Sunday, August 21, 2016

Chennai—Denmark 2: In the middle of our dream

It was the wee hours of Oct 9, 2015 when my eyes flew open. Dawn was quietly filtering through our curtains, declaring open the much-awaited D-Day. Yes, the next dawn in Chennai was going be at least 2 long weeks away. Two long weeks of paradise away. 

Quietly I nudged the boys, growled into their ears the sweetness of the moment, and ordered them out of bed; 4 am the following morning wasn’t too far away. R, woke up, smiled at my impishness, and ruffled my hair. That was far too tepid a reaction for me and my excitement. The son was far better. He sprung out of bed squealing, “Ma, it’s time, let’s go to Denmark!”

The plants were all duly drip irrigated, my help was told to come knock only after 2 long weeks, the refrigerator was emptied and cleaned, and we were ready for Denmark. The day went like a breeze; it was soon 4:30 pm. “Leaving early” mails were sent, Kavin was picked from his day care, and we were at the amrket for our last-minute shopping. We had to buy banana leaves. I had plans to make a Karimeen Pollichatu for GSG (my SIL’s family in Denmark). Even if we wouldn’t get Karimeen (Pearl Spot), we would at least get Tilapia, and that would serve just fine. I insisted on the banana leaves that were absolutely fresh, which would last a 10-hour fight journey. The vendor boy just laughed and said, “It would last for several days, akka, fear not.” I smiled back and left, making plans to pack the leaves first with aluminum foil and then some newspaper. I also made a mental note to find a way to insert them into the check-in luggage and also declare it, what with the EU’s norms on stuff that can be carried into their land.

It was 6:40 pm as we entered home. I had already laid out the clothes we were to wear on our maiden flight into the European Union. Comfort came first and last in clothes and footwear for the HSK family. We gobbled our dinner at home, cleaned the dishes, and put them away. The clock began to tick. It was 9:00 pm; 4:00 am was still several hours away. At 11:00 pm, the fast track driver arrived in a Mahindra SUV (Xylo) and loaded all our stuff. For one last time, we checked each faucet, switch, plug, and almirah. I hugged and kissed my plants good bye, telling them to be safe. By 11:25 pm the taxi began moving towards the airport when a light drizzle began to fall making a lovely tup-tup noise as it fell on the wind shields of the SUV. Moms called and wished us a safe journey. By 11:45 pm we had already reached Chromepet when R suggested a pitstop for tea. The sheer beauty of the rain in the dead of the night during our most-awaited journey came together in the steam from the tea that snaked its way up and condensed on my eyelashes. It's still one of the most beautiful moments of the entire trip. It was at that moment I experienced pure joy; arguably the most joyous in my entire life until then. 

We are finally at the waiting lounge!
 In no time, we alighted at the Chennai International Airport. Like a pro, K insisted on wheeling the trolley loaded with the check-in luggage. We humored him for a while, walked up to the check-in counters, produced our tickets, and got our boarding passes. It was then time for immigration. Lighter by our check-in luggage, we sauntered into the immigration cubicle and breezed through it. Then of course was the security check, which was followed by the 3-hour long wait. It was 1:15 am. We got our 30-minute free wi-fi; no Indians were awake at the time. The Danes were up, and we whatsapped, sent pics, and got ready for the final hours to melt away as the rain began to pour outside. It should have been 3:00 am when I heard the boarding call for EK 543 bound to Dubai. I also heard a rather helpful announcement about people travelling as families not having to stand in the long queue. R simply brushed it away as my excitement-induced hallucination. But thankfully, it was no hallucination and we went on to board the flight to Dubai.

Monitor with headphones all for me!
Each of us had a monitor all to ourselves! Whoa! It was the first of the many pleasant surprises the journey was to throw at us. At 4:00 am sharp the plane began to taxi the runway, gained speed (was it mach 3?), sped into the air, and banked sharply bringing into view our dear Chennai just before its dawn. But we were flying backwards in time. By the end of our journey, we would accrue about 4 extra hours; 4 extra hours of life! And what beautiful life it is in the lap of pristine white clouds. Slowly, the Sun showed itself through the clouds; beginning as a bright Orange sphere, it took its sweet time to stream its rays right through the plane windows. We had been on air for almost 3 hours and awake for more than 24 hours. But sleep was nowhere near any of us. We either watched the movies, gobbled the food they gave, looked at the clouds, or whatsapped through the Emirates on-air wi-fi!

Customary click at Dubai.
It was 8:30 India time when we landed in Dubai, the dreamland of many Indians. We hardly had anytime there; our connecting flight was due in another hour or so. My SIL had given us enough heads-up about what to expect in Dubai; in the particular, the mad scramble for strollers for the kids! Thankfully we got one for K, who was only too trilled for he hadn’t been in one since a very long time; since 3 years precisely. So thrilled was he that he refused to part with it even at the waiting area for the next flight. It was 10:00 am India time and the flight bound for Copenhagen began its ascent as the first signs of sleep began to show on the boys. R signaled me to get some sleep; I shook my head and began to look out the window. Such large swathes of desert land, sand dunes, and 6-lane roads, who would miss these for a couple of winks?
Our first sight of Denmark

By around 4 pm India time, as the plane began to descend, the clouds parted and offered me the first glimpse of the European landscape. Nothing prepared me for what my eyes saw at that instant. Undulating green meadows, churches looking exactly like the illustration of the Westminster Abbey in my Class 7 English textbook, windmills, and the blue ocean stretching and enveloping the little island we were to land in! The plane touched down, bringing us safe and in one piece to Copenhagen, the capital of Denmark.
Lo and behold, Denmark

As I took my first steps on the land of the Danes, I could hear one thing, and that was silence. Absolute, silence; deafening silence, definitely. Even the kids made no noise, people formed queues without being prodded, men and women allowed others to go past them, nobody hurried, everyone seemed to move to the beats of a silent tune that only their hearts could hear. What is a chatterbox like yours truly going to do here? Composing myself, I closed in on the immigration counter with R and K in tow. Perhaps my serious veneer was too thin; the woman at the immigration counter smiled happily and welcomed us into Copenhagen. Hurrah! I let out an audible sigh of relief, smiled back and walked into the luggage collection center.

In the land of the Danes, with G.
When we finally made our way out, G, our BIL, was waiting for us. K flew into his arms and began regaling stories of the flight, the food he ate, the jacket he was wearing, his school, his friends, yada, yada, yada! Then began our 3-hour drive to Aarhus, which was where GSG had made their home. The roads are so good that a 186-km drive took only 3 hours or even less! The windmills, which I had spotted fleetingly on the flight, came into view in all their splendor! What a heck of a sight was that! Huge pieces of steel, welded and screwed together and drilled right into the ocean to harness all the wind power the sea had to give! Such ingenuity and skilled engineering. Even as I tried in vain to pick my jaw that had dropped to the floor, K kept talking, talking, and talking. After a little while he began giggling uncontrollably. R and I began exchanging concerned glances. “It’s just the jet lag; that’s how these little fellas handle it. He’ll be asleep soon,” assured G. In just another couple of minutes, as if one cue, K was out like a light bulb.

Our road to Aarhus
After an hour or so, we made a pitstop for some coffee. R and G left to get the coffee. With K asleep in the car, I quietly got out to check out the place. The cool air stung. Yes, it stung. I quickly scrambled back to the car, slipped on the gloves and my headscarf, and checked if K was warm enough. Whoa! We were right in the middle of the European winter. None of the English novels I had read or the English movies I had watched prepared me for this. Giggling at my little adventure, I snuggled back into the car when R and G returned with piping hot black coffee. Oh! Coffee is black; I corrected myself. Only we in India doused it with so much creamy milk and sugar and consumed it like a dessert! The black, hot liquid glided down my throat and warmed my very soul. We were finally in the middle of our beautiful dream, every new minute was better than the one before.

Destination Sikkim - Till we meet again

On the third day, we went to the Sikkim Himalayan Zoo. It was day of little rain and much mist. The walk into the zoo was surreal because o...