Yeah, it’s true!! Unbelievable but true. Stranded in a foreign land without a passport!! One such incident that one cannot imagine happening in his/her wildest imagination. But when it does, you truly experience numbness of mind and body. By default, you are then practicing what all spiritual gurus/books preach – “Live in the moment” as all your future plans hit a roadblock.
So, the story of the lost passport and its aftermath is as follows:
My better half (BH) and I were travelling by train from Budapest to Vienna. A group of guys in their 20s entered our coach and began to arrange their luggage in whatever space available. Our luggage was securely fastened in the luggage section which was opposite to our seats and our back pack was placed in the luggage section above our seats. This group that had just entered shuffled their luggage here and there for around 5-10 mins and then settled down. Nothing was fishy, everything appeared normal. My BH & I were deep in admiration of the scenic views that were greeting us sitting comfortably in our train seats.
The forbidden scene:
A group of policemen entered our coach to check everyone’s passports (a routine check as we were travelling from one country to the other). My BH casually stood up to pull his back pack and the unbelievable truth hit us rock solid. The back pack was missing; the group of guys were missing; the only people present were the POLICEMEN who were staring vividly at us awaiting to check our passports. A tricky situation – you are a genuine traveler but without a passport and this realization dawns on you in front of the policemen!! This trip was planned as a celebration of my 35th birthday but now shall be memorable for various other reasons!!
I owe our calmness in such a situation to the not-so-frequent bouts of meditation that we had practiced in the last couple of years. My BH & I tried our best to remain undisturbed and scanned through the entire train for our missing back pack – which was the safe haven for our passports, Indian visa, laptop and a lot of money. Everything stolen in a moment. Luckily in this not-so-lucky time we had our cellphones with us and thanks to my BH who maintains a digital record of all our important documents, we could show a copy of all the important documents to the policemen and breathed a sigh of relief. They informed us that these burglaries were quite common in this route and carried out by that group of men in this similar manner. We just wished they had issued a warning to the passengers to keep their back packs with them at all times and not leave it in the luggage area right above their heads!!
So now begins our journey to plan our trip back to India without our passports. While in the train we calmly researched on the internet of the next steps to be taken in such a situation. We chalked out our tentative plan and decided to take things one at a time.
• We called the UK Embassy in Vienna (as we our UK citizens) and informed them about our situation. It was a Friday and the Embassy would be closed over the weekend and our train was not going to reach Vienna within the embassy’s working hours. The UK Embassy was kind enough to keep their office open for us. We reside in India and hence needed Indian visa to travel back. We had send a tweet to the Indian Embassy too and they were also quick enough to reply. They asked us to meet them on Monday.
• We got down at Vienna train station and first filed a police complaint to report our stolen items. It is not that you shall get back your stolen goods but this complaint serves as an important evidence of your stolen goods.
• We got our passport size photos clicked to be submitted where ever required.
• We headed to the UK Embassy who were gracious enough to make us feel calm and cited situations similar to ours that happen so frequently which they come across. We submitted all the required documents and the processing fee and they immediately handed us our UK emergency passports.
• We trot back to our hotel and submitted our emergency passports as our ID proof to them who also sympathized with our story.
• We then made the required money transfer to our account as our cash also had been stolen.
• As nothing can be done by crying over spilled milk, we decided to make the most of our weekend by travelling across Vienna and the beautiful town of Salzburg. Our flight was scheduled for Tuesday and we were just praying and hoping that we can manage to receive our visas by then.
• After spending a nice weekend, we headed to the Indian Embassy on Monday. After submitting the required documents and the processing fee which was quite high as we needed the visa on the same day, we received our visas. The staff was very kind and helpful.
• We then headed to our hotel to enjoy my birthday eve.
What a memorable birthday it was sure to go down the memory lane. On arrival in India we were welcomed by the locksmith at our doorstep as our house keys were also in our stolen back pack. What a welcome it was!!