My dad is a master mariner in the merchant navy and when I was 10 years old, my mum and I had joined him on ship, on a trip from Colombo to Chittagong. We reached Chittagong, but had to wait in anchorage in the Indian Ocean until we could dock. While waiting, daily supplies are brought in smaller boats and sold to bigger ships. My dad had just bought an entire small boat's supplies, one morning and asked me (along with other crew members) to follow the loaders to the fridge room, where they were supposed to stock the produce. “Yell, if they wander off the path to the fridge room,” he instructed me. I did, but there was no raucous to scream about. Later that night, my father and I came out to the bridge of the ship to make a phone call to my grandparents back at home, I saw a few garbage drums in the sea and asked dad about it. He said some other ship had probably dumped it. Curious, since I hadn't seen any other ship all day, I moved to the edge of the bridge and peered forward. A half-naked man was trying to get onto the ship's railing from the waters. Imagine my surprise when I recognised him as the vendor from the morning! At a little distance away, there was a small boat with a few other men. I asked my dad who they were when my dad screamed, "Chor! Chor!" As I panicked and started howling, my mother took me into the cabin. After all the commotion had settled, I heard that we had just been attacked by pirates. It was the most terrifying yet most memorable experience of my life.
–Anila Angeline Mathews
We were travelling from Florida to Miami for my cousin's graduation and had stopped for a bite. We were not gone for more than 10 minutes, but when we returned to the car, our suitcases had disappeared. And our passports with them! We called the cops, but they really couldn't do much and informed us that the zone was prone to a lot of robberies. My dad and cousin searched through all the dumpsters in the neighbourhood for an hour, because according to the cops the robbers, sometimes toss the stuff they don't want in the garbage. We contacted the Indian consulate in Huston, who were rude and were informed that they could not do anything. Since we had no papers we couldn't fly there. My brother who was in Mumbai, found a copy of dad's passport and faxed it over to the hotel where we were staying. So my dad and cousin were set to leave for Houston the next day, but that very evening we met my cousin's friend's parents, who had high connections in the consulate. He spoke to somebody there and we were told we would be issued new passports. All we had to do was fill the new application forms, get our pictures clicked and post it to Huston. Within a week we received our new passports, but at the cost of US $1,000 for each new passport and an extra unplanned week in the United States.
During one of my college vacations, I had planned a trip to Italy with my cousins. It was our first time there and we had a 6 30 am train to catch to Florence. My cousins had pre-booked our tickets from Canada and were all set for Florence after a three-day stay in Venice. After a late night, we managed to drag ourselves out of bed only to find out that the first boat to the station was not before 7 am. We missed the train, obviously. Feeling pretty miserable about our incredibly expensive train tickets going to waste, we caught a boat to the station. We reached well in advance for the next train, but by the time we figured out the details and booked tickets, it was ready to chug away, but we managed to board just a second before it did.
–Tripti Bhatia Gandhi
An anniversary to remember
As has been the practice we pack our bags for a week long getaway, for our anniversary celebration. To make it different, we picked Conoor and to make it even more different, we picked a scenic homestay, D Rock.
We landed in Coimbatore and the drive up to Conoor was accompanied by heavy rains. The place was cold, isolated and scenic, but the incessant rains made it look like a poor replica of the pictures that we had seen on the net. When we arrived, at 7 pm, there was no electricity. The homestay owner, Charles assured us that the electricity would be restored in a couple of hours. So here we were, plunged in complete darkness, with candles and the wind whistling by our window. We were told that there was a low pressure in the southern tip of the Indian ocean causing this sudden change of weather and that Saturday morning would be a whole different day. And much to our surprise, or should I say shock, it was! The rains lashed like there was no tomorrow and spare a short walk, there was no way we could even step out of our room. No electricity also meant no geyser, no television and most importantly, uncharged smart-phones. Family and friends were trying to reach us to wish us on our fifth anniversary. Charles had managed to arrange for a small chocolate cake to cheer us up. It was 36 hours well past the time we said goodbye to electricity. Ceaseless rain, poor visibility and nowhere to go to, we literally had a candlelight dinner. Only this time, the rains played some natural music while the thunder added some not-so-nice percussion to it. 48 hours later, we finally looked at each other with a certain urgency to run, no matter how poor the visibility was, this is not how we wanted to spend the rest of our vacation. We decided to move to some place more closer to civilisation. While our quest for solace ended abruptly at D-Rock, it was welcomed as we checked in to a wonderful suite in a five star property in Ooty for the rest of our stay.
The price of a good bargain
Sometimes you really have to choose between saving money and having a good time, a lesson I learnt the hard way on my last day in Antwerp. An acquaintance had told me of an amazing deal she got from megabus.com for an Antwerp to Amsterdam bus ticket. A few days later I was headed the same way, so this information had me thrilled. When I compared megabus.com's rates with Euro Rail's, megabus.com's 12-Euro fare seemed like a steal. It cost 50% less! How could I have ignored it?
The ticket confirmation in my inbox specified, “Passengers should be at departure point at least 30 minutes before departure time (except London Victoria where you are required to arrive 60 minutes before departure)”. I reached at 6:05 pm, 20 minutes prior to the departure time, and panicked. The bus depot was isolated. My mind raced, Was I the only one? Had the bus left early? But that can't be right, right? I calmed down and waited, but panic surged again when there was no sign of the bus or other passangers even at 6:45 pm. But I told myself, buses can get delayed, there's nothing to worry. Another half an hour later my mind swore, THIS IS A SCAM!!! The bus service probably doesn't exist. I couldn't call the company from my phone because my battery had died and eventually requested a passerbyfor help. No one picked up the call on Mega Bus's toll free number and after the ninth call, I gave up. The poor passerby seemed just as perplexed about how this could happen. Hassled, angry, upset, I walked back to my hostel (15 minutes away) with all my stuff. I tried calling thecompany repeatedly and by the time I finally heard someone on the other line, I was frantic and furious. When I enquired about the bus, the woman responded, "It's just about to reach..." "What?" I exclaimed in disbelief. "Can you inform driver I'm on my way? I don't want to miss it," I requested. "No ma'am, we can't contact the driver when he's driving," she said, pushing my annoyance to another level. I probed further, "Why not? I'm sure you can make an exception in such a situation." But she insisted it wasn't possible. "All right, incase I miss the bus, can you let me use this ticket for a seat in the next one?" No again. "You left the bus depot, so I'm afraid I can't help you," was her answer. "Arrgghh... But you forget that I waited for one hour and fifteen minutes in toto and the bus is late by 45 minutes. I had no option but to leave because I couldn't even get through to your staff over the phone," I tried to make her see reason, but all in vain. "Sorry ma'am, you shouldn't have left the depot." I lost it and almost screamed, "Did you want me to stay there forever? How would I have known that the bus was going to arrive?" You know her answer by now, don't you. So I hung up, decided to try my luck and started running to the depot with my luggage, consisting a suitcase and a handbag.
A bus left just when I reached, but I was relieved to see it wasn't mine.The relief was shortlived. A driver from another bus informed me that mine left five minutes ago. I wanted to kill someone. And I wanted my rightful seat in the next bus. Just FYI Belgium, especially Antwerp has no payphones. So I walked to a nearby restaurant, explained about the fiasco to one of the staff and asked whether I could make a call. He consoled, "It's not your fault ma'am, this happens with Mega Bus all the time. People still buy their tickets because it is very cheap." As expected, the bus company's staff didn't budge and I finally told man on the other end of the line that maybe they should consider closing instead of providing such shoddy service. Phew, what an evening. I lugged my bags again, returned to the hostel, booked the last train to Amsterdam for another 30 Euros and left the nightmare behind.
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Compiled by Avril-Ann Braganza