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A Voyage into the Unknown

Discussion in 'Snippets of Life (Non-Fiction)' started by satchitananda, Jun 29, 2011.

  1. satchitananda

    satchitananda Moderator Staff Member IL Hall of Fame

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    Friends, I am going to narrate here a true story which is rather long and hence will be in three parts. Please bear with me.

    FLYING THE NEST


    [JUSTIFY]It was at the ripe old age of 29. A totally "unprimed" girl (let us call her Satchi :) ) , who had never stayed away from home suddenly realized that time was passing her by and decided it was time to take a look at the world outside her home and city. She got a scholarship and decided to go to the UK (the land of all her childhood dreams including Snow White's castle, Cinderella, P.G. Wodehouse, Charles Dickens and Enid Blyton). She had a lot of mental visions of that country and wished to experience that world.

    Her adventures started when her parents went to drop her off at the airport. It was Friday,the 13th of September 1991. She was trembling inside at the thought of leaving her parents and home. But she was too proud to let go off her bravado and display her vulnerability. Having said good bye to her parents at the gate of the airport, she went in and turned round to see her father waving out to her. Something inside her was cracking up, but she kept up the stiff upper lip - she would need to have plenty of that where she was going.

    The procedure of going through the immigration was not very difficult - a very novel experience though and it certainly caused her a lot of anxiety. Eventually she was through and had to wait to board the flight. This was going to be her first flight and she was certainly looking forward to it.

    The strain of keeping awake, the anxiety and not letting herself cry was beginning to tell on her. She was beginning to get a migraine. Anyway, she boarded the flight. Unfortunately she did not get a window seat and was seated next to a gentleman from a neighbouring country who had settled in the UK about 30 years ago. This kind soul took it as his personal responsibility to inform her of how difficult it would be being a student in the UK and how if she did not work hard, she would face a rough time (I don't know what it was about her face that made him assume that she needed that bit of advice). That was all she needed in her current state of mind. She shut her eyes and tried to get some sleep.

    In between she was woken up by the kind air hostess who informed her that there was no vegetarian food available. So our protagonist had to do with some pudding and fruit juice.

    Eventually the flight landed in London. She was having a splitting headache. Add to this the immigration procedures and the nearly 35 kilos of luggage (checked in as well as hand luggage) she had to carry/drag along. (Airlines were more lenient towards students those days). Finally she stepped officially onto British soil, carrying with her all the luggage, advice, warnings from experienced people, a splitting headache and a homesickness that was tearing her apart.[/JUSTIFY]
     
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  2. satchitananda

    satchitananda Moderator Staff Member IL Hall of Fame

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    A Voyage into the Unknown - Part 2

    NEW WORLD, NEW EXPERIENCES​


    [JUSTIFY]Satchi looked around her. Everything looked alarmingly strange. Then came the huge shock. Nothing looked even remotely like what was described by P.G. Wodehouse or Enid Blyton. Where had she landed? What was all this? The first reaction in her state of mind was a dislike, an unhappiness. She looked around for her friend who was supposed to come to the airport to pick her up. She waited for 5 – 10 minutes. There was no sign of him. She called his lab and was told he had not yet come in. Obviously, it was still 6 am. The homesickness started taking more gigantic proportions.

    Somehow Satchi managed to get onto a bus going to Victoria Station, where she was supposed to meet the British Council agent on Platform 13. It was pretty empty except for an Asian family on board. The man was sitting with a newspaper in front of his face. Our friend decided that the last seat on the bus was the best place for her. Once she took her seat, loneliness hit big time, her face crinkled up and she was racked by sobs. The man turned around, looked at her and turned back to his newspaper. (This was the very first experience of the stiff upper lip – and here was a case of an Asian being more British than the Brits. I am sure that a true Brit would have been more helpful).

    Soon there were a few people on board and the bus started off. It was a hot day in September and the closed bus started making our friend feel sick. (She had never been a great one for buses or car journeys ever since was young). She badly wanted to throw up. But what could she do in that bus. She went and requested the driver to stop a moment. He was not ready to (traffic discipline – he could not open the door just anywhere on the road). She was desperate. She stood near the door waiting for it to open. Eventually when there was a spot where he could slow down and open the door, the driver very kindly did so. She got out, threw up and got in again. But God for some reason was not in a great mood to go easy on her. The feeling persisted and finally she seated herself on the steps near the door and every now and then the driver had to stop and let her out. Add to the physical and emotional misery, she had to endure the ignominy of all the passengers looking at her.

    [​IMG]

    Finally the bus arrived at Victoria station. She got off with her luggage, stood for a moment and looked around. She was not sure where she had to go. Then she decided to follow some other passengers (including our friendly Asian family) who were also headed in the same direction. It was not an easy job when she was feeling so sick to drag all that luggage to the platform which was quite a distance away. However, I guess the same God who gives us so many difficulties also gives us the wherewithal (which we do not suspect is within us) to endure and overcome then. Thus it was that Satchi managed to follow the others - luggage, migraine, sick feeling and all - to the concourse.

    At the concourse they were all met by a representative of the British Council. She asked what they would have to eat or drink. Satchi was really scared of the words food and drink and refused anything. She informed the rep that she was feeling very sick. The kind lady comforted her and said they would soon be at the British Council office. She asked everyone to follow her out and started flagging down cabs to put them on and send them to the office.

    [​IMG]

    When she flagged down the first cab, our friendly Asian family (who had been witness to all the happenings right from the airport) tried to push their way into the cab. Mercifully for Satchi, the lady asked them to wait, put her on and sent her on her way. It was not a very long drive.

    Once at the office, the lady was there again to take care of the formalities and offered Satchi some fruit juice which she gratefully drank up. Then she was given all the requisite papers and sent off to the hospital where she would be working for the next 3 years.

    Satchi wanted to go to the hostel, but did not know where the hostel office in the hospital was. So she landed up at the wrong entrance and had to ask for the way and drag the stuff all the way. She was still feeling like a rag and wanted to sit down. When she eventually got to the office which was just outside the refectory, she had to wait for 10 minutes for the lady in charge to return. Students were streaming in and out of the refectory and were looking strangely at Satchi with her bags. She probably stuck out like a sore thumb in her get up which was certainly very different from theirs. Eventually when the lady returned to the office, Satchi walked up to her and asked if she could sit there for 10 minutes, which the lady replied in the negative. She leaned half way out of the window and asked her to go sit in the refectory. What option did Satchi have? She went in and bought herself a yogurt and a banana (something she would never eat – which proves how bad her tum was).

    After that she was told the hostel was 10 minutes walk away from the hospital. Satchi looked around helplessly and seriously believed that she would be landing up on the floor in the next 2 minutes. The lady at the window summoned one of the students and requested him to help Satchi out. The guy very sweetly agreed, took her to the hostel, helping to lug along the stuff. He left her in the foyer of the hostel. She wondered what to do with a white card she had been given to her in the office with the admonition to keep it carefully.

    [​IMG]

    Probably this was supposed to be shown to some security to be allowed inside the building. She looked here and there, but no one was to be seen. Add to her problems, her room was on the second floor and there were no lifts. So eventually she had to lug all her luggage, one piece at a time up two floors herself. Finally she got to her room, looked around and decided she had had enough adventures for a day. She left her stuff right where it was and crashed out.

    At 3 pm she got up and went to the department, introduced herself to her supervisor, called a couple of friends, made an appointment to meet them at then weekend, and then got back to the room in a happier frame of mind and crashed out again.

    It was not until 10 pm that she surfaced to the sound of the siren of a passing police car. She woke up, put a few things in place, ate a banana she had bought herself at the John Menzies shop in the hospital and then went back to sleep.[/JUSTIFY]
     
  3. satchitananda

    satchitananda Moderator Staff Member IL Hall of Fame

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    A Voyage into the Unknown - Part 3

    FINDING HER FEET

    [​IMG]


    [JUSTIFY]Having slept so much, Satchi awoke refreshed at 6 am next morning. She had no idea of how she was to go about what she had to do. She looked around for the shower on her floor, had a wash, washed a couple of clothes and wondered where to dry them. She did not see any drying area around. She went back to her room. She saw a bright yellow metal corrugated equipment in her room. Maybe that was a kind of clothes drier which she could use. She tried to move it, but it just would not. Then she checked to see if it would open out. It wouldn't. It also felt surprisingly warm. All the better. She put her clothes on whatever it was to dry and then decided to step out. As she went downstairs, she noticed some more yellow corrugated metal structures all along. None of them was willing to budge from its place. (Yes, she checked them all out to see if they would come off or open out in someway. It might be that the one in her room was stuck). Mystified, she decided to look into the matter later on. Now she must be on her way.

    It was Saturday. She had to go to a place in Cambridgeshire to visit her friends (neighbours from home) and felt very happy at the prospect of seeing some familiar faces. By now (based on her experiences for the last two days) she had concluded that British food was inedible (which many people would sympathize with, but Satchi has changed her mind 180º ever since). So she thought wisdom to be the better part of valour and decided not to eat or drink anything. There was a creeping anxiety about how she would survive 3 years like this (she is a foodie of the ultimate degree).

    So she picked up her map of London, looked at it from all directions (something like a monkey would do given a piece of colourful paper), decided it would be easier to ask around. The instructions to her from her friend had been to get to Kings' Cross station and to take a train to Stevenage. Good she would do just that. But where the hell was Kings' Cross and how did she get there? She got onto the street. Hardly anyone was in sight. Just then a prosperous lady of African descent came along. (I shall shorten that to PAD or person of African descent). The lady told her to go to Lambeth North station which was not very far off, she could just walk down there. Having given her that information, before Satchi could think of how to get there, she hurried away. All that was to be seen was a huge police station opposite and a few police cars going this way and that. Satchi went up to a policeman and asked him about where Lambeth North station was. He just shrugged his shoulder and said he did not know. (Can you believe that, the policeman in Lambeth did not know where Lambeth North station was)!!!!!!! Just then, there came a bus. Satchi asked the driver how she could get to Lambeth North station. He told her the way, and helpfully added that he could drop her off at the next junction. There he told her to just go down the road to the left and it was right there. That was really very sweet of the driver and eventually she found herself at the station.

    [​IMG]

    Good. So one part sorted out. She went up to the window and asked for a ticket to Kings' Cross. Having bought that, she looked around and wondered where the stairs were to descend to the platform. No stairs in view. She stood there looking around her uncertainly. Just then a man (a railway employee) came along – a PAD. He asked her if he could help. All her instincts told her not to let him know she was new to the place, but there was no other way out. The man said he would help out, came down to the platform with her (there was a lift for the purpose), told her she would have to change to the Piccadilly Line at Piccadilly Circus to go to Kings' Cross. He waited with her till the train came, saw her onto the coach, waved goodbye and went after the train had left. Any prejudices Satchi had against men of that race just evaporated into thin air and she was on her way feeling very good.

    Satchi kept a close watch to make sure she did not miss the station. She got off at Piccadilly station and wandered off upstairs to buy a ticket to go to Kings' Cross. When she came to the automatic barrier where the tickets are checked, she was once again unsure about what to do. Just then a ticket checker, a lady, PAD came along and asked what the problem was. Satchi informed her that she wished to go to Kings' Cross and wished to buy a ticket. The lady asked to look at the ticket that Satchi already had and said, it was okay, she could just go downstairs that way and take the train from there. Satchi was not so sure. Did she not need to get another ticket? How could that be? She did not wish to be booked for ticketless travel on her very first day in London. The lady looked at her quizzically and said “Darling, if you have too much of money, just give it to me”. That was enough. Satchi decided she was not feeling so magnanimous just as yet and went down. She got the ticket and went to Kings' Cross.

    It was around 8 am. The train was just about to leave. Having bought the ticket, she found her way to the platform and boarded the train. Once on the train, hunger pangs took over and finally she bought a carton of orange juice.

    At around 9.30 she reached Stevenage and was overwhelmed with emotion when she saw a familiar face waiting for her. Having hugged and greeted each other, she went with Vidya Aunty (her neighbour Prakash Uncle's wife) to the nearest Tesco's supermarket. They shopped there for all the essentials that she would need for life in the hostel and went to Prakash Uncle and Vidya Aunty's home in Buntingford, about 20 miles from Stevenage.

    There she had her first meal in about 36 hours of Pita bread, channa and I don't remember what else. Before she decided to enjoy a siesta, there was still one issue waiting to be resolved. Remember those yellow corrugated thingummies in the hostel? There was one of those in Prakash Uncle's living room, one in the kitchen, one in the dining room and one in the toilet. What on earth were those? Finally summoning up her courage and putting her pride aside, she asked Prakash Uncle. She told them what had transpired in the hostel and how it did not come off, but seemed firmly attached to the floor. He informed her that those were the room heaters and they had heated water flowing through those corrugated thingies and all had a good laugh at Satchi and her incredible ignorance. She felt like a freak, a villager who had landed in a big bad city. Thank God for her, she had not succeeded (one must give a good hand to British technology and its durability) in pulling it off. She could not help imagining a huge lake in her room enough to drown her and to destroy the carpets on the whole floor (probably the entire hostel). And the huge sum of money she would have had to pay up before she drowned in that water.

    It was only some days later that she found out that the white card given to her in the hostel office was a card key meant for her to insert into a slot outside the main door which would read it and allow her to open the new door, but how that happened was yet was another story.

    The very first 3 days in London had taught Satchi a few very important lessons.

    1. If she had survived what she did on the first two days, she could survive anything.

    2. She saw the hypocrisy of people of her own subcontinent who claim to be very warm, affectionate. She was exposed first hand to their self centred and selfish natures.

    3. Not all PAD men are bad. People of this group can be very sweet and helpful and have a lovely sense of humour.

    4. Any misconceptions she may have harboured about how smart she was were wiped out in a very short time and she learnt that she had a looooong way to go before she learnt to be street smart enough as to read something as simple as a road map.

    5. Most importantly she learnt that people are people everywhere. The same human beings with all their foibles, egos, sensitivities and the like. There are good and bad human beings in all countries and all races alike.

    With that began a saga of 4½ years stay in the UK which brought Satchi a wealth of experiences, good, bad and ugly, but in the bigger scheme of events, one must say they were good. She developed a sense of self-confidence and self-worth, learnt to recognize her own strengths and weaknesses and landed firmly on her two feet. And for that she will always remember Britain and the Brits with tremendous fondness.[/JUSTIFY]
     
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  4. Sudha Kailas

    Sudha Kailas IL Hall of Fame

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    Re: A Voyage into the Unknown - Part 3

    Very beautiful and detailed first travel experience into an unknown country which we have read only in our bed time fairy tales.

    Don't get disheartened thinking it is a very lengthy post and would our fellow IL friends find time to read......but here I am to tell you 100% this is not boring but a lovely write-up and for new travellers to be mentally prepared what is in store any where new they travel to !!

    I am looking forward to your next one already but will give you time to write so that you can share all without leaving even a minute detail...

    Best wishes dear !!
     
  5. satchitananda

    satchitananda Moderator Staff Member IL Hall of Fame

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    Re: A Voyage into the Unknown - Part 3

    Thanks a lot dear for having taken the time to read this narrative and for having given such a quick response. :) This experience is very close to my heart and it is still very fresh after all these years. It fills me with a sense of nostalgia and often I wish to go back, but realize that even if I were to go today, the old friends, old times and old experiences cannot come back.
     
  6. ptamil2007

    ptamil2007 Gold IL'ite

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    Re: A Voyage into the Unknown - Part 3

    Good to see you back in action Satchi..
    Reading through your post, was just like memories flowing through my first trip to Los Angeles 7 years back. There are many similarities - I discovered that I hate flying in aeroplanes, I had nose bleeding when there is turbulence.
    Those heavy luggages - my myyy........
    Thanks for sharing these - honestly, it made me feel better :) that I was not alone...Oops...Sorry buddy...but that was the feeling that came to me
     
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  7. satchitananda

    satchitananda Moderator Staff Member IL Hall of Fame

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    Re: A Voyage into the Unknown - Part 3

    Thanks Pavithra. Thanks so much for the feedback. No problems. It is perfectly legitimate to seek consolation in the fact that we are not alone. :)
     
  8. kanaka Raghavan

    kanaka Raghavan IL Hall of Fame

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    Re: A Voyage into the Unknown - Part 3

    bravo Satchi enjoyed every bit,felt as if I was experiencing it along with you.My daughter who has dream of going to UK one day,relished my reading of your post.As you say every race has got its good and bad sides.Experience puts us on a perfect platform of learning.Really really good one,thank you.I salute thee.
     
  9. kanaka Raghavan

    kanaka Raghavan IL Hall of Fame

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    Eagerly awaiting the next part.
     
  10. Mindian

    Mindian IL Hall of Fame

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    Re: A Voyage into the Unknown - Part 3

    dear Satchi,

    Wow !!! you remember the trip in such minute detail? great that you decided to put it down (I always think writing here is sort of writing my diary :biglaugh)

    I could picture that naive little girl though, by today's standards I wouldn't call 29 really very young. but I guess our limited exposure and protective environment kept us that way. anyway that one trip would have changed you for the better, I am sure and loaded you with the much needed confidence.

    And I agree totally with your concluding observations. :thumbsup:thumbsup. A delightful read.:)
     

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