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Friday, January 29, 2010

Edition 9: Same Indians

Last week I saw two very contrasting pictures. Both the events happened at the international airports. One outside India and the other inside India. Same set of people were the protagonists in both cases. When it came to boarding at the International airport, the crowd (mainly of either NRIs/PIOs or resident Indian visitors) was so well behaved. They complied with every specified norm either at security, or immigration. I saw a family. They had got their packed lunches. They took utmost care to eat the same properly without spilling. They threw the disposable plates in bins. They were using tissues. They were not making much noise. All was going well. Flight was delayed. Since it was an India bound flight, the airline did not bother to make any announcement or regrets for delay. Though we heard similar regrets/announcements for flights to European or US locations even for a 5-10 mins delay. The passengers to India-bound flight were mainly Indians. We were segregated after getting boarding passes in the waiting area. Amongst say 200-300 people there was single a rest room and at least 100 seats short. Thus many were standing. Airline did not bother after repeated complaints. Crowd though was well behaved and quiet. Soon after an hr and half of delay, flight was boarded systematically. The flight reached Mumbai. The view as you enter Mumbai airport is disgusting. All huts, unclean alleys etc get zoomed as the plane lands. There is chaos everywhere. First we could not get runway so plane was circling around Mumbai. Then upon landing we did not get terminal. We sat inside plane for almost 20 mins of course with the smell of disinfectant which airlines spray as we near Mumbai.
Finally we got the terminal and then you could not wonder if it was the same crowd earlier. People started rushing out. They never bothered if anyone was hit by overhead cabin luggage while they were taking it down. They rushed outside. First look of Mumbai airport has to be always dealt philosophically especially returning from world class terminals like Changi. Life is greatest leveler. We are reminded that one should get inspired by a great sight but one should not get disheartened by grotesque. Mumbai airport can be defined as one such sight. The white tiles render a toilet feel for people already suffering from constrained bowel movements arising out of disgusting food, varied time zones, disturbed body clocks, intoxicants.....
The same crowd gets smells of India and they start behaving differently. They say when you go to Rome behave like Romans. They try to cut queues. They fight over trolleys which are out-numbered by travelers. They argue with officers. Try to use tricks to fool customs. They fight over a best place over luggage belt. The same crowd which was so behaved turns hostile. The same family i had witnessed started munching some snacks. They littered around. They left over some food on seat. They spilled water. They never cared. Added to all this, you suffer due to very humid, hot and polluted Mumbai weather. This really gives a room for analysis and introspection. Why do we behave differently abroad and in India. Why cannot we have better planning? Why cannot we learn? We are very proud of being Indians but we really need to learn to be more civil, clean. We may be a poor country to afford airports like changi but still we can at least keep things clean and disciplined. I am sure most of travelers feel same as they return to India. All this should start with self. And miles to go before we sleep.
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