Pakistan International Airlines (Part I)

I glance at my watch. 03:54. I will be landing in a few hours at Lahore...

09:40 – On my way back from the library where I had to drop off some last minute books (actually, I’d forgotten to return them, as usual), I went into Poundland (everything for £1 – that’s right!) to buy myself an extra pair of padlocks. Found a packet of three just the right size for my massive suitcase.

10:20 – My landlady bid me a very teary farewell. I couldn’t help myself, so I cried some too as we both hugged each other, one last time for the near future. I return to my room to zip the suitcase. One of the zips breaks.

11:30 – My landlord had agreed to drop me off till Woodgreen station; the tube station runs the Piccadilly line service to Heathrow Terminal Three (where PIA and a number of other airlines make port). But it was all kept a big hush from his wife and my landlady. Also kept a secret were our discussions on their row that had the social services and the police going mad on their tail(s?). Anyway, he told me to get my entire luggage outside while he turned his car around. Luckily, the landlady wasn’t around to view our to-be excursion.

12:25 – He didn’t know the way to Woodgreen. On top of that, he kept annoying me with questions on what his wife wants with all this attention and lawsuits. I asked him if he might as well drop me to the airport that was, of course, if he had the time. He said he didn’t. And then went back to talking about his wife and her first marriage.

12:33 – Went around in circles in his Renault, with the TomTom shouting its own instructions unperturbed and in a patient voice that could only be a robot’s.

12:40 – We made it to the underground. He abandoned me on the sidewalk with four bags, two heavier than anything I have ever towed in my entire life.

12:50 – I trudge along to the station, clumsily pulling the four bags as passers-by looked on. Typical London. Looked on, but never there to help. Or even move out of the way, for that matter. I was sweaty from the heat. And I was wearing a thick jumper. I mean I had to, since I couldn’t stuff it into any of the suitcases.

“Sir, are you okay? Would you like anything to drink?” asked the steward.

I hadn't been able to sleep a wink, was sweaty, a nervous wreck and couldn’t move my arm. I think I might have pulled a ligament. I was thirsty, too.

“Yes, I am fine," I lied. "Could you get me some cold water, please?"

13:30 – The underground comes to a standstill all of a sudden. The driver blares into the speakers that there is a power failure (as usual) on one of the routes ahead. The train doesn’t move for fifteen minutes.

13:45 – We move again, only till the next station as a further announcement tells us that the train will be terminated, and that we need to get on to the platform to wait for the next one.

13:48 – The next train arrives. We clamber on. I think I sprouted a pair of abs or two, in the process.

14:15 – The train moves along a different railway track, so the journey is extra slow. And I think I saw a snail pass us. And…WHY is that woman revealing her breast? Oh, I realise, she’s going to feed the baby! Right, yes, let’s not try to be modest at all then, I say to myself.

14:30 – The train pulls into Heathrow after what appears to be f*cking ages.

14:45 – My bags go sprawling on the floor while I was pushing the trolley through the departure terminal. The loud clang makes everyone turn. That’s right, turn but not help. They wouldn’t have been bothered even if it had been me and not these pieces of luggage, on the floor.

14:50 – Still in one piece, or so I think, I arrive at the check-in counter.

14:52 – “Your allowance is forty kay-jees…please put your bags on the weighing ramp.”

14:53 – “I am afraid you have exceeded the limit by 13 kilos, sir.”

I look puzzled. “Are you sure the scales are okay? It’s impossible! It can’t be that much!”

14:54 – He moves me to another counter, to no avail. I was still way above the minimum allowance per passenger. I drew an uneasy breath. I knew what he was going to say.

“It is £10 for every extra kilo, so that would be £130…BUT, I will let you through if you agree to pay £70.”

I thought he was crazy. I wish I had asked him if he was.

“But first, you will need to remove at least five kilos from the big bag and transfer it into another bag.”

14:57 – I rummaged through the bag around my shoulders for the keys to the padlocks on the suitcases. I took a deep breath, and began unpacking. Luckily, I had kept extra shopping bags in one of the pockets for such an emergency…

14:58 – The queue manager approaches me with my passport that I had left on the counter. I don’t check for my ticket. I don’t care.

15:10 – I go back to the same bloke, with a lighter suitcase. I was still over by one.

“You haven’t told me if you are okay to pay £70?!”

I put on the most pleading tone I can muster and reply, “I don’t have that much, please! I can only give you forty.”

He agrees.

15:15 – He tells me to carry the shopping bags with me as hand luggage, and instead check-in the bag around my shoulder. In that moment of fiasco (for me at least it was), I agree. My mind draws a blank to the fact that it wasn’t padlocked, and worse, that I had my iPod Shuffle tucked away in one corner.

15:20 – Boarding’s begun. My bicep starts throbbing. I can’t carry anything with my left arm. And my Mum keeps ringing me to see if I have made it to the waiting lounge yet.

15:35 – I make it through the security check, one hand holding my pants in place (had to remove our belts) and the other stuffing my wallet, keys and phone into the pockets of my jeans.

15:40 – My Mum calls me for the ninth time. I yell across the lounge into the phone, unable to bear the excruciating throb in my left arm.

15:41 – The moment I hang up, I realise I don’t have my watch. I go back to the security through the people that make checks on your passports and visas, only to find an Asian security man on the other side of the desk ask me the make of my watch.

I say I don’t remember. Seiko or Casio, I don’t know.

Your watch and you don’t even know what make it is.”

A Mum with two children looks round at me; I can’t tell what she’s thinking from her expressions. Or perhaps I don’t remember.

I turn to the man. “But, I do know that the digital and analogue times have a difference of an hour between them.” They really did. My cousin thought it was funny to turn the time back, and ever since I hadn’t bothered fixing it. Well one of them, anyway.

The man smiles and hands me the watch.

15:55 – I tuck the belt through my jeans, when the biggest shock yet hits me.

I forgot to lock the large suitcase.

The one with the broken zipper.

16:00 – My heart skips a few beats as I imagine all the possible things that the luggage handlers in the back could do to my belongings. Nick a few. Add a few of their own.

Just like in the movies.

And as a bundle of nerves, with throbbing arm muscles, I board my flight to Lahore. Pakistan International Airlines.

And I thought this trip was going to be ordinary...

I glance at my watch, again. 04:04. With still another half an hour to kill before the descent of the plane begins, my mind wanders over to the part of the plane where all the luggage is stored.

And I make a quick prayer to the Almighty. To get me out of here. Intact. And in one piece…

To Be Continued…


  1. "I think I sprouted a pair of abs or two, in the process."


    Oh my God hahahahahaha what a trip. I love adventures like these. :D

  2. I will refrain from commenting until part 2 :P

  3. Where is part 2! :P