Saket was among the first handful of passengers checking in for this flight. The reason he had come so early was – excess baggage. He thought that being among the first to check-in would give him some leniency.
He was going back to India after more than 2 years. He surely had to take back stuff to give to everyone near & dear.
But today did not seem to be his lucky day. The lady at the airline counter politely told him that his check-in baggage was well over the allowed limit.  He was told to either dump his excess baggage or pay the astronomical charges.

He got down to discarding items one by one – 4 Kg of the loveliest Belgian & Swiss chocolates – bought for all his relatives & friends; 4 six-packs of the “aloe cream” moisturising beauty soaps – Madhuri (his colleague) had suggested these as the best item to give to all his Aunts & his cousins – “Ladies always love these wonderfully fragrant ‘foreign’ soaps” she had said, speaking from personal experience of just a few months ago. The soaps weighed another 3 Kg. And then he threw away a few more things which he now had to classify as ‘almost useless’. He checked the weight of the bag again on the nearby weighing-machine, in a corner of Zone F – Terminal 3 at the Heathrow airport.
It still was a little excess. This was what he feared would happen in the worst case – his favourite 2 pairs of jeans had to go. One of them had been his ultimate lucky pair of blue LEEs – they had been with him through thick & thin and scratches & tears since the 2nd year of Engineering (which was now 12 years into the past !)
Finally, his baggage back within prescribed limits, check-in was complete. 3 hours later, Saket was high up in the sky, and he had finished eating whatever little was edible from the flight-meal. A few more hours, and he would be in his beloved city. Everything else should be smooth sailing now, he thought to himself.

He caught a glimpse of the video screen of the gentleman sitting next to him … and lo! behold … he saw that “Katha“, one of his all-time favourite movies was being shown on one of the in-flight channels … the old Farooque Sheikh hit. He loved the movie and could sit through any number of re-runs of it. He quickly pulled out his seat’s remote and tried getting his screen ON. But nothing happened – not even a grainy flicker on the screen. After a few pointless minutes of tinkering, he found what the cabin-crew member later confirmed – “I am sorry, sir, but this is one of the few screens on this plane that we have not been able to repair“.  He asked if there was anything they could do about it. They said there was no way to repair it till the flight reached Mumbai. And – “Sorry Sir, no other empty seats. The flight is completely full – Christmas rush, sir“.

Now he thought to himself “Well, nothing else to do – I might as well catch on some sleep then“.  In a couple of minutes, Saket was almost asleep, starting to dream about Mumbai, and about his wonderful school days. That was when the baby in the seat behind him thought it a proper time to end her nap. She announced that to the whole flight by crying as loudly as possible. There was no way the baby wanted to keep quiet. Her parents were trying all means to pacify her, but no success.
Eventually, Saket did fall asleep, only because he was so tired after such a hectic day.

And somewhere in his head, he could still hear the sound of his ‘semi-astrologer’ friend repeat the same words over and over, “Postpone your travel by one day. 13 is not at all a lucky number, especially for you. Don’t travel on the 13th !” 

He had not paid any attention to it — that was all rubbish he had said. Well, maybe it was rubbish … or, maybe it was not. 

To Could May Be Continued


Coming soon, at an internet browser near you – “Travel Travails :  Home Run”