It was a bright sunny afternoon and we were at the windmills in Mykonos, Greece relaxing by the sea embracing some hot summer winds. My husband & I were on our honeymoon making the most of this beautiful place where the famed Bollywood flicks Chalte Chalte and Bang Bang are said to have been shot. Mykonos is primarily a gay friendly party destination with the speciality of all houses across the town painted in combinations of White and Blue, colours from the Greek flag.
The time in the clock was 1:00pm. It was about time for lunch and My husband chivalrously volunteered to grab his wallet from the car just right at the parking lot in windmills while I chose to laze around by a nearby restaurant in Mykonos’s Little Venice.
It was taking him longer than usual. Immediately the thought of something having gone wrong crossed me, but I shushed it away.
I took a sigh of relief pretty soon when I saw him running hastily towards me; taking big long steps. His face tense, serious and panic stricken. I wished everything was alright but my gut said otherwise.
He frantically stopped in front of me, panting for breath. Taking a deep breath he uttered those four horrifying words.
We have been robbed!
Whatttttt? I screamed my eyes almost popping out.
Somebody broke the car window and took all our stuff. He said.
We hurried to the parking lot where lied the car where we had parked the car which we took on hire about half an hour ago. I missed a heartbeat when I saw its condition. The front passenger glass window now lie in shackles and our bag that we had left in the leg space now went missing.
It was unbelievable. This had happened in broad daylight, in a parking lot that was so full that half an hour ago it took us about 15 minutes to find a parking space. As foolish as it may seem, I wanted to still check every nook and corner of the car, hoping for the impossible. My husband stopped me from touching the car. He said let’s bring the police here in case they wanted to take some fingerprints.
Now, with the bag gone, slowly the realisation hit hard that we had lost our Wallets – with the wallets all our cards and identity proofs, money of about 800 euros, both our Passports and mobile phones. ALL OF IT.
We needed the money to reach the police station and we had not a penny. We walked to the closest place from the parking lot – The Caprice restaurant just by the windmills.
We almost barged into the reception like the FBI and found a gentleman dressed in the attire of a waiter and a lady very subtly dressed that we could confide into. Seeing our horrified faces they lent us their ears. My husband started narrating the incident, but he couldn’t fathom. I continued from where he left. As soon as I finished, the man replied with a straight face ‘It happens with about 10 people in a day’. Both of us looked at each other completely taken aback. The lady felt our pain and she politely offered us 20 euros. The gentleman followed suit. She also wrote her cell phone number down for us to reach out to her if we needed any help. ‘Georgia’ the chit read. We thanked them immensely and immediately left for the police station.
We took a bus and it was about 2pm when we reached the station. We were surprised on finding out that there was just one Police station in the whole of Mykonos town and only one Police officer on duty.
There were about four people who arrived before us. Two of them had lost their phones, one Indian guy had brought some snacks for his younger brother who was in jail on charges of child labour and the other with time we discovered that the police station was more like his hangout place.
With every passing minute, the tension built up. What hurt the most was we were the fourth in line, and considering the time it was taking for one complainant, we guessed it would get night before we could be heard. Luckily, everyone who came before us were annoyed that it was taking real long and after their bout of test of patience, they left. After 1.5 hours we were left with just one guy in a pink jersey who had lost his phone before us.
We got talking to him and briefed him of our episode. His reply was instantaneous. He said we must reach out to the Indian embassy in Athens for an emergency travel document to go back to India and use Western Union to get some money. Which meant, there was no help here in Mykonos. When that realisation struck, the reality of it was terrifying. We needed to find a way to reach Athens. We had no money. And to top it all, this chapter had happened over a weekend, when western union stayed shut. You feel like jumping from the window of your ground floor apartment. On a serious note, you feel so foolish for packing all your most important belongings up in one place and leaving them for burglars to earn their party money for the day. Things were only getting worse!
We were broken from our reverie when the door opened soon enough and a girl walked out. She happened to be friends with the guy in pink jersey. She appeared irritated with the time it was taking for her friend from New Zealand who came on a vacation to Greece and found her credit card stolen and swiped multiple times for an amount totalling 2000 euros. She mentioned that she was in the cabin with her friend since 9 in the morning. Ideally it shouldn’t take more than 5 minutes to file a complaint. But it’s been 5 hours and I don’t know how much longer it will take. The officer is just answering calls one after the other, she said. The guy explained to her our story and she said she would find us guys the contact number to reach the Indian embassy in Athens. She googled and wrote them out for us.
The pink jersey guy also had his patience tested and he decided to leave. We felt sad for him at the same time happy for us as that would mean we would go in next. After another fifteen minutes wait, the chic from New Zealand finally walked out of the room. When I had a look at the officer, I immediately told my husband, please find somebody who knows both Greek and English. We found an old gentleman who was next in the line to file his complaint. We narrated to him the entire incident. The police officer didn’t really ask for a translation, he nodded while I explained. He then gave us a sheet of paper and asked us to provide him our personal details. We did as asked.
The wait while he typed the complaint was killing. There was a TV in the room and had the Mad channel on, Vh1 equivalent in India. It was shocking. But it pretty much spoke for the law and order of the town – gone to the dogs!
We used the police station landline and tried the Indian embassy contact that the lady shared. It was half past 5 when we contacted the embassy. I narrated the entire incident to the person on the other end and his epic reply made my world fall apart.
“Oye hoye hoye, yeh kya ho gaya, bahut bura hua” was the reply. I for an instance thought the Indian embassy number on google was a prank call number.
Was I talking to the right person?
Should I be continuing with the call or hang up?
Did I dial the right number?
Was someone trying to have their share of fun on a wrong number?
I was starting to lose hope. Fortunately after the melodrama, he cut the crap and explained the documents they would require to grant us an emergency certificate back to India – i.e., Passport copies, Visa Copies and 3 Passport size photographs. We made note. My husband requested the officer to lend his phone to make some Whatsapp calls to India. He hesitantly obliged. Now about the phone calls, international calling was barred at the station. I’m unsure how the ideal arrangement must be, but for a tourist place like Mykonos, where crimes like these are rampant, there ought to be better arrangements for the benefit of the victims.
Now the internet connectivity at the police station was such established that one could not access anything over and above the office applications. Thanks to the officer’s phone, I accessed my email account and took a copy of my passport. Now for the photographic memory that my husband has (He calls himself Mike Ross), remembering a password should be absurdly easy. But he didn’t. In his defence, his explanation was that he never felt the need to. I gave him a look and the grin stopped immediately and he shut up!
We didn’t have our visa copies on email. I then recollected sending a picture of our visas to my dad on Whatsapp. I got them sent to officer’s number and printed them. The visa copies had our passport number on them, so that was some consolation. Now, we needed the copy of the police complaint. The officer revealed that they would send a copy of the complaint to the embassy, and we would get the complaint copy on our email in 20 days as per their procedure. Had he lost his mind? He had got to be fucking kidding me!
We switched hats for a moment and made him understand that we weren’t leaving the station without the complaint. He obliged. My husband’s coercing cum ordering skills came to some help. Anyways, after two hours, we finally had the police complaint in hand.
We left the police station. We needed to get back to our car. But we sort of understood expecting anything over and above this from the officer was a moo point. Buses seemed like a far sight. So, we sought for a lift. After about 20 vehicles who showed us their middle finger, one guy finally stopped for us. We hopped into his car and he dropped us at the bus station. May god bless rare souls in Mykonos like him!
We needed some money and my husband was almost certain that Georgia, who shared her number with us would be the go to person. I was not convinced one bit. But he had a strong gut. So we followed his gut and went to her restaurant. She wasn’t there. We used the restaurant landline to call her. Her immediate response was “I’ll be there in 10 minutes”.
She was back in less than 10. She looked at us out of concern. You ok? She asked hugging me. I got a bit teary, but I held back the tears. She asked if we ate anything. Our appetite was dead. She ordered two cups of coffee for us and sat us down and heard us while we discussed what must be done next. Soon, another man who was also a waiter at the restaurant joined us at the table.
We got talking and we had sort of developed good comfort around each other. They told us stories of even worse scenarios that despite losing everything we were laughing our hearts out with them. They told us about the incident of a gay man who woke up one morning to realise he had lost everything; even his pants and that he was running around the restaurant tugging his shirt down. And another incident of a group from the US who planned to leave backpacking the following morning, had all their belongings stocked up in a car. The next morning they woke up to find the entire car missing.
When everything else fails, humanity prevails. It pretty much held true for us throughout our honeymoon. We were in a foreign nation knowing nobody there, an hours later in the same nation, we found two souls we were pouring our heart to over coffee and smoke.
As per the initial planning our ferry tickets from Mykonos to Santorini were already booked. So was our stay at Santorini. It seemed best to proceed with the rest of the trip, provided we are able to arrange some money. Georgia asked us if we had any money. We didn’t. She gave us 100 euros. Greedy or opportunist, whatever you may like to call, my husband, took this opportunity and asked her if she could give us another 100. She gave another 100 without a flinch. We told her if it was ok if our family transferred money to her account and that if she would be kind enough to withdraw and give it to us. She agreed. It’s like she can never say no.
She left for a bit to fetch her file that had her bank account details. The atmosphere and the aura around Georgia, the way she moved around the place, I couldn’t resist but ask her if she owned the place. She said “I wish”! She was a waitress there. And she said she was a part time actress. That was some marvellous acting my lady! I retorted in my head.
We used her phone and made some Whatsapp calls to India and shared her bank details with them. Now since hers’ was a foreign currency account, our family in India wasn’t able to add it. My husband’s cousin from India contacted a childhood friend now based in US to check on the feasibility. 900 euros seemed like a lot of money. Our family was hesitant to make such a big transfer. What if she backed off last minute and decide to keep the money for herself? Thinking through it, they decided to make a transfer of 500 euros. 240 euros of which she had already given us, so she owed us only 260 euros. That was a risk we could afford to take.
Next, we thought over what we must do with the car. The hire period was two days. Should we return now or return after the second day? Georgia suggested we go to the hire company with the car and explain to them what happened. We requested her if she could come along. She agreed. The hire company did not have an insurance cover for the vehicle and hence they charged us 90 euros for the damage. But they also exchanged and gave us another car for the additional day. That was some relief there, because there is absolutely no public transport in Mykonos!
On our way back, we got the confirmation from our cousin back in India that the money transfer had been done. Pfff! We dropped her back to the restaurant. She left for her room to get ready while we waited for her at the restaurant. She came back like she was never gone and told us that we would need a cellphone to reach out for any kind of help for the rest of our trip. Hence she said she would come along with us tomorrow to buy a cell phone using her identify proof and then withdraw the money for us.
We left the restaurant thanking her immensely. Call it our luck or what, but when we first met her in the afternoon, it wasn’t her shift. She worked from 8.30 in the night until 6.30 in the morning. And we had decided to meet at 10.30am the next morning, which meant she would get only about 4 hours sleep. That’s a big sacrifice for someone you don’t know enough and she had selflessly agreed to it.
My husband was very happy that we had finally managed to get some money. He brought two beers and was all in for a celebration. He couldn’t contain his excitement. He was entering an ice cream place, and then a bakery almost. I had to show him the difference between “the money currently in hand” against “the money that we hope to have in hand” and therefore to have his hormones under control. I dragged him out of these places and we settled for some khakhras and theplas that we brought from home for dinner. I really didn’t have the mood to celebrate. The beer found our refrigerator.
That night was an extremely dreadful one. We had parked our vehicle outside our airbnb but every time a vehicle crossed our studio, we feared of another such incident. I literally made my husband look out for our car multiple times that night. Even with our door, I made him cross check if we had locked it properly. Next morning, we literally let out a sigh of relief when we saw the car in good shape.
We quickly finished our breakfast and left for the restaurant to meet Georgia. We called her from the restaurant landline. She said she would be there in 10 minutes. We waited for a good 20 minutes. There was no sign of her. I panicked a bit. The cleaners at the restaurant moved us from every corner we seated ourselves in. It was their way of asking us to find another place for shelter and in other words to get out! Not too late from then we saw a female walking towards the restaurant. There she was in a white crochet bikini and a peach kimono cardigan. She looked like a house on fire.
We left for the mobile shop. The cheapest phone we found there with internet was for 89 euros. The police complaint wasn’t enough to grant us a sim card. Georgia provided her identity proof. My husband was of the opinion that he would work with the mobile shop owner and make sure all is good and all apps installed, while Georgia and I must leave to withdraw the money and eventually we shall all meet at the restaurant. Georgia and I had good conversations on our way to the ATM. I realised she was a really kind hearted, soft spoken, sweet and affectionate woman. Beautiful of course!
She drew a mini statement from the ATM and much to my dismay there was no sign of any credit of 500 euros. My world came to a standstill. And then she told me not to worry and to join her for breakfast. We went to a green place by the bus station and she ordered fruit bowls for both of us.
She got on a phone call speaking in Greek and after a long call, she told me that she just spoke to the bank people. She said for an international transfer, it takes about 4-5 days. In case of an urgency, the sender would have to place a special request with the sender bank to make an emergency transfer. Either ways it wasn’t possible today as it was a Sunday and tomorrow afternoon was our ferry to Santorini. We were in deep shit.
She suggested we stayed on for a few more days and that she has a friend who would arrange for an accommodation for 100 euros per day against the 290 euros that we spent for our airbnb accommodation. I told her that was not possible. My husband called in such time and I explained to him that the credit had not taken place and she was suggesting we stay on for another few days. He said, let me come back and have a word.
She and I got talking about Indian weddings, about Greece, about Belgium – her birthplace, how my husband and I met, how I maintained my hair, her love for Indian food so on and so forth but at the back of my mind all I just wished for was that she would give us the money. My husband joined us in sometime. He came straight to the point. He said “So, we have a problem. You have already given us 240 euros, if it is ok with you, could you please give us the remaining 260?” He said. Her response was epic. She said “I was anyways going to give you the 260 euros, but what about the remaining 400 euros that you need?” I was head over heels in love with her. How can someone be so nice! The money had still not reached her account, she had already given us a good sum, and to give more money trusting she should receive in a couple of days was incredible.
The guy from the restaurant joined us here as well. We were having a good chat and I asked her “Are you guys together?”
Both of them looked at each other for the other to answer and then she said “We are kind of together, but he doesn’t want me! She chuckled!
We all laughed out loud. We then discussed with her the option of western union for the rest of the money that we would need. Angel that she was, she agreed to come with us the next morning without giving it a second thought. I always spoke so much about Crepes to my husband that he had to try one. We ordered one with Nutella and Bananas.
After we finished, Georgia was gone for a while. When she returned, she had settled the restaurant and brought 260 euros in cash for us. We thanked her a zillion times. Only thing we were left to do was prostate in front of her. She had been more than amazing with us. To our Thankyous’ she always only said “Hey it’s no big deal; enjoy the rest of your honeymoon.” She wrote us a few good sight-seeing places and Greek food that we must try before we left. I hugged her and bid her goodbye.
We got back to our airbnb, made our calls back home. In the 500 euros that we had, 110 was spent for mobile phone & internet, 90 for the car damage, 20 for car gas, another 30 odd for food. So we were left with just 250 euros. Had it been me, I would think it was good enough money for a three day stay in Santorini and a day at Athens, provided our stay and tickets are booked – which they were. Our family in India booked our ferry tickets from Santorini to Athens and our flight back to India from Athens, the following day. So, it was perfect.
My husband however felt 250 euros weren’t enough. He had booked a Catamaran ride in Santorini – half already paid and the remaining half of about 150 euros was yet to be paid. And he was adamant we must do it no matter what. He believed it was an experience that we can’t have in India. A catamaran ride is basically a ride in a luxury yacht across various sight-seeing locations in Santorini with unlimited food and liquor served on board. The yacht is anchored at all these locations and one could jump into the sea and swim around. Finally towards the end of the ride, the yacht gets stationary at a point where you get a fantastic view of the Santorini sunset.
Our family in India believed that it can be given a miss now that the honeymoon expenses had gone way over budget. I could see we were putting our family through a lot of stress and asking for more money would just mean being inconsiderate.
But my husband had a different opinion – what else is family for? On a second thought, in Athens we were like chickens on fire. It was extremely hot and sunny. Mykonos was a major screw up. Only solace was Santorini. And now with the driving license also gone, we weren’t sure how much of Santorini we would be able to cover on foot. Therefore Catamaran looked like a good option to cover Santorini, of course at the expense of a few thousand rupees, but it felt right to not miss it. So we decided to get more money from India, another 300 euros. This time using western union.
Next morning we called Georgia and asked if she could come with us to the western union. We had our ferry at 12.30 and the time was already 11. We tried to reach over call the person who was supposed to make the transfer but he didn’t answer our calls and hence we decided to not miss our ferry and reach out to our Santorini host instead for help. We bid Georgia our final goodbye. On our way I made my husband stop at a souvenir shop while I bought a small Mykonos fridge magnet. Georgia noticed me entering the shop. She followed me and bought a quick souvenir herself. She then handed it over to me. Fish’s eye is considered as good luck in Greece. She said you are starting a new life, and here’s wishing you good luck. I just looked at her in awe. She had literally touched my G-spot. She was a Greek goddess inside out. Getting back in the car, I just explained to my husband what just happened and speechless that it made him, I knew he was in awe of her too. Awe probably would be an understatement.
We returned the car to the hire company and an attendant dropped us at the port for our ferry to Santorini. It was about 5pm in the evening when we reached Santorini.
Upon reaching our airbnb, two women greeted us and explained to us the rules for the studio. We expressed our situation and concern to them, also showing them the police complaint. One understood little English and the other hardly any. The one who understood was leaving for Athens the next morning. So, now the Greek woman was the only help we could seek for. We mimed and did what looked like Kathak to try and make her understand our situation. She told the English woman, she was scared. Scared of what? We were Parekhs, and not terrorists! She shrugged and left.
Ten minutes after, the doorbell rang. The English woman asked us to be ready by 11 the next morning, and that the Greek woman was going to come along with us to western union. We immensely thanked both of them. After a few follow ups in the evening, she finally viber’d us her Identity proof. We shared it with the guy in US. He then made the transfer and also shared the transfer receipt. All was going to be fine now, we rejoiced that moment.
That evening we strolled through the streets of Thira and tried some really good Greek food. We sipped some mouth smacking Santorini wine and hit the bed.
Next morning, the lady was ready sharp at 11 and we left for Western Union which was just around the corner. We provided the lady at the counter with the identity proof and the receipt sent by the US guy. That lady suspiciously looked at us and asked to us to have a seat. In those few minutes, my heart came in my mouth. She called us back after a while and printed a certain something and handed over 300 euros to us. We screamed in joy and hugged each other tight. We couldn’t contain our happiness.
After spending three wonderful days at Santorini, we left for Athens (we of course did the Catamaran cruise which IMO was alright, although my husband totally loved it).
We reached Athens and immediately made our way to the Indian embassy. We filled some forms and provided them with our Passport and visa copies. They needed some passport size photographs. Google said a photo studio was about 1.7 kilometres from the embassy. I spotted one right outside the embassy! Ha! Who is better? The studio was run by a Sardar. Ideally he charged per person 5 euros for photographs. He charged us only 5 euros for both put together. There again we had only 4.40 euros change, he settled for so much. We thanked him and quickly left for the embassy again.
We submitted them all the documents and gave them 28 euros (14 euros each); the fee for the temporary passport and waited. After a good half hour, we were summoned by an embassy official. He asked us if we tweeted to Sushma Swaraj and expressed dissatisfaction over the support provided by the Indian Embassy at Athens! We told them absolutely not, because honestly they had been more than accommodating. He nodded and let us go. After another half hour wait, we had the white passports in hand. The joy was beyond words could define. They made us leave with the promise of sharing our incident with our friends and family back in India and advising them to be more cautious and careful.
Also behind the scenes, our family back in India had reached out to Sushma Swaraj and Indian embassy in Athens on Twitter. And YES! Her excellency had also reached to our family.
We boarded the Kuwait airways flight the next afternoon and we were in Chennai the next early morning. Of all the unfortunate things that happened with us on our trip, our interaction with the Indian officials at Chennai airport was the most pathetic one. Highly unprofessional, extremely snail paced working people with hopeless sense of English. About an hour and a half that we spent there, we left the room thinking we were setting a wrong example of India to the outside world.
Lastly, you may say it was highly stupid of us to have left all our belongings unattended in a foreign nation. Completely agreed. Now that it has happened and there is no undoing it, we see it as a test of couple compatibility a week into our wedding, and that was an absolute centum that we scored there. Standing tall in support of each other through all of it. Oh wait! Did this happen because I didn’t really carry my lemon religiously? Yes, the evil eye had caught us. I’m guilty as charged!
Jokes aside, it was an adventurous honeymoon, a honeymoon we won’t forget in our lifetime; and so would our families.