There are places I remember all my life,
Though some have changed
Some forever, not for better
Some have gone and some remain. . .
In case you have been wondering about the break in blogging, wonder no more. I have been on the road. Last week, I was first in Mumbai and then I was in IIT Kanpur.
Visiting IIT Kanpur was a bittersweet experience. The place was at once both familiar and totally unfamiliar. The place had not changed all that much since I was a computer science student there a lifetime ago, but I had changed. What had changed was not in front of my eyes, but rather behind my eyes.
There were ghosts there as I wandered Hall V, where I lived. “Misty watercolor memories, for the way we were …”
Always afraid of unpredictable traffic, I invariably end up too early for my flights. So it was that I was at the Chattrapati Shivaji International Airport in Mumbai two hours before my flight to Lucknow.
Everything in Mumbai will eventually be named “Chattrapati Shivaji” this that or the other. Makes me wonder about the paucity of either heroes or imagination, not just in Maharashtra but also in India at large. I have noticed that a large and significant number of institutions and programs around the country are named after Nehru or his progeny. Indira Gandhi this, Rajiv Gandhi that, Sanjay Gandhi the other, … the list is endless and enraging. At the meeting I attended the next day in IIT Kanpur, one participant must have mentioned the “Rajiv Gandhi Gram Vikas Yojana” at least a hundred times.
Makes one wonder.
Anyway, I sat around in the airport terminal. I noticed a huge big sign which read “ISO 9000:2000”. Don’t know what it means but they must consider it a big deal. I am guessing it is some sort of certification which says that the airport meets some standards. Must be pretty low standards, whatever it may be. I have been to around 30 international airports and none of them had that sign and they were all much better than the Chattrapati Shivaji International Airport.
The noise standards must be pretty low because the noise levels were pretty high. First, there was the nearly continuous high decibel announcements telling passengers to proceed to “sec-your-itty” checks. These were interrupted by airlines announcing the “last and final boarding calls” even though they make at least half a dozen of them for the same flight.
As if that irritation was not enough, they have TVs scattered around that are set at volumes that can only be suitable for the severely hearing impaired. Or it can make you severely hearing impaired if you are not.
I trudge through the security check. Walking through the metal detector, I stand while the cop runs a beeping handheld scanner over me. A couple of stamps on my boarding card and I am done. I pick up my laptop bag after its journey through the x-ray machine. The cabin baggage tag on my laptop bag is also stamped.
I walk about ten feet and a police lady takes a look at my boarding pass to check if it has been stamped. Then she reaches for my laptop bag to check if the baggage tag on it has been stamped. I go through and end up in the passenger holding area. The “Last and Final Calls” for my flight begin. I wait till nearly all passengers have gone through the boarding gate and walk to the gate. A police lady checks for the stamps on my boarding pass, and then checks the baggage tag on my carry on for a stamp. Yes, the stamps are still there. I step through the sliding glass doors and wait to board the bus to take me to the plane. The bus arrives. Before I board the bus, an airline person with a walkie-talkie checks my boarding pass for the stamps and then checks the baggage tag on my laptop to see that it is stamped.
It is a short ride to the parked aircraft. I get off the bus and the nice airline person at the bottom of the stepladder takes my boarding card, retains half of it, and then – you guessed it – checks my laptop bag tag to see if it has been stamped.
I feel very “sec-your.” After all, didn’t they check that flimsy paper tag on my bag half a dozen times between my passing through the security scan and my actual entry into the plane? All sorts of nefarious things could have happened but were prevented by frequent checking of a stamp.
Like the cargo cult version of democracy we practice in India, we also do what I consider the cargo cult version of security. The thinking must be that if you behave as if you are ensuring security, magically security will happen somehow. It is the sort of thing that makes people pray: wish for a thing fervently enough and it may be granted to you magically.
[To be continued]