Monday, March 12, 2007

A miracle in Mumbai

Today I arrived in Aurangabad for a Fulbright conference. To get here from Tirupati I had to fly from Tirupati to Hyderabad, then fly to Mumbai, and from there take another plane to Aurangabad. Aurangabad is about an hour's flight from Mumbai.

The trip was uneventful until I got to Mumbai. All the computer systems were down at the airport, which naturally caused a certain amount of confusion in this day and age. I got an airline bus from the Indian Airways terminal to the Jetways terminal, a two minute ride. Then the fun started.

I quickly spotted a small clutch of travellers who I took to be Fulbrighters. It turned out they weren't, and that was good because of what happened a while later. These friendly folks were travelling together on a tour of India, led by a remarkable young man named Ati K. Jain, an American of Indian descent, who is president and co-owner of the Cross-Culture tour company. Once a year, he steps out of the office and becomes a tour guide himself.

My lucky day. He took me under his wing when he saw that I was on the same plane as his President's Tour group. He asked me for my ticket and disappeared into a mass of people waiting to get boarding passes. The passes for every flight were being processed manually and the airline was calling out flight numbers one by one in the order of departure to clear the backlog of delayed flights.

It looked like we would be leaving at least an hour late. Meanwhile I chatted with the people in the tour group, two of whom, Dr. and Mrs Zieve, were particularly friendly. We had a great chat. After a while, it occurred to me that Mrs. Zieve--Elaine--looked a lot like my sister, Barbara. I told her so and asked her if I could take a picture of her with her husband. So there they are above.

If you read this blog, Barbara--or anyone else in the family--what do you think?

Finally, Mr. Jain returned with my ticket and boarding pass. Talk about a guardian angel! He pointed me in the direction of security and off I went. Security was a relative formality since I'd already been through security twice en route. In no time at all I was on the plane and settling in for the flight.

Next thing I know, there's a tap on my shoulder, and it's Mr. Jain handing me the black pouch in which I keep my passports and other precious travel documents. I'd left it behind in a tray after taking it from around my neck to go through security!!

I practically had a heart attack when I realized what I'd done. I probably wouldn't have noticed until well into the flight, if then, and I probably would have really had a heart attack when I discovered that I'd left it behind in Mombai.

It was Elaine who saved the day. While we'd been chatting, she'd noticed the label on the black pouch I was wearing around my neck, and when she came through security some time after me, she spotted it, figured it was mine, and Mr. Jain grabbed it and brought it along.

Wow!! Thank you, Elaine and Mr. jain. Thank you again and again. Now I really do believe in miracles.

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