In Summary
  • Suddenly, I was seized with fear, a sense of uncertainty and utter loneliness, having realised the magnitude of the task I had undertaken and the risks I faced.
  • I was entering a strange and cold city where I didn’t know a soul at that hour of the night, with precisely twenty pounds in my pocket, not knowing what will happen when I had spent my entire capital.

As mentioned in the last column, at the end of a long tiring flight, as the aircraft was making its descent, I saw London ablaze in lights under a blanket of snow. The captain announced the local time and temperature on the ground but neither helped to lift my low spirits. The local temperature was below zero and the time was approaching midnight.

LIMITED BUDGET

Suddenly, I was seized with fear, a sense of uncertainty and utter loneliness, having realised the magnitude of the task I had undertaken and the risks I faced. I was entering a strange and cold city where I didn’t know a soul at that hour of the night, with precisely twenty pounds in my pocket, not knowing what will happen when I had spent my entire capital. Toying with the idea of catching the first available flight home, I looked at my documents, passport, health certificates and finally the flight ticket as the plane landed on the ground with a thud; I only had a one-way ticket to London. That was all my brother could afford!

As I went through the immigration formalities, I felt that everybody in the orderly queue, which had formed spontaneously, was watching me in the brown, ill-fitting coat, making me look comical and I was highly embarrassed. I collected my suitcase, put it on a trolley and walked out to the airport bus to Victoria. The red, amber and green traffic lights, which I was seeing for the first time, kept me occupied and kept my stress level at bay until the conductor came to collect the fare, which was one pound. As I got off the bus, I asked the driver how I could get to the Indian Students’ Hostel in Guildford Street and he advised, “Take a taxi, lad.” Little did he know that I had a limited budget!

I toyed with ideas of getting to my destination through cheaper means of transport but the fact that I was a stranger and the freezing temperature precluded it and ultimately I decided to hire a taxi. The taxi took me to the hostel, where I arrived at about 3am. After pressing the bell continuously for five minutes, while snowflakes were falling on me, I saw a saree clad irate Indian woman come out of the door and she greeted me with, “Fine time to arrive on a cold miserable night.”

DRASTICALLY DEPLETED

To further aggravate her mood, I remembered Janmohamed’s famous last words before I boarded the plane.

“Send us a telegram as soon as you reach there; none of us will be able to sleep until we have received a telegram telling us that you arrived safely.” There were no emails or mobiles then.

So I said to the woman, “I need to send a telegram home.”

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