A load off my mind

Resigned to my fate, I waited it out and was finally reunited with my personal belongings

Gulf News

My saga of resettlement continues.

As if dealing with recalcitrant workers were not enough, taking up a lot of my time and energy, I also had to cope with the mystery of the missing container that held all my belongings and presumably left the shores of Dubai in the first half of January. I had been told that it would take a month or a month and-a-half for the container to arrive in Hyderabad. I was also told that the shipping company would keep in touch with me.

After an ominous silence on their part, I managed to get hold of their address in India. Soon after contacting them, I was reassured by a person coming home (to the place where I was staying) to collect my passport and to get my signature on several documents. However, my joy was short-lived. Once again I was met with silence. Many calls later I came to know that my luggage had arrived in Hyderabad on February 6. But the person who disclosed this information to me was soon relieved of liaising directly with me and subsequent calls were ignored.

Frustrated by the lack of response and impatient to move into my new home, I began calling the head office in Mumbai. After a lot of stonewalling, I eventually got the brigade commander to help me. One call from him and things suddenly started moving. I received a call from the head office to tell me that the office at the point of departure had made a mistake and tagged the container as commercial, which meant stricter checks. So, the paperwork had to be redone.

The waiting game continued until the second week of March. Emboldened by their admission of guilt, I told them that there was no way I was going to pay demurrage fines. They agreed that I would not be asked to pay anything beyond the customs duty on electronic items.

A few days before my luggage was to arrive home, I received an urgent email from the head office asking me to meet the Deputy Commissioner Of Hyderabad Customs as some arrival entry stamp was missing in my passport. I was sure this was a mistake as one cannot leave the airport without this stamp, which is checked as one leaves passport control.

I rushed to the Customs office, which was at the other end of the town. It was a one-and-a-half-hour drive and, when I reached there, I discovered that the entry stamp was very much there, but it had been missed by the agents whose duty it is to ensure that everything is in order. The comedy of errors was beginning to wear thin by now. I met the deputy commissioner and related my tale of woe. She was very understanding and told me that she was glad that I was not going to accept this complete failure in service and that I was going to address the issue.

I finally received the news that I wanted to hear — my luggage was going to arrive after clearing customs. But wait a minute. It was not going to be as easy as that. The day before the expected arrival of my luggage, I was informed that the computer at Customs was down so the customs duty payment could not be made. And, since the next day was a Saturday and a holiday for the head office, It would take another day or two.

Resigned to my fate, I waited it out and was finally reunited with my personal belongings.

So here I am in my own home at last, but not home and dry yet. I will tell you why next time.

Vanaja Rao is a freelance writer based in Hyderabad, India.

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