When I was in grade 4, I had participated in a drawing competition, which I apparently won. I still remember the theme of the competition and what I had drawn. The theme was ‘My grandfather and me’ and I had sketched my grandfather and myself going to school together with my school in the foreground.
Being the pessimist I was then for winning any prizes for my drawing skills, I decided to skip the prize ceremony held at YMCA, Secunderabad. The next day, my art teacher was furious at me for not attending the event as I had won the first prize, which was a flight ticket to Singapore! Those days getting to travel in an airplane that too for free could have been a moment of pride for the entire family for decades. I was so disappointed with myself but my mother assured me that I would definitely go one day. That day never came for 2 decades and I almost forgot about this incident.
I started my work life and joined the IT industry. I never dreamt of going onsite unlike many of my colleagues who were desperate to go abroad. In 2012, while working for Apple from offshore, I got an opportunity to work at their client place in Singapore! However, I was not sure if I wanted to go as my profile would have changed and I didn’t know what to expect in a foreign land. Nevertheless, my manager pushed me for this role and I went through a grueling interview process. Finally, I was selected. When I informed my mom, she reminded me of the incident in grade 4 and I smiled. I was now looking forward to going to Singapore. I was given 3 days to pack my bags. I left Bangalore and went to Hyderabad so that my family could see me off. Those three days were the toughest as there was a cyclone and I was stuck at home. I had so much to do and so little time. I packed and bought whatever I could and left for Singapore on November 3, 2012. A funny thing about my trip to Singapore is that all the major events took place on my close one’s birthdays.
My 5-year-old niece was overjoyed that I had returned to Hyderabad to stay with her. Little did she know that I would be flying off in 3 days. Finally, the day of my departure arrived. Once we reached the airport, my niece realized that somebody was going. When she saw me entering to check-in, she cried silently, which will remain etched in my memory forever. For someone who was so young and to show such maturity, I was dumbstruck. I could feel the pain in her eyes. I tried to console her and made her sit on the railing so I could hug her. I promised to return soon and be with her again.
It was now time for my flight to take off. I quickly went for immigration check and got my first ever stamp on my passport! God has a timing to make your dreams come to pass, which we may never understand. Then I got into my first ever airplane, yes you read it right. I never took a domestic flight too as I wanted to see where God would take me first on a flight! I remember a business trip, where I could have taken a flight to Bhubaneswar from Bangalore but went by train, which was nothing but arduous. Such was my madness!
I looked for my seat and was disappointed that I had an aisle seat and not a window seat. The guy occupying the window seat was getting ready to sleep. I thought of asking him if we could exchange seats but the lady in between was a cranky one, who would have never gotten up from her seat to make way for me. I consoled myself and started reading the travel magazine provided by the airlines. I got up to use the washroom with a hope that I would be able to see some view from the window but alas no magic. I returned to my seat yet again disappointed.
I rested my eyes for some time and was woken up by the announcement stating the current temperature and time of Singapore and that we would be landing in Singapore in 15 minutes. I was excited and looked out of the window to get a glimpse just before landing. What I saw is still fresh in my memory – clear blue sea, punctuated by cruise ships and cargos. I was mesmerized at the sight and thus began my love affair with Singapore!