I am not an expert in reaching the station late, getting in to the wrong train / compartment etc as some of my comrades. I always try to be careful. But still made mistakes several times and got in to the wrong train in my anxiety to somehow catch the train. But never expected that of boarding a wrong flight. But that is what happened during my return journey from Nepal in December 2003.
I had earlier posted a write-up regarding my journey to Bharatpur, in Nepal in March 2003, the trouble in the train on way to Nepal border. This time, I travelled from Gorakhpur along with Com.K.M.Thripati to border town Birganj via Sitamarhi and same difficulties. It was on 4th December 2003. Crossed to Nepal in a cycle riksha. TEAN comrades were waiting on the Nepal side of the town. Took us to Janakpur where the two day TEAN conference will be held.
Janakpur is the place, according to the Nepalese belief, child Sita was found in the rice-field by King Janaka who brought up her as his daughter. There is a place nearby where a piece of the broken bow is said to have fallen when Sri Rama accepted the challenge for the marriage of Sita and took the Parasurama bow and bent it. We visited these places.
The Conference was held in a systematic way as usual. There was a procession with all the employees in uniform which was spectacular. Two days conference on 5th and 6th December 2003. On the first day itself I addressed the inaugural session. Com. Madhav Kumar Nepal as well as the General Manager of the Nepal Communications addressed. Next day I had to return to Delhi as I was scheduled to leave for Chennai from Delhi on 6th by T.Nadu Express starting at 22.30 hours to attend the CITU All India Conference as a fraternal delegate. Com.KDM Tripathi will continue for the second day.
I requested TEAN comrades to arrange for a bus or van to go to Kathmandu to catch the flight to Delhi which was scheduled to leave at about 14.30 hours or so. They said it is better to go by flight from Janakpur to Kathmandu since there may be a lot of check up on the road due to Maoist problem and may not reach in time. The plan was to go to Kathamandu by 10.00 flight and I was dropped at entrance to the airport. Since the Conference was in session, I told them they can go back, I am OK.
Entered the airport. There was no check up or anything. The airport consisted of three four separate huts and a small airstrip. Not a single person was there in the whole area. I was alone. In front of the huts, sign boards were placed like ‘Rama Air’, ‘Sita Air’ and “Budha Air’. My ticket was for Budha Air. After half-an hour some passengers arrived as also airways’ officials. The officials told that the flight will come shortly. One flight came and went, but not mine. I was anxious as I had to reach at least two hours earlier before the Delhi flight as Kathmandu was an International Airport. Time passed on. No flight. In between, the GM Nepal Telecommunications also reached to return to Kathmandu. When I shared my anxiety, he assured me that as soon as we reach Kathmandu domestic airport, he will take me to the International Airport in his vehicle.
The plane reached at about 13.30 hours, later than the time I have to report at International Airport. It was only a helicopter which can accommodate about 20 passengers. The helicopter landed, passengers got down, we entered and it was in the air. Took barely 15 minutes. It was flying low and we could see the beautiful landscapes, hills etc. Enjoyed very much. By about 30 minutes we were in Kathmandu. I took my bags, got down and rushed to the bus nearby which was empty. They told me it is not our bus, it was only coming. I told them it is urgent and got in and told them to take me to the International side of the airport. They advised that I have to go out of the airport and then go to the International Airport and dropped me near the outside gate.
I ran out to catch some vehicle for International Airport. It was December, very cold and I had three bags with me including the gifts and souvenirs presented by Nepal comrades. Many cars were going to the Int. Airport. Showed my hands, but not a single one stopped. I ran. It was less than a km and reached there within no time.
Entered the Airport and went to the Indian Airlines checking counter. It was closed. An official nearby told the check-in is over. I requested him to speak to the pilot or concerned person and ensure my journey. He obliged. Somehow he agreed me to give the boarding pass. There is airport charge to be paid in another counter. I gave Rs. 500 note, but cashier told that changes are required as no Rs.500 Indian note is acceptable. Showed another counter where I can change the note in to Nepal currency. I changed the currency, paid the charge and got the boarding pass. I was told to rush to the entry.
Since an International Airport, even if Indian, you have to go through immigration. I got in to the elevator rushed to the immigration counter where at least a dozen people were in the queue. I was in such a hurry, I bypassed the queue and reached the counter stating my flight is going to start. The British passenger who was first in the queue gave way but smilingly said that ‘since you have got the boarding pass, the flight can not go without you’. I was not very sure. I again ran to the boarding gate which was some distance away.
A lady official of IA, who was at the entrance checked my boarding pass and hurriedly took me to a nearby IA plane. All my bags were opened and checked on the steps to the plane. At last I got in, but no seat for me in the economic class, every seat occupied. The Air Hostess graciously allotted a seat in the Executive class. I took my coat, cap etc. hung them on the hanger and sat. Despite December cold, I was sweating. At last I have boarded the flight so that I can reach Delhi in time.
The ordeal was not over. The flight did not take off. A young IA official boarded the plane and was shouting whether VAN Namboodiri is in the plane. I stood up. He told that this is not not my flight, my flight is waiting for departure nearby. He helped me in taking the bags and we were out. We got in to a nearby plane, but before that once again all the bags were opened and checked.
The flight started. I was in a window seat and enjoyed the scenery out side relaxing. I asked the Air hostess how I got in to the wrong flight. She told that due to heavy rush, two flights with almost the same number were there at the same time and hence the confusion. I reached Delhi at about 1700 hours caught my flight to Chennai and was off.