Keeping Track 2011 Part 2

We had just come back from the Bahamas cruise and life was just getting back to the daily humdrum. We worked like dogs on the weekdays and chilled at home on the weekends. Worked hard, play hard had become the name of the game. We spent our weekends catching up with family and friends and sleeping. I don’t remember exactly when but sometime in February or March, Punni called and invited us to her brother’s engagement party in Illinois. I wanted to go. It had been a while since we had seen them. I kept ranting about how she had promised she would come visit us but hadn’t and how we should go see her. The thing is, they live too far away. If only the United States was smaller. Anyhow, they had not decided the date yet but I promised her that I would go.

In the meantime, my good friend K from work asked me if I was interested in going to Paris with her. She had planned a trip later last year with her husband but it had not worked out. This time, her plan was that she would go for a few days, perhaps a long weekend. My gut reaction was a yes. You see, when you are married, your gut reactions usually have to also think about your other half. I told her I was mostly in, but I would get back to her later. I went home and talked to B about this girls trip I wanted to take. His thought was that I should go if I wanted to go. Great, done. I called K back and told her I was in. Before I knew it, we were thinking “Hey, if we are going to Paris, might as well stopover in another city on the way.” We picked London. London and Paris it was. Next, we picked possible dates. Turned out, we were both off around the same time in April. Searching and booking of tickets was done quickly and efficiently. We would leave on a Wednesday and return on a Monday. Done.

Soon after this was planned, Punni called to let us know that her brother’s engagement party was scheduled. It happened to be just four days before I was planning on leaving for London. I wanted to go so I took the entire week off work and just booked tickets for B and I to go over t St.Louis for that weekend. We added the Monday so we could do some sightseeing. This time too, B had agreed to go over for two days. I ofcourse took it a day further.

Before we knew it, we got real close to Suraj and Meghna’s engagement. I had this elaborate gift art gift planned for them and time just passed me by. It was too late to get it in time. I scrambled to find something that was good and would do justice to the couple. I did find some good art pieces for their future home but wished I had done better. Aaah, well. I will try to get it a little better for their wedding. I wish I could do better with gifts in general. It always ends up being that I end up waiting till the last minute and never execute the elaborate plans I have for gifts in general.

The week we were about to leave for St. Louis, our state got hit with some deadly tornadoes. NC is not known for the tornadoes. Here, we do not even have efficient warning systems or basements in every home to protect us from deadly tornadoes. Somehow, we dodged major destruction during these thunderstorms and it was time to leave for St. Louis. I left work that Friday and we were in air on the direct flight to St. Louis where Neeraj and Poonam would be waiting for us. This was going to be a whirlwind, Friday to Monday in St.Louis. I had one day before I left for London on Wednesday.

Our flight was pretty uneventful until we were within 20 minutes of landing at STL airport. The pilot came on the PA and said that we would be landing in about 20 minuted. Okay, great. We had our seatbelts fastened and were ready to land and greet Neeraj and Poonam. Guess what? We should have checked the weather a little more closely before we got on the plane. In just a few minutes after the pilot’s first announcement, he came back on the PA and said that the weather was bad and we would be going around St. Louis or something like that and the landing would be delayed by 20 minutes or so. Okay, so there must be a storm or something, we thought. No big deal. We had flown enough times to know that planes have to go around sometimes. Fine.

We waited and waited as the plane made its descent. All of a sudden we were enveloped in clouds and it got really dark all around us. We could see nothing outside the window except dark clouds. As usual, I wondered how these pilots knew where they were going. I could sense the drop in height as we descended. The plane started shaking all of a sudden. We came through some serious turbulence and I dug into B’s clenched fist. I looked at him and told him I loved him and that it had been fun while it lasted. The plane kept shaking and all this while we could feel the descent. Out of nowhere we felt the ground underneath us, the plane landed on the right first and then on the left. The rain pelted the windows and we could sense the water on the runway. The pilot must have pulled the breaks really tight because we heard the tired screeching and our bodies darted forward. Thank goodness for seat belts. The under the seat bags darted forward. Finally, after what seemed like eternity, the plane came to a slow roll. Haash, I thought as everyone on the plane clapped. The pilot came on the PA and said “How about that landing?”. “Yea, it may sound funny now that we know we are on the ground and safe, but it was so NOT funny the last 10 or so minutes”, I thought.

We got off that plane as fast as we could and got our luggage which came out pretty quickly. I had already called Punni a couple of times and she finally called back. Her voice had an urgency in it. She said that there had been a tornado warning and the tornado sirens were going off at her house. I told her to take her time and get to the airport safely. B and I stood there thinking “What! Another tornado? Weren’t we close to several last week?”. We just could not get away from them it seemed. We were thinking that it would be a while before our friends would get to the airport to get us. I got a call from Punni saying that they were leaving and would be at the airport in a few minutes. We later found out that they were literally running away from a tornado. They were stopped at a stoplight as they saw other cars whiz by running from the beast while they had patiently waited for the light to turn green. Really? When I heard this, I started getting miniature heart palpitations. They had been wondering whether to leave their home or not and apparently Neeraj had said “Let’s go” and they had run for their lives as fast as they could.

When they got to the airport, we hugged and greeted each other but more importantly stopped for a few seconds to decide whether to leave in that crazy weather or stay safe at the airport. Neeraj decided we had to go, so we go in the car and Neeraj sped out of St. Louis. Good decision because guess what, on our way to Illinois from the airport, I got a message on Facebook from Manu. “Aa to gaye ho but how will you go back? Airport shut down indefinitely.” What? I thought. Weren’t we just there? Apparently, the tornado hit the airport soon after we had left. I was glad we were out of there.

Out of there and driving full speed through a Mid-western storm. Now I don’t know about Neeraj and Poonam but B and I had never been in a ferocious storm and too on a freeway surrounded by flat land. Basically, if a gust of wind wanted, it could throw use over and roll us for miles and we wouldn’t know it. By this time, I knew that we had to run away from this fast because there was a tornado somewhere behind us and we had no idea which way it was going. The wind was blowing fast and the lightning was non-stop. I could even make out all the angles in the lightning, that was some pretty scary stuff. Neeraj would have kept going but the rain was coming down superhard and I was in the back seat going “Mummmmmmyyyyy, mummmmmyyyyyy, stop karo, yeh kya ho raha hai” the whole time. I think poor guy was forced to stop at a rest stop. It rained pretty hard the entire time we were stopped and ofcourse the thunder and lightning did not stop. N and P kept looking at their phones and satellite images to see how long before we would be out of this. As the rain lightened up, all of us finally caught up on what was going on and Punni kept going “Aur batao”. Next time, I will be prepared for all of Punni’s “Aur bataos”.

Soon we got to Morton. And boy, was I glad when Neeraj drove through this madness and we were under clear skies. We finally got to Punni’s parents’ house and I was extremely glad to be under a roof with no wind, rain, lightning, or tornado around me. Some adventure.

Also, we were very glad to see Punni’s parents. Her mother is so much like B’s mother and we had had such a good time that last time I was with her. Meghna’s parents were also there and it was very nice to meet them as well. We sat there and chatted for a bit before we all went to bed.

We had to get up the next day and prepare for Surji’s party. Dance and all.

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