My bags have been packed since 2am last night. I only found out about this trip a week ago, but have managed a Primark scavenger hunt, gift shopping and packing four suitcases. Now, I’m just waiting to leave for a long haul flight and crazy jet lag.
My prompt uncle arrives straight after Jummah Salaah ready to drop us off to Heathrow airport, and we set off, bracing ourselves for the M25 traffic. In fact, the traffic starts from inside Leicester, as today has to be the day that an accident pushes all traffic on diversions into the city. We reach halfway down our road, when my sister in law calls to tell us that we’ve forgotten something very very important. Going back in this traffic will make us late, so my husband has to run all the way back home to grab it. Our dramatically indian journey has begun.
Heathrow is huge. Naturally, we get stuck in the lift going all the way down to floor 000000000, and then back up to the departures floor. A machine checks us in, because human labour is overrated. The machine also gives us our boarding passes and baggage tags leaving a tired looking person to wave our luggage through. It almost always is a tired looking person doing the waving through. And they, either carelessly send through overweight luggage, or pay extra close attention to the few grams extra. I say ‘overweight’ luggage with confidence because we are Indian, and it is almost law for Indians to pack their luggage to the riskiest weight possible.
Allow me to explain… When Indians from one country travel to countries where relatives live, they don’t just pack their own belongings. They pack gifts and ‘parcels’ to transport across the globe on behalf of other relatives. For example, we are going to Zambia, with relatives in Zambia and England. The relatives from England will want to send something to the relatives in Zambia. It could be something small, like a box of chocolates, which doesn’t weight much. This would be fine if it were one box of chocolates. But counting an indian’s relatives is like counting the sweets in the jar at a fun fair. Do you get my gist?
So, we get our (teeny bit) overweight luggage – which included one full suitcase of things to give away – sent through, and go to relax in the departures lounge. We have some refreshments, perform wudhu, do a bit of shopping (headphones for the plane!), and make our way to the gate.
As I mentioned before, Heathrow is huge! The distance between gates is written on the signs – ’15 minutes to Gate xx’. After quite a long walk, we pray at the departure gate and wait to be called for boarding.
I am not a fan of flying. I like travelling and visiting other places, but I really do not enjoy the flying. In fact, I don’t particularly like any long journey no matter what the means of transport. The only thing that keeps me going on long journeys is the excitement of what waits at the other end. When I am going away from home, the new place that awaits steals my thoughts, and when I am returning home, it is usually my pillow and the prospect of sleep that reassures me.
Nonetheless, to be forced on an overcrowded machine with no leg room for hours and hours really isn’t a pleasant experience. Today, I have the pleasure of being sandwiched in between my husband, and a very large old lady who has taken my leg and arm space as well as hers. I adjust the pillows (one from the airline and one of those cheap neck pillows) and blanket and make myself as comfortable as the small space will allow me. The air hostesses almost break hand luggage shoving it into the overhead carriers, safety announcements are made, and the plane takes off.
This flight is never-ending. I slept for a while and now have serious cramps. The poor lady next to me has limited mobility and finds it difficult to stand to let me through to use the toilet, so I climb over her. They should really have a section for people with physical disabilities on planes, like they do on trains, to make the journey more comfortable. I am certain even a little bit more leg room would have made her journey better.
I am still on a plane, and my neck pillow has popped (serves me right for being a cheapskate). So now I am covered in little polystyrene balls and don’t have a neck pillow. Great.
We have landed in Ethiopia, and if I wasn’t so tired, I would cry with happiness.
Read Part 2 here