which was too sweetish for our taste.

The lady at the restaurant asked us if we wanted anything more.  Still in my India haze, I said 'Bas, thanks!'
My kids burst into laughter at that.

Thus ended a very eventful day.  Even if I find myself globe trotting a lot in future and get very jaded by it, I doubt if I will forget my first day in USA.