Per Aspera Ad Astra

CHAPTER 1: Leap Of Faith

Mezyad Border, 26th May, 2017–230 am

This is the story of how I ended up here….in the empty hallway of Mezyad border crossing station at 230 am. How did I get here? Well, I like taking photographs. I am not extremely good at it but I always wanted to learn. Always wanted to buy a decent camera and I finally did after I went for an astrophotography camp last year. Didn’t have a camera back then but that pushed me to get my hands on a D7200. That time when I went for that workshop, I was AMAZED by the number of stars I could see. I counted 42 stars just in the Orion constellation. I didn’t even know that Orion had those many stars in it. I deep dived into it, watched more stars, tried and never missed an opportunity to see stars in the best possible conditions I could get.

And along came Prakash and Akhter. These 2 organize photography field trips whenever possible for those who are interested. Have learned a lot from them and continue to do that to this day. So obviously, I couldn’t let go off the chance to see stars on a moonless night in Oman. The bummer is that my passport mentions “SALES” as my profession and apparently that doesn’t qualify me as one of those who can get a visa on the border from UAE to Oman. I mean…I could apply from Oman embassy (FROM Oman) but that was wayyyy beyond my set budget for that trip. I have heard of people with “SALES” visa and managing to cross. So, I decided to wing it and see what happens. With my shit luck, I should have known better but I had a good feeling about it (and still do while typing this down).

So we set our GPS to Buraimi border crossing and set out. Mantaj had told me that if I don’t manage to cross then he will come and pick me up in his car from the border (he is an absolute gem). So we reach Buraimi and INSTANTLY got asked to turn around. Disheartened by the denial, we set our GPS to Mezyad border. This time, I got the exit stamp from UAE and headed to get my visa stamped from the immigration. Denied again! What a pain? But then I thought to myself, “No Arun! Don’t give up..you need this and you will give your everything to get it.”. I have seen pictures of this beautiful country, of the stars and of the beautiful landscapes it has and I want me some of it. I persisted to gentle Mr. Rasheed, the nice immigration officer who I believe really wanted to help me but could because of obvious reasons (I hold nothing against him). He suggested that I MIGHT be allowed by his senior manager and am like,

“GREAT! Where is he?”

“Wallahi Habibi, id is 2 am andh ee’s sleebing. Waid dill 7 am andh ee will be ere. Dhen you talk him andh maybe..ee will led you go, Inshah Allah!”

Disheartened but still not phased, I pleaded to Mr Rasheed for any alternative way. Anything at all to let me in. Somewhere, I knew his hands were tied but this hope thing is a total bitch. I hoped he could help while knowing that he could not. He told me sincerely that when his manager comes, he will personally put in a word for me. My heart sank a little more. Prakash and Akhter have come all this way knowing that there is a chance that I might be with them only till the border. They turned to me and asked me if I really want to go back to UAE and miss the entire Oman trip. I didn’t have the heart to tell them that I don’t want to go back. I didn’t have the heart to tell them that I want to wait because why should they wait for me and miss a practically moonless night’s view of the stars? And that’s when Prakash told me that I should wait till the morning, wait till this manager comes and try talking to him and that if he agrees, he will come back for me. To add to all those didn’ts, it didn’t take me a moment to make my decision but I asked him,

“Would you really come back for me?”

“Yeah man! It is beautiful out there, I have seen it, experienced it and if I can help you get a glimpse of it, it would be a pleasure for me.”

Maaaaan….this guy, I could see that he truly meant it and here I am, waiting for the manager to wake up. And I HOPE that tomorrow when he comes, he would let me cross to Oman and have this wonderful opportunity to click some beautiful pictures. And if he does, it will a massive win for me against al odds (Am counting on you Rasheed..you magnificent SOB). And for any reason whatsoever if he does not let me cross, I promise to myself that I will come back soon…I will come back and finish this trip because till then, this journey remains unfinished and that is no way for this journey to end.

Hoping for the best!!

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