At the end of our twelve day trip to Dehradun in June-July in connection with the Uttarakhand floods it was obvious that our job was not complete. There was another task to fulfil. I vaguely felt that there could be another visit sometime in the future. I did not expect to be sent again to Dehradun. But the other week after two senior officers could not go to Dehradun I was told to go. I had mixed feelings about the trip. One reason was that though the trip was at Government expense I have to shell out the money first for a lot of things that are not allowed or partially allowed, so it is actually a drain on the wallet. Another reason was that I had to visit Bengaluru to attend a marriage and there wouldn’t be enough time for two back to back trips.
Since I had to leave for Bengaluru on Tuesday I left for Dehradun, reluctantly, on Sunday. At Delhi another officer joined me and we both took the afternoon flight to Dehradun. After we got into the plane there was a minor drama. Just as the plane was taxiing towards the main runway one of the passengers said that he had to get off. At first I did not know what the reason was and only later that I found out why. The pilot announced that we were returning to the parking back and turned around the plane. After the passenger got down, we had to identify our baggage, go through the security drill. The plane was refuelled and after quite sometime took off. It was then I learnt that the passenger had got a call that his mother had died and he had to return home. It was a nice gesture on part of Spicejet to have turned back before taking off to help the passenger go back home.
When we landed at Dehradun sometime around half past four the weather was beautiful. The sky was clear and the sun shone brightly. The drive from Jolly Grant to Dehradun takes about an hour. We were put up at a nice government guest house ( Bijapur House) which had large rooms. I had a big room all for myself. Since we had nothing to do until the next day I suggested that we’d go out into the town and gawk. I did not tell my companion that I wanted to check out for books. After tea we went into the town and got down near Astley Hall. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the book sale where I had picked up quite a few good books was still on.
Later we sauntered down to the Tibetan Bazaar where I bought clothes for the kid. There was nothing else to do so we got back to the guest house, had dinner and went to sleep. Sometime at midnight I was woken up by a thunderous sound. I realized it was the sound of the rain pounding on the roof of the guesthouse. It was heavy rain and continued till the next day.
The next day, after breakfast, we went to the Secretariat where we handed over some important documents. I had thought we’d be done in an hour but it took a long time. We had a plane to catch at three in the afternoon. It was still raining and I wondered if we would make it to the airport. The officers assured us that we’d get to the airport with plenty of time to spare. I had thought we’d leave at half past twelve but we left an hour later. We were assured that we’d get to the airport in time. But when we got into the cab and came to the main road the sight before us got us worried. There was a heavy traffic jam with cars stuck bumper to bumper and it showed no signs of moving. As the minutes ticked away our anxiety rose. We had just fifteen minutes to reach the airport almost thirty kilometres away. The road was bad and it looked impossible. I thought we’d miss the flight and was already making alternate plans. I was close to panic because later in the evening I had to catch another plane to Hyderabad.
The driver raced like a maniac bumping over large potholes, coming down the road into the gravel to over take slow moving trucks which was, to put in simple words, reckless and dangerous driving. We called the airport to say we would be delayed. Surprisingly the guy told us we should reach in the next fifteen minutes. I was relieved when we turned into the airport and I noticed that the Jet flight we had to catch had not yet come from Delhi. Even then the check in counter closed just seconds after we got there. I breathed easy afterwards.
We had missed lunch and I was damn hungry. Luckily, we were given sandwiches in the plane that took just under thirty minutes to reach Delhi. I was in Delhi exactly at four in the afternoon. My flight to Hyderabad was at half past seven. I sat reading ‘Fearless Jones’ by Walter Mosley and in between I watched the people in the airport. I love watching people and learn a lot about how they react in different situations. Unfortunately, there were no famous faces around and not a single soul with a book.
Finally, I reached Hyderabad late in the night and caught a bus to the Secretariat. Luckily, I got an autorickshaw almost immediately to take me home. The driver turned out to be a chatty guy who told me about all the problems he was facing in life. I felt a bit sorry for him and paid him more than the fare hoping he’d feel better.