Thursday, 8 September 2016

From old diary- When Delhi airport looked like a massive fair

I remember once one of the senior expatriate employees from my previous organization said while travelling somewhere in Delhi with me “so many people are there in India” and I replied “you are still to see the real crowd” and he was looking at me amused.

India, the country known for its people (its real strength), from restaurant to market to local festivals to organized big fairs, wherever you go you will find crowd. Buses and trains are exceptionally blessed with crowds now days irrespective of the new bus services starting or the new trains and special trains every now and then. Nothing is sufficient for the ever increasing crowd.

The scenario was a bit different for airlines few decades back or few years back to be precise. Few years ago, airlines belonged primarily to elite class of India and travelling through airway used to be a matter of pride for everyone. Thanks to increasing income of average Indians and increasing necessities of corporate and people preferring to save time on certain occasions, crowd is giving run to airlines as well.

I would like to share a similar sight when during one of my journeys from Delhi to Mumbai made me realize the crowd what it is all about. It happened few days back when I was scheduled to fly from Delhi to Mumbai and several flights were delayed due to operational reasons (J & K flood was the contributing factor of the delay as several pilots were on emergency duty).

The crowd was endless and it seemed unmanageable due to the airport being under complete renovation with weekend evening flights contributing to the chaos. Delay in several flights was the obvious reason of the rush at airport.

The airport had definitely turned into a sight of fair where crowd was ever increasing with every minute passing. You would hardly find a place to sit comfortably which made people sitting on stairs and people were lying alongside the boarding gates, near restrooms and wherever you see.

There was huge rush at every coffee and snacks stall. It looked like people have come to sip the world famous coffee which probably is not available outside instead of boarding a flight. All such vendors must be feeling blessed as well as stressed. Their staffs must be gunning for a job everywhere but at airport after witnessing such crowd. People were just restless and would not wait for their turn to get their orders which makes you realize the typical Indian crowd where everyone is just not patient enough and would break queues wherever possible. Sometimes, it seemed that tea, coffee and snacks are free of cost at airport which is provoking people to get them.

Mostly flights were delayed by at least 2 hours and even after been informed people would check the flight announcements at an interval of 5 to 10 minutes to avoid missing their flights. Probably they wanted to break the monotony of waiting. There were sights of stampede whenever a boarding started irrespective of whoever’s flight, there were several onlookers getting jealous of others’ boarding as if they are the only sufferers of the delay that day. Airport authorities had a run for their job for sure while managing the rush.

Even I was anxious and impatient and didn’t enjoy this delay unlike on a railway platform where crowd is bit different and more interactive with strangers and another reason is that most of the time I travel with family and friends by train which makes bearing such delays not that terrible.

The waiting became even more unbearable due to all shops closed other than of beverages and snacks. Window shopping at airport, the favorite time pass was not available. Entire food court was also shut down reducing the sitting space drastically impacting the rush.

Fortunately, after a few boarding I got a place to sit which I hurriedly occupied. I thought for a while that the waiting will be easier since I had few magazines with me to read. But, my dream shattered and I found a highly ranting and irritatingly noisy couple sitting next to me who was like endless chatterbox. They just kept on talking and I found their voice the most unpleasant one considering the overall situation. If talking had any strong relation with burning calories, I am sure this couple would have developed six packs by the time they would reach their destination. I suddenly found that, they were not alone joining the race being the most crowned chatterbox; several turned into PMPO based noise pollutants.

Anyway, as destined I had my share of impatience and wait and only after two and half hours of delay I boarded the flight and guess what the problem didn’t end here. Soon the flight steward announced whose otherwise pleasant voice, didn’t sound soothing as he announced delay of another 30 minutes in take off.

Several passengers got irritated and their anger started bursting on crew members. A lady sitting behind my row called the crew member and asked her to knock the pilot’s cabin to confirm the time of take off and was not ready to listen anything. She also demanded food and beverage services before take-off which crew member found it difficult to convince her that it’s not possible before the flight takes off. That lady also shouted many times and this made me realize the quality of training in hospitality industry, due to which the crew member although been humiliated kept smiling.

Passengers started clapping once the take off announcement was made, which was a unique sight to witness. Another two hours spent and flight landed followed by the rush towards pre-paid taxi counter at Mumbai. And, you would experience another sight to narrate in length here.

I am sure, this is an unforgettable experience and many of you must have confronted with such scenarios while travelling. In short, Indian crowd is unbeatable.