Air travel travails

More ramblings from guest blogger Mr Vijay Srinivasan this time from a dimly lit Delhi airport lounge.

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Delhi’s weather is very pleasant on a late November evening, with the onset of winter approaching. The days are still warm though, and this anomaly creates a temperature gradient in one’s body which one has to tackle with cool drinks during the day and whiskey in the evening.

The International Trade Fair is on these days at the Capital’s Pragati Maidan in the centre of the city for two weeks, attracting millions of consumers from Delhi and nearby cities, creating traffic jams in the thoroughfares. This forces all road users to budget an additional hour or so while planning their day for travel purposes. The situation is expected to worsen in the usual annual manner in December, January and February when dense fogs reduce visibility to less than 100 feet sometimes both on the roads, and you got it, in the air. This is the reason why international airlines flying to Delhi are changing their arrival and departure times from the usual ungodly timings to daytimes, typically late mornings and early afternoons when the sun is out.

On this partly sunny afternoon, I decided to leave for airport two hours before departure, though the domestic airport was only 30 minutes away from The Claridges hotel I was staying in. And, that turned out to be a well-thought out plan!

While it took around 40 minutes to reach the airport, I was in for a surprise. In India, one goes about one’s daily schedules as though the rest of the world is still, and one has one’s way cut out. This mentality helps one to deal with the inevitable day-to-day frustrations in one’s daily routine. The problem in taking every frustration seriously and trying to take upon oneself the responsibility of discovering and suggesting a solution, just leads to additional disappointments as nobody has time to listen to one’s solutions to the ills of daily routine in India, as all are seriously engaged in their own “personal isolation” while moving forward in a perfectly nonchalant manner. Even the well dressed, well manicured gentleman or lady next to you does not feel necessary to vent his or her frustration. It’s wondrous to see them glide along as though the trolleys parked in a criss-crossed fashion all over the airport hall, and the long queues at check-in counters, do not exist at all. Such a behaviour ought to lead to reflections on society when one nurses one’s whiskey in the evenings.

Well, coming back to the surprise I mentioned, the airport was “free” of power this afternoon. There was some load-shedding, and all activities were moved instantaneously to “manual” mode of operation without so much as a whimper. Imagine what would happen if Singapore, Hong Kong or London airports were forced to operate without power supply. In Delhi, however, operations continued non-stop, with the ever-efficient Jet Airways ladies checking in people manually with pre-printed matrix sheets of seat assignments, and physically writing out the boarding passes and luggage receipts ! They must really be struggling to retain their reputation for efficient on-ground service and on-time departures.

However, things moved, and the airport authorities seemed able to manage flight departures and arrivals almost without much disruptions. There was no anger in the faces around, or frustration in the faces of airline staff.

There must be something in the Indian genes which makes all this seem normal. In fact, if everything is perfect and works without any hitches, then there is some understated, non-voiced happy sentiments in people. I was nonplussed by all this behaviour as I thought about “the argumentative Indian”.

I can only conclude that the stoicism is not unlike what Londoners depicted in the aftermath of this year’s July bus and train blasts. The innate religiosity and passive resistance inculcated by Mahatma Gandhi has led to a number of winning traits, resilience being one of the key ones. The society is back on its feet in almost no time, and braves the adversities with all-rounded resilience.This is also the reason why there will be no revolution or military coup in India, or inroads by Communism. People accept the economic, social, and political diversity as a necessary basis for retaining their hard-won independence and democracy. And, this is also the reason why, in the longer term (25 years and more), India will emerge as the leading, sustainable economic beacon of the free world, and take the place of the U.S., which used to attract talent from all over the world. No doubt, United States will retain its military superiority even then, however, the balanced social and economic superiority will move in the direction of India.

I have digressed here, but let me conclude by stating that the Jet Airways flight was uneventful, though delayed for 50 minutes by air traffic congestion at Delhi. And, for the first time, I flew in a flight captained by a lady, Captain Anjali Kanwar! India is moving fast, and gender neutralisation in all spheres of economic endeavour starting with IT/BPO is happening furiously.

Welcome to the New India!