Sunday, June 06, 2010

Welcome to India, Sir!

Thank you for booking Turkish Airlines Copenhagen-Istanbul-New Delhi.

Taking off from Copenhagen.

Welcome to Istanbul and good news, your connecting flight is delayed by at least 1 hour.
Boarding finally has started.
The flight is taking off 1.5 hours behind schedule.

Welcome to New Delhi Indira Gandhi International Airport.

All fine, the flight was great, food was terrific, air hostesses were beautiful, and it was not a long flight, just 6.5 hours of total comfortable sleep from Istanbul to New Delhi. But what was going on in my mind was - will I be able to make it to the domestic flight to my home city, Indore? You will find out in a bit.

Some background first before we continue with the story. Unlike Europe, every big city in India has at least two different airports. One for international flights and the other for domestic flights. And again, unlike Europe, these two airports might not have one single entry point - as they in fact have far away located terminal buildings, even if the flights use the same runway in some airports. So, traveling from the international airport to the domestic airport and vice versa is a bit complicated. There is no train/shuttle service. There usually would be a bus service - which would take an internal road within the airport premises to transfer passengers from one end to the other quickly. If one is daring enough to take a taxi, auto-rickshaw, car etc., whatever means of transport through the city roads, to reach from international to domestic (or other way) airport, God save them, because the traffic in India is really injurious to health :)

Before this time, I had taken the same bus service in New Delhi, but from the domestic airport to the international. That was late in the evening, and it was very very smooth. The bus in Delhi runs once in every 30 minutes and is not very crowded as well. Well air conditioned buses, to curb the heat of the city. Surely, I expected the same, for the other way round. As a result of which I booked my domestic travel home on a flight which was supposed to take off 3 hours after the Turkish Airlines flight landed from Istanbul. 3 hours, I thought, was good, to take the baggage, and then take the bus service to domestic airport and finally take the flight home. But it was not that easy.

First of all, I lost 1.5 hours in Istanbul itself. That made the experience really interesting, to start off with.

Next, at the international airport, Turkish Airlines flight landed around 5 in the morning which is the peak time for incoming flights to India, just like the peak time for outgoing flights is late night. I collected my baggage and rushed to the bus service counter - only to see an extremely long and haphazard queue. Crowded as the whole country is, crowded was this part of the airport, since there was the bus service point there, in addition to the prepaid taxi counter. I managed to find some other people who were in the same situation as me, and were desperate for an optimistic way out. Some people standing in the queue for the bus service were good enough, when we told them that our domestic flight leaves in an hour and we need to rush. They asked us to get in front of the queue and get access. We fought our way to the front, repeating the same thing and begging the same way to some other people standing in the queue as well.

The door man, was kind enough as it turned out. We requested him the usual thing and he retorted, "Guys, I would suggest you take a taxi. If you take the bus, you will not be able to make it".

Vow, what was that? Okay, no time to think, let's just do it. Now we had to do another round of begging, get first in the prepaid taxi counter queue. We managed to get there, the people standing in that queue also seemed good with a big heart saying "Jaao Jaao, go on, hurry up!". We got the taxi ticket, rushed out of the airport boarded a taxi, and off we go out of the international airport into the city.

Since it was early morning, the roads were empty and we were able to rush. "Rush rush rush, bhaiyya!", I was requesting the driver, as the other person sitting besides me was silent and thinking.

"Why don't these two airports have a fast internal connectivity like a train or something?", I said. "This is a must, specially if there is so much of traffic flowing between these airports".

"They will take another 5-10 years to even think about this problem, lest the solution", said the person sitting beside me.

That could be true. Things have a tendency of working really slow in India, and basic infrastructure needs are too high in our country. But slowly and steadily we are getting there.

Finally, after 10 minutes, I could see the domestic airport glittering in a distance. I recognized it. Stopped, and rushed towards the entrance of the airport. The policeman sitting on the entrance gate was the next hurdle. He was sitting on a long round revolving chair with pretty much no work, as I made it to him quickly.

"I have to checkin GoAir". I said.

"Aah, the checkin for GoAir flights is not done on this floor". He replied.

"Then where is it?".

"You see a small gate there?". As I tried to see in the direction he was pointing out. "Go there and there is an elevator which will take you a level down. There is a terminal entrance there, where GoAir checkin counters are".

"Bahut bahut shukriya", I replied thanking him. Had to bid a goodbye to my taxi partner as he would check in from the same floor, and ran towards the shown direction.

Reached the terminal below that level and of course, I had to encounter another policeman there, right? Yes, I did encounter two of them at the same gate and there was a huge queue as well. I had around 20 minutes in the flight take off now.

"Boss, I have a flight to take, I am running late, can you please check my identity first and let me in?", I moved to the front of the queue and requested one of the policemen.

"Why do you guys have to come late and then rush rush?", he retaliated.

"My international flight was late, it is not my mistake. Please do it quickly?".

"Okay okay", as he looks at my e-ticket and passport, and allows me, "Chalo, jaao".

Inside, I am run to find the GoAir checkin counters, run through the security scan of my baggage, and reach the counter in time.

Another round of requesting, a couple of people in the queue, my luggage was checked in just in time as I could see another couple checking in for the same flight. I was well relieved.

Security check was next, and boarding followed - even as the display panels didn't show anything about my flight, or probably showed "Boarding closed" even while the boarding had not started.

In any case, I reached the airplane and found a nice person sitting next to me. I asked him, since how long have you been seated and the reply was "Not since a long time, the bus just came a couple of minutes before". He asked me why I was asking that, and I ended up repeating the entire incident to him, retrospectively and happily.


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