Landing at Sahar airport was like a slap in the face. Sudden, unexpected (because when you're abroad you forget how things are in India) and stinging. There was this union strike, see, so everything was slowed down and I thought it would take not just a few hours but a few days before I got home. I most often ask for a wheelchair to circumvent the long queues at immigration and customs and am whizzed through like a rocket. This time the wheelchair took forever to arrive and when I raised an eyebrow, the air hostess told me that it was because seventeen passengers on our aircraft had put in a request for assistance. Seventeen??!! Yikes. Is India the only country where a sizeable fraction of the population is old and/or disabled?!
After a bit I saw that the wheelchairs had arrived but we were still waiting. It turned out that there were only about two assistants to push the whole lot of us because the rest of the workers were on strike. Somehow we managed (I began to regret having asked for a wheelchair and thought I might have gotten out faster on my own this time). As if this weren't enough there were some checks on account of swine flu and we had to fill in forms regarding the state of our health while we were screened for fever or symptoms of flu. The area around immigration was choking with passengers who had not been cleared but of course, there's nothing like patience. I decided to take it all with grace, even if I had to wait there till the next morning.
Finally when we got our bags I decided I'd had enough of the wheelchair and being pushed around together with seventeen others and decided to grab hold of the trolley on which my bags had been piled and made my way out. Here too, milling crowds, a mixture of passengers and those who had come to fetch them. In perpetual fear of being knocked down I made my way out to where I caught side of Tuks who had come to collect me, along with Pawar after which I stuck to his side until the car arrived.
Sophie turned out to be a hit with Mansi who even learned a few words in French including "Bonjour" and "Comment ca va". She was also very popular with Shambhu who sidled past her as she was leaning over the railing facing the garden, raised a leg and sprayed her on the arm. I was aghast to hear about it from Suhail though Sophie just giggled and shrugged and said it was normal, if someone regarded you as his territory.
The first few days I was knocked out and mostly in a bit of a zombie like state but having slept and slept and eaten and slept this last week I am finally back to normal.