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Comedy of errors marks journey and arrival in Beijing

By Tareq Zahir | China Daily | Updated: 2024-03-19 06:18

Tareq Zahir [Photo provided to China Daily]

Whenever I think of my arrival in Beijing in 2019, I think of three almost funny things. One took place on the flight from the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.

The in-flight entertainment provided music from around the world. So I plugged in and tried out Classical, Cantopop, Western pop, Western rock, whatever was there on offer. But no matter how many different options I selected, I could hear the same song playing. And it wasn't even anything I had selected. Frustrated, I gave up. My co-passenger sitting beside me saw me struggling with the buttons and looked at me. But she said nothing. Neither did I. Just when we were about to land in Beijing, I noticed a set of buttons on my right armrest. Those worked. So all this while I had been fiddling with buttons for my co-passenger's system on the left armrest. Thankfully she wasn't using her headphones.

My first morning in Beijing, someone from HR took me to get a SIM card. At the China Unicom store, she asked for my phone to check the system. Sometime later I noticed my phone was still in her hands. I went nearer to check if she needed help. She seemed to be checking out some photographs in my phone's photo gallery. This is so unethical, I thought. Why should she do that? I tried to check which photograph had caught her fancy. When I tried to get closer to take a look, she tried to hide the phone from me. The more I tried to look, the more she moved the phone further away. This was getting a bit too much now, I thought. Shouldn't I protest? When I saw her making no effort to return my phone I raised my hand to catch her attention. She was unmoved. Exasperated, I gave up. But just then I noticed another phone lying on a table where we were standing. It was unmistakably mine. The one in her hand was her own phone, the same model as mine, also Made in China.

I had found out that a classmate of mine from India was now my colleague and lived in the same building, albeit on another floor. I devised a plan to go to his place with another colleague and surprise him. The idea was to let my colleague introduce me as Anil — or Manoj, or any other Indian name but my own — from India and see how he reacted, assuming that my face would remind him of someone from two decades ago. Alas, that was not to be. He had gone to bed early as he had to report for work early the next day. So I took solace in making some new acquaintances at his home, thinking I had already had enough brushes with comedy in my first 24 hours in a new country.

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