45. Felt illiterate in Saudi airport

What if there had been a disaster

I am a well-educated management professional who has traveled abroad. I am an Indian but presently live in Bengaluru though I am a Canadian citizen. Hence, I have a slight Canadian Kannada accent.

Many years ago, I had started from Mumbai and was taking a connecting flight from Jeddah in Saudi Arabia to Sudan in Africa. The Air India manager took me to the Saudi Arabia counter and asked the manager in English to take care of me. The manager took my passport and ticket and went inside to get me a boarding pass. I waited for 5 minutes, without my passport which was my identification. I did not even note his name or identification details. If he had not returned my passport, I would have been stuck in the airport, in a city where I did not know anyone or the language.

At that moment, I knew what it felt like, to be illiterate. Luckily, he returned with my passport and I proceeded on my journey but I never forgot that feeling to this day.

I went to the lounge upstairs in the waiting area to board the flight. All sign boards were in Arabic, and all announcements were also in Arabic. I could not understand anything. I looked around and luckily found a Sardarji in the crowd. He was going to Khatoon, knew Arabic and agreed to help me out.

If there had been a disaster of any kind in the airport, I would have been in a big problem.

I retell this story to reinforce the value of language.

Author: Sachidanand B

Last modified: Wednesday, 1 March 2017, 12:37 AM