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A Sweet Homecoming

Nirmala Garimella

Folks, I am back from India and what a return. I can weave a story on my two days at Delhi and one venue. The Indira Gandhi International Airport. Here is the scenario. On the morning on August 27th, I am at the airport at 1.30 in the morning waiting to catch my flight back which takes off at 4.30 am. Courtesy - Air India. I trudge along my two sleepy, disgruntled kids and myself with my large suitcases filled with masalas, pickles and of course you guessed it right, Dilli ke mast mithai and enter the place. Lo behold, I see a suspiciously long line near the baggage screening area. A 100 passengers before me ! where did they all come from, I wonder and all of them tell me they are travelling Air India. After an hour and a half, I come closer to the x ray section and am amazed at the sight. Boxes and boxes of sweets on the ground at security. Are they having a last minute sale here, I wonder. It turns out that each and every piece of baggage was being checked and for what. Milk based sweets that were routinely being searched and thrown away. Out. Imagine 100 passengers and an average of 5 to 6 suitcases per family. Unlock, search, lock and then go through the Xray machine. It was a sight to behold. People were yelling, screaming, some women cried and broke down and the Air India personnel looked on and even one of them laughed. “Khao Khao, Maaza karo” she saucily said to the security. I lost my own little kilo of kaju katli that I had lovingly brought for my better half.

I am sorry the story is not yet over. When I reached the check in line there is mysteriously no one at the counter and 10 people ahead of me. After a good half hour a man comes to announce that the flight was overbooked and we had to stay for another day to catch the flight home. No apology, no communication. We are packed to the Radisson Hotel and dumped in the early hours of the morning. An Air India personnel who is there 24 hours in the hotel will answer our queries, we were informed. Is he there? The lobby manager is clueless and so is everybody else. When will he come? nobody knows. I give up and call Air India office. Thank fully a lady answers and goes through the motions on the computer and confirms my ticket for the next day. In the backgroud I can hear voices in Hindi. Bolo, complain karne ko Government of India Ko. Hotel mein aadmi nahi hai kya. Kon inke prashan ka uttar dega.

I make it the next day and after raising my voice enough, get an upgrade. The others are not so lucky and we travel for a good nine and half hours to London thanks to the Pakistani air space closed to Air India to fly over it. A journey to remember or forget. I make up my mind, never to travel Air India again and before I even utter the thought, the man at the Radisson hotel informs me that Lufthansa had offloaded almost a 100 passengers that day!

A sweet homecoming nevertheless ! even without the kaju katli

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