Incredible India beckoned when I received an unexpected email more than a year ago from two classmates from Christian Medical College, Ludhiana. They were organizing a class reunion in a year’s time and wanted us to attend. I agreed as I had not been to India in all these years. Something which was organized seemed to be perfect for me. I emailed friends in USA and Germany and asked them to join in as well. Seng Hee said that as long as he was alive, he would be there. Karnail too agreed so that made all of us in Malaysia agreeing to the reunion.
I started praying about the trip to India right from the start. I prayed for the various aspects of the trip – flights, accommodation, food, transport and friends and of course for good health for Choon and me. This was truly a trip bathed in prayer as it was planned 14 months in advance as compared to the usual vacations. As we told other friends about our proposed trip, two others – Teoh and Bangga, who had studied in the Punjab Agriculture University, Ludhiana, wanted to join in. They too had studied at around the same time and had not visited LDH since then. Soon a few other friends wanted to join in and so had a happy band of a dozen friends all eager to go to India. A few had never been to India and this would be their first trip.
If Choon and I had gone on our own, we would have had an ad hoc itinerary. But with a dozen of us, we had to plan our travel in order to have a smooth vacation. I had decided on the places we would visit and all the friends readily agreed. Our trip would take us to Delhi, Srinagar, Ludhiana, Shimla, Jaipur and Agra. After numerous discussions with Teoh, we finalized the plans.
As time went by, we received the detailed plan for the CMC reunion. Excitement was building up. Air flights were booked, hotels decided on and we waited with bated breath for the day of departure. Many things went wrong as the day approached. Our refrigerator broke down, Choon’s spectacles broke and had to be replaced, my suitcase handle came off after packing it and many more. I told Choon that these were signs that we were going to have a wonderful trip. Hope in God and optimism were all I could hold onto.
The day of our flight from Penang to Delhi was our 40th wedding anniversary. It was also the day of the Penang Bridge Marathon. In the past, many had not known of the run and had missed flights. Thanks to Shalini who informed me well in advance about this event in which she was taking part. So we decided to go to the airport early to avoid the long queue on the bridge. Congratulations to the organizers for keeping the bridge spotlessly clean by the time we passed it. I had expected it to be a big mess but was wrong.
Six of us had started from Sungai Petani and at the airport we met three friends who live in Penang. Seng Hee and Siew Ean had a packet of Penang biscuits for each family. How thoughtful of them. Their son, Kevin, who lives in Australia, was with them. He had just flown in from Gold Coast to join our happy band. In Kuala Lumpur the other three friends joined us.
The flight to Delhi was full, probably because of the school holidays. Many of the passengers were grumpy, I’m not sure why. The Indira Gandhi International(IGI) airport is a spanking new airport with very nice artwork. I liked the many sculptures of hands in various Bharata Natyam(Indian dance) poses. I could not remember the names of those poses although I had learned this classical form of dance when I was young. As we got out of the airport, I was amazed to see more than 50 people standing with name placards waiting to pick up passengers. I wondered how the passengers would have to go through the whole line of placards to spot their name. These were probably from hotels which had sent their representatives to pick up their clients. It was chilly outside and misty. Yes, it was the beginning of winter in North India. The hotel we stayed in was a fairly...