Syed Ali Mujtaba
Well journalists work on deadlines. Every day they have few hours to file a story and got to put the day and date and time when they do churn out a report. So more than anyone else it’s the journalists who are conscious about the date, day and time. However, sometimes they do loose direction of it when they are in a holiday. This happened to me in Bangkok on Januay 30, 2008. My schedule departure was on Jan 31 but I assumed Jan 30 as Jan 31st. I checked out of my hotel at 3 am for the Surnbhumi airport to catch the plane for Chennai. Since I no more needed any more the local money (Bhatt) I had exhausted them before I left for the airport.
As I entered the impressive structure of the airport and searched for my airlines counter a nightmare awaited me. The lady on the counter seeing my ticket smiled at me and said; Sir you are one day before, today is Jan 30 and not 31st. Please come tomorrow. I was panicked; I had no money to return to Bangkok. If I had gone there, I may have nothing to travel back again. I was contemplating to stay for next 26 hrs on the airport. Then I saw some people queuing up at the counter and was talking Bhojpuri, the language of my native state Bihar. Having lived all my life outside my state I could hardly speak that language but I can understand it very well.
I tried to imitate few words and engaged one person to explain my problem. These guys have been living in Bangkok from a long time and can speak fluent local Thai language. One gave me his mobile phone and asked me to contact my friends in Bangkok. He offered me money and told me I can return him in India. I refused, and told him I got ATM card but so far have not used it in Bangkok. However, using the mobile phone, I contacted Riyaz, whom I earlier met at the media conference that I had gone to attend in Bangkok. Riaz is from Calcutta and works at the US embassy in Bangkok. He had come to meet me in the hotel last Sunday and had treated me with lunch at his house. His wife who works as a teacher picked up the phone I tried to tell her my situation. Riaz came online and asked me not to worry and take a taxi and come to him. That was big relief. I approached my Bhojpuri mate and told him to help me reach Riaz. He took me to ATM and typed my PIN number and asked for Bhatt 1000. The machine obliged the request.
Then my Bhojpuri friend translated Riaz’s address in Thai language and asked his Thai driver to take me out of the airport and put me in a taxi and explain to the taxi driver Riaz’s address. So I got into a taxi and headed back. The driver, whose name was V, stopped in between and called Riaz to confirm his address. Riaz has a Nepali maid Reena who speaks very good Thai explained to the driver the address. So that’s how I reached his house. Reena gave V Bhat 300 and I tipped him extra 20. Riaz had a room for me where I slept till midday. The maid gave me lunch and asked me to watch TV. By four members of the family started returning back; first Riazs child came from school then his wife and in the end him We chatted and had supper together. My host gave me a alarm clock and made me sleep early. I was up at 3 am again and back on taxi for second journey to home. This time it was short, less expensive and above all hassle free. So that’s how what happens when you do not go to work. I resume my work from February 1, 2008.
Syed Ali Mujtaba is a working journalist based in Chennai. He has just returned from Bangkok after attending a media conference. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org