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Wednesday, August 1, 2018

N.R. Narayanamurthy, Ajith Narayanan, Bulgaria, Sofia, Istanbul, India - What's the link?

This blogpost was again long pending one, but I was not sure on how to write this non technical real life experience as a blogpost, as I used to write only technical blogposts. Recently was searching for something in google and landed up on this link. 

This experience of mine had a striking similarity to NRN’s nomad journey during his late twenties and thought, if I don't blog it now, I am not going to blog this forever.

It was about the horrific experience Mr. NRN had during his early days of travelling across Europe (Well before he became an entrepreneur and started Infosys). The story is written very well and almost giving the chill through the spine when we read the strange and horrifying experience in a different country.

After reading this story, I though I should also write one of my travelling experience to an east European country which had a striking resemblance to NRN’s story. I was a regular Oracle conference goer as a speaker, wherever I used to get opportunity to speak, I used to grab the opportunity and go and share my real time work experiences with the attendees in the conference. In the year 2012, I had two such conferences in which my abstracts were selected and invited to speak. The conferences were in two different countries and two different cities, the first one was in Nuremberg, Germany and followed by another  conference in Sofia, Bulgaria.

I did plan my travel itinerary according to the conferences and speaking slots given to me in both these conferences, and my travel plan was something like this

Bangalore -> Berlin -> Nurenberg -> Berlin -> Sofia -> Berlin -> Bangalore. 

I had the schengen visa applied and got visa from German consulate (thats why there was multiple hops through Berlin as it was my first port of disembarkment into EU).

I was in German city of Nurenberg, met many experts in Oracle world and had a great conference there, I also made some new friends there, some of them were very famous and established speakers compared to a novice like me. 

Then came the worst part of the journey, I with some of the new friends started enroute to Bulgaria(The next conference location), took flight to Berlin and from there taking a flight to Sofia, Bulgaria. It was a good flight with new friends whom I met in the first conference. Happily landed in Sofia, all of them who landed with me crossed the border control except me and to my surprise, the border control informed me that, The schepgen visa I had was no more valid, they've tentatively stoped accepting people with Schengen visa since last couple of weeks citing some diplomatic issue with EU (Bulgaria is and was not part of EU always).

All the people who were with me from Germany to Bulgaria in flight crossed the border control and I was sitting at the border control officers cabin, it was a nightmare, I could not believe what had really happened to me, I did not know what to  do, the officer was a lady and she did not know a single word of english and I did not know anything other than English, then more flights kept landing and more people from various countries where passing through the border control, but saw few of them being stopped at border check and where brought inside the same officer's cabin with me

 Some of them looked like as shown in the below pic, believe me that was the scariest part of this story.

I started praying, I started imagining about the Bulgarian jails. 

After around 3-4 Hrs, the border control officers had their shift change, then another officer came for his change of duty and handover, he was briefed about my case by the lady officer before leaving for the day. The new officer was again a six  plus feet tall heavy built, tough looking officer, he was looking at my face throughout his discussion with his colleague, after sometime he saw me sweating and came near me and asked “oh indien, from India, I know, I know india, bombay’

I had a great relief when I heard the officer speaking in English, to my surprise the officer, though looked a tough guy by looks, was very jovial, he started asking about me, my job, about Bangalore etc etc, for around an half an hour, during the conversation he even asked me about job opportunities in Bangalore and said, they pay them very less there and was thinking of leaving Bulgaria, meanwhile, I forgot the tough situation I was in and was happily talking to the officer.

The officer told me unfortunately there is no direct flights from Sofia to India, So I will have to take another route either through Dubai or Qatar way back to home, and they will help me reaching home safely. I was happy to hear that, thanked god and my family, The first flight available was a Turkish airways to Istanbul, the officer came to me and asked if I could check if I can get a visa to turkey quickly and take a flight from Istanbul to back home in Mumbai.

I connected to the Sofia airport wi-fi, again to my surprise, I was able to get a e-visa to turkey in next 15 to 20 mins, quickly, the officer arranged a ticket in that Turkish airways for Istanbul. The officer helped me a lot, but he had only one request for me while escorting me to the Istanbul flight gate, he asked me to buy a big pack of cigarettes from the duty paid shop for him and said, he cannot buy that from the duty paid shop while in duty and CCTV’s might trouble him later if he did so.

I was very happy for the officer, happily bought the big pack of cigarretes for him, he helped me a lot and escorted me until the Turkish airways gate. I reached Istanbul with a heavy heart, ataturk airport was huge and beautiful. From getting down at Istanbul airport, I was sure about reaching back home safely, I called up my family to inform the horrible experience I had until then, I had the courage to manage it by myself, but did not have the courage to call up my home and tell them about this episode.

My flight to Mumbai was in next 20 hrs, though I had e-visa valid for 30 days and could have stayed in Istanbul and seen the places like Blue mosque before returning to Mumbai, but , I was really exhausted, I wanted to be back home as early as possible, booked my ticket to Mumbai, waited in the Ata`turk airport for next 20 Hrs, did not feel like stepping out. Finally after 20 hrs of wait at Ataturk airport, the flight from to Mumbai arrived. I boarded the flight and after almost 6+ hrs I finally reached Mumbai.

The moment I landed in Mumbai, I cannot describe the happiness in words, no matter which country you are in, it is always felt safe when you are back to your home country.

After a month after reaching home, I started receiving emails from the friends I made in Germany, who were helpless in the Bulgarian border, but had to see me being denied entry from the other side of the border. It was even the first time they where travelling with someone who throughout the flight were sitting next and talking and all of the sudden vanish. It took atleast a week's time to come out of this trauma.

My original itinerary was 

 Bangalore -> Berlin -> Nurenberg -> Berlin -> Sofia -> Berlin -> Bangalore

Both NRNs and my itinerary got changed from Sofia, Not sure where NRN went from Istanbul.

Bangalore -> Berlin -> Nurenberg -> Berlin -> Sofia -> Istanbul -> Mumbai -> Bangalore

What I learnt from this whole experience ?

- Somebody said, fact is stranger than fiction, I don’t know who said that, but it was very very true.
- The more you travel, meet more people, you get to know the big world we live in and how small we as humans are.
- Travel more, gain more real-world experience, explore the world you live-in and life is short, our world will teach more lessons than any of the books available in library.

Note:- This is a real story, if somebody wants to make a film out of this thread, please remember to take my written permission, else I may sue you for stealing the real story of mine.

For a change -> HAPPY READING!  

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