My husband and I live in London, where my husband works for a law firm. He came home from work one day and said that he was to go to Istanbul for business meetings. I said, "Oh, I wish I could go too" and he replied, "Why not? Let me check with my office."
Soon we were planning for our trip, departing on the 18th
of January 2013 (a Friday) and returning on the 22nd
(a Tuesday). As we got closer to the date of departure, I started packing. However, two days before departure, it began snowing heavily in London. While speaking over the phone to my mother in India, I told her that flights were being cancelled at Heathrow Airport. She said, "It would be good if you can go, otherwise there will be a next time."
On the 18th
, just six hours before our departure for the airport, my husband called me from his office and told me that our flight to Istanbul had been cancelled because of incessant snowfall. I was deeply disappointed and began unpacking. I called up my parents and told them that we were not going to Istanbul. In my disappointment, I asked Guruji, "Do you have to cancel our flight, too?"
Suddenly, about 30 minutes later, my husband called back and said that he had managed to get us on the flight to Istanbul for the next morning. I was overjoyed! Guruji had answered my prayers. Little did I know that by cancelling our flight He was protecting us from the disaster awaiting us.
We reached Istanbul on the 19th
, checked into the hotel that we had booked for ourselves and left for sightseeing. Istanbul is a beautiful city, and we managed to visit all the important sites that day itself.
The next day we had to check out from our hotel and go to the one booked by my husband's company. We decided to leave our bags in the luggage room and head for lunch outside. We'd return after lunch and collect our bags. Not wanting to leave our passports in the luggage room, I put both our passports in a secret compartment within the handbag that I carried with me.
We had lunch at a restaurant. When it was time to pay for the meal, I realized my handbag was not with me. I felt as if a thunderbolt had struck me. My husband and I frantically searched the entire restaurant and then realized, much to our shock, that someone had stolen my handbag with the passports inside.
We rushed to the local police and filed a FIR. As it was already evening, there was nothing much we could do except wait for the next day to go to the Indian Consulate. Heavy-hearted, anxious and scared of being stranded in an unknown country, we returned to the hotel to collect our luggage and move. What a harrowing night that was . . . with no food and no sleep. The entire night we searched the Internet for information relevant to cases such as ours.
As soon as it was morning, we headed for the Indian Consulate. On the way I kept praying to Guruji for help. We carried the photocopies of our lost passports as proofs, but were not issued the passports the same day. The officials said that it would take them time to carry out verification and asked us to return the following morning. Our return flight was next evening, but the officer in charge told us categorically that we should prepare ourselves to remain for a couple of days.
We returned to the hotel feeling miserable. Our UK visas too were stamped in the stolen passports, and my husband got in touch with lawyers who handled immigration processes in his office.
The next morning we rushed to the Indian Consulate; we even met the Consul General. We were told that the Consulate would issue the new passports but we would have to wait. The officer who was in charge of authorization of passports was on leave, and the required official stamps had to be brought from his residence.
I kept praying to Guruji the entire day and suddenly He answered my prayers: Around noon we were issued our new passports! Feeling slightly relieved, we decided to go back to the hotel, check out, and rush to the airport to board the Turkish Airlines flight that evening.
On our way to the airport, I kept chanting: "Om Namah Shivaya, Shivji Sada Sahay, Om Namah Shivaya, Guruji Sada Sahay.
We reached the airport and had to wait as the Turkish Airlines counter was closed. The wait seemed endless. Meanwhile, the immigration team at my husband's office informed us that Heathrow had been apprised of our situation and would let us enter the country. But we would have to get replacement visas later.
When the counter finally opened for the check-in process, we submitted our tickets, passports and our visa photocopies. The Turkish Airlines special security officers took us aside and started questioning us. We explained everything to them again, showed them the FIR report, the new passports et cetera. The officers discussed the matter amongst themselves in Turkish, deciding whether they would let us board the flight or not.
All this while, we were nervous wrecks but I prayed continuously to my Guruji for help. Soon we heard the announcement that our flight was ready for boarding. We were still standing at the check-in counter. Out of sheer desperation, I asked Guruji, "Why won't you help us, Guruji? Why is all this happening?" Suddenly, the miracle happened: One of the officers told us that he had verified all the details and we could check-in and board the flight.
Thanking him profusely we ran towards the immigration counter. We still had 20 minutes before the boarding gates shut and before we realized we were inside the aircraft. Sitting down, we felt relieved and happy. We couldn't believe what had just happened. It was Guruji who got us our passports that fast and ensured that we could board the flight the same day to head home. I felt Him protecting us and I thanked Guruji with all my heart.
We reached London and thankfully the airport authorities let us through. Soon we were home.
I thanked Guruji again and again and the words of His shabad
kept coming back to me: "Guruji, pal pal tujhey sambhalein, kahe man chinta kare?" (Guruji protects us every minute, why then, O mind, should you worry?)
May Guruji always keep me at His lotus feet. Jai Guruji!!
Oindrila Sen Dasgupta, a devotee