Lessons From Losing A Phone In Mumbai

My sparkly phone has been recovered!

It has been SO COMPLICATED to claim this phone! Yet I was lucky!!

Heed this cautionary tale and reminder to travel smart. Be prepared. I’ve never lost a phone before, but mistakes happen when we’re stressed and tired. Here is my saga:

It was 4 AM when I misplaced my phone, after a two-hour nightmare trip through rush-hour traffic to go only 12 km the airport in Chennai. Then a long wait for my next flight, and a sudden gate-change in Mumbai. I probably left this phone on my seat near the boarding gate because I was busy looking at my SECOND phone, the one with the local Indian number.

I realized that the phone was missing mid-way through my next flight. Then mentally re-traced my steps to the last time I remember holding the phone. Which was definitely inside the airport. So when I reached my layover stop in Doha, I tried getting the airline to call Mumbai, but there was not enough time and waaay too many other people demanding attention from the help desk. I had to scurry off to my flight home.

I called my airline and he Mumbai airport lost-and-found as soon as I arrived. They L&F desk required all kinds of proof of ownership. I had to be able to describe my phone, when I lost it, and what part of the airport it was most likely forgotten. I needed to be able to call it and unlock it. They also required my boarding pass and my passport.

Because my phone had only an American SIM card in it (no international plan), there was no way to call the phone in India.

Because I was already back in the US, I had to authorize a friend to pick it up on my behalf. My saintly friend Isheeta Chakrvarty (who lives near the airport) has gone above-and-beyond to help me during this trip and I’m tremendously grateful. I don’t know how I could have gotten everything done without her.

Isheeta had to provide her own passport to enter the airport, as well as a claim number given to me by the clerk after I called to ask if they found my phone and described it to them. She needed print-outs of photos of my boarding-pass and passport, as well as a hand-written letter with my signature on it designating her as my proxy.

Because the alarms on my phone had drained the battery by the time she arrived to claim it, she couldn’t unlock or call the phone. I had to provide other proof of ownership besides the code to unlock the screen. Like what carrier was printed on my SIM card inside the phone. It would have been smart to have some kind of identifying info UNDER the protective cover, like my email address.

Then it turns out that shipping companies like DHL will NOT ship a phone with the SIM card still in it (without written proof of deactivation) due to anti-terrorism rules.

So it will arrive, sans SIM, in about a week. Hopefully! To top all this off, it’s going to cost about Rs 7,000 to ship. That’s about $80 USD!!!


—-Have hard-copies of your essential documents and phone numbers and emergency contacts on your person when you travel. Keep them with your passport. I also keep a separate set in my briefcase and in my luggage. This saved me when I arrived back in the US and needed to call my folks who were picking me up at the airport… to let them know I didn’t have my phone!

—-Keep your paper boarding passes (folks often toss them after at their destination. Hold on to them for a few days until you’re certain you’ve got everything home).

—-Make local friends! Be kind and generous. Ask for their contact info. Because they may be able to speak to the airport Lost & Found clerk who may not speak English very well.

—-And that friendly person you chatted with on the airplane may be the one who lends you their phone so you can call your loved ones when you arrive.

—-Back up your pics and files before you go, and during your trip if possible.

—-Consider putting your email address and/or some other identifying mark on your phone UNDER the rubber phone protection cover. But not your name, number, or any other personal codes that might help thieves.

—–Photograph the contents of your luggage before you go. You’ll need this for insurance, and to make claims with the airline. This includes a pic of your phone, maybe you holding your phone.

—-Consider paying extra to your carrier for an international call plan, which sometimes can be paid for just one month during your trip. Even if you don’t plan to use it, having the option to make an emergency call (or call your phone) may be extremely helpful. I saved myself a lot of hassles by borrowing my father’s phone (he had the international option) and calling the Mumbai Lost & Found directly as soon as I arrived in the U.S.

—-Or get a phone with dual SIM-card slots so you don’t have to carry two phones with you on your travels!

—-When you’re tired, stressed, or in a hurry, you need to have a consistent place to put your essential items and a mental check-list to review before departing any location.

—-Mistakes are expensive. If you’re traveling on a budget, you need to make up for the inability to pay outlandish prices for services by being diligent, clever, persistent, polite, patient and having lots of friends ❤

My phone and all my photos of Nepal and India and will be shipped back to me in the US by Isheeta. Likely to arrive next week.

Yes, I like glitter 🤩 But sparkles are also distinctive and easy to see. No more dull black phone cases!

Yes, I have multiple back-ups, but it’s still hard to access apps and contacts without your phone. Wow, it’s really sobering to realize how much I depend on that device.

So rather than sulking, I’ve stayed positive and consider this an important lesson and an extended pause from most communication and social media. Using this time to unpack, catch up, do yoga, and sleep.