Visiting India. Part 6. The airport on walkie-talkie

This is the final blog from a series about my week spent in India in May of lsquo;08.

The building of the new Bangalore airport looks nice. The opening of the new airport has coincided with my departure from this noble city of software engineers and retirees. The BIA building welcomes you with a huge suitcase by Louis Vuitton. If a small LV bag can cost $10000 USD, this one will run for at least a couple of million unless it was made in China town.

This is a good part. The rest about Bangalore International Airport sucks on its first day.

1. People at the check-in counter are not sure which button to press on the luggage belts and which tags to give to the passengers .

2. At security checkpoint they did not find an airline tag on my carry-on luggage (I was not told I needed one) and immediately canceled my boarding pass and sent me back to the check-in counter.

3. It seems that the check-in counters were designed by a freshmen student of a second-tier engineering college. These metal printer covers have sharp edges. Lots of kids trying to peek what “s going on behind the counter will damage their heads.

4. My boarding pass does not have the gate number. It just reads that the flight 110 to Mumbai is operated by Air India and is supposed to depart at 11:25AM. Starting from 10:30AM I was trying to find out what “s my the gate. The monitors show past departures only. I stopped by the boarding counter of another flight of Air India asking about any information about 110. They do not know. Their computers do not have any information. But hellip;she had a walkie-talkie. The first attempt to talk to someone took about ten minutes and she could not find any information about the flight. After several walkie-talkie sessions I found the gate. I “m impressed by this disaster recovery system. Technically, even in case of a complete blackout, the airport can remain operational as long as there are charged batteries in walkie-talkies and gasoline in the aircrafts.

Incompetency of the airline workers feels even more irritating because everyone is extremely polite.

“Yes, sir. I “ll get an answer for you in just a minute rdquo;

“My apologies. Inconvenience is deeply regretted. rdquo;

Yeah, right! This reminded me the following situation:

In a park, an old lady is sitting on a bench, chewing tobacco. Then she sneezed. A boy scout standing by said,

“God bless you rdquo;

“Thank you dear rdquo;, and she went on with tobacco chewing and sneezing. The boy scout kept saying “God bless you rdquo; after each sneeze, and the old lady thanked the boy each time.

Finally, the she said, “You are very good boy, but I am not sick. See, I just chew tobacco, and sneeze, chew and sneeze. That “s all rdquo;

And the boy goes, “I do not give a f amp;%k what you do, but we, boy scouts must be polite! rdquo;

5. Bangalore authorities have forgotten that it “s because of IT their city is turning from a destination for retired people into a serious industrial hub. Apparently, they do not know that computer programmers use computers. Computers can be divided into two major types: Large and small. The large one stay home. The small ones travel with their masters, and unfortunately they need electric power, which is usually provided via two small holes in a wall called electrical outlets. Dear airport authorities, can you please send a man with a drill and two long wires and ask him to drill as many holes as possible in the waiting area? Thank you very much for understanding.

6. Decided to check if there is an Internet connection. Opened the browser. Finally, something positive:

“Free Internet access for passengers rdquo;. Not so fast. To get a login password you need to send an SMS, but I do not have the operational cell phone in this country.

There are several ways to improve the logging procedure, and the easiest one is this. Change the text to the following:

“Free Internet access for passengers with local cell phones. rdquo; The other methods are more time consuming and would require thinking on the Microsense “s part.

7. All flight are delayed. But at least other airlines are announcing how deeply they regret the inconvenience. Did they say “Estimated time of departure rdquo; or “Guestimated time rdquo;? Air India keeps quiet, and their representatives stubbornly insist that IC 110 is on time even though it “s already 11:45AM and the boarding did not even start.

8. Finally, the boarding has started. Good bye, Bangalore. As the governor of CA once said, “I “ll be back rdquo;.

Mumbai is large. As per my tour guide, eighteen million people live here (extended Kolcata is a bit bigger though). Wikipedia offers different numbers .The driver with the guide picked me up at the airport, and I had a half day to explore the Bombay, which is a lot nicer and cleaner that New Delhi. The Mumbai lady-mayor fights for making the city clean.

I “ll just show you a couple of photographs I took in Mumbai.

The first one was taken at the huge Laundromat that did not change for several hundred years. People collect the dirty clothes from private citizens and businesses, bring it here, separate by colors and start hitting on the stones with the cold but soapy water. Then they rinse them and hang out for drying. After that, quick ironing, grouping by labels with initials and delivery back. People say that the quality of this type of laundry is a lot better than after Whirlpool laundry machine.

Now let “s pay attention to lunchboxes. Many Mumbai citizen enjoy the lunchbox delivery service. In the morning, they leave the lunchboxes by their doors, and commute to their offices empty-handed. A special delivery chain picks them up closer to the lunch time and delivers them to their owners at work. After lunch they take empty lunchboxes and bring them to the doors of their owners. As simple as that.

Oh, please do not ask these stupid questions like, “Yakov, why the owners could not carry these lunch boxes themselves? rdquo; Have you seen the Mumbai trains at the rush hour? OK, you “ve just received your cleaned white sari from the Laundromat, entered the train car, and here I am with my lunchbox that among other delicatessen contains freshly-made green curry hellip; Real peer pressure start when the number of people in the train doubles the capacity suggested by the car manufacturer. Did I tell you that my colleague Ashish prefers Red curry?

To say that I “m quickly get bored in museums is understatement. But for some reason, when my guide asked if I wanted to visit a house-museum of Mahatma Ghandi, I agreed. Why did I do this? I “m alone here ndash; no need to show my wife that I really enjoy immersion into history, no need to act as a role model for my kids, like “Dave, can you imagine that that this guy “s army had a 10500 people, and they “ve managed to cross the Alps and defeat the enemies losing 8,953 people, 3283 horses and raping 785 women on their way? Wow! rdquo;

Usually, I forget all important historical facts in about 10 minutes after leaving any museum. But this time not only I enjoyed the tour, I also felt an immense respect for Gandhi, bought and read (ok, a half) of the book with his letters and blogs, and enjoyed the movie “Gandhi, My Father rdquo; during the flight BOM-JFK. This country kicked Brits out of the country using the quiet disobedience techniques ndash; no war, no blood. They did it once, they “ll do it again. But this time they “ll kick out Yankees out of software industry as soon as a new person of Gandhi “s caliber will learn Java programming.

With all my respect to Mr. Gandhi, I was a bit tired with eating only Indian cuisine all week long. Before leaving for the airport, I stopped by a nice hotel and ordered a simple American dinner. To show my respect to India, I ‘ve asked for the local beer.

Mumbai “s airport is old and under construction. But it operates reasonably slow. I face a direct 15-hour flight to New York. Designers of Mumbai airport were smarter than their rookie colleagues from Bangalore. To ensure that people won ‘t charge their laptops, the outlets are conveniently located under the ceiling.

Unfortunately Delta “s flight has been canceled (the pilot was sick), and they filled out our plane with all these people who were stupid enough to book tickets from Delta, a cheap airline with bad food, inconvenient seats, old flight attendants, and sick pilots.

Surprisingly, the flight was not too difficult to bear and we had soft landing at JFK on time. As soon as the plain stopped taxiing, this familiar beep was played and almost everyone INSTANTLY stood up, and took their heavy carry-on in their hands just to stand like this for another 5 min till the aircraft doors would be opened. People can “t resist this Pavlov “s dog reflex ndash; when it beeps, stand up and grab your bags.

It “s great to be home. The immigration officer could not find an empty spot in my passport to stamp. Need to file for an insert with a US passport agency.

So long, India. I “ve enjoyed the visit and wish all the best to your people. I “ll be back.

Till the next trip.

Yakov Fain

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