Farewell India and the Phantom Flight, 27th September 2010


My flight no longer exists. It hadn’t for months. 5am in Kolkatta aiport and I had not been informed. I protested, the man from Bangladesh airways was a shifty sort. Eyes darting around the place. I wouldn’t buy a used dosa from this bloke. I demand Bangkok! Today! Or else! Feel my fiery wrath! We went through the whole routine. I wanted his name, his managers name, I even took the porters name (to which the porter look bemused and a little wary).

At one great moment, he called what sounded like a talking prayer line and pretended to be talking to the ‘Regional Sales Executive’. I could hear the music coming from his mobile, a truly absurd moment.

The airline duty manager shouted down the phone at me and then hung up. I must admit, I had a sinking feeling, Bangladesh Airways was about to let me down. I kept the embers glowing and wouldn’t give in, at one stage I disturbed a meeting of men who looked like pilots and sat down at the desk, clinging on and proclaimed “I shall not be moved”. Finally, I had something in life to fight for. They refered to me as ‘you people’ this was prejudice, I would show these bungling bureaucrats what ‘us people’ are made of (I’m not sure what ‘my people’ actually characterised, which stereotype am I fulfilling here?  Who am I fighting for?  It didn’t matter, I was right!) I would stick it to the man, with style. I became Kali incarnate.  Roar.  Growl. 

After 4 hours of this nonsense and a constant barrage of bullshit from the airline, it all sorted itself out very quickly and we became friends.  We shared Chai and orange biscuits, we talked of Manchester and Wayne Rooneys penchant for dodgy prostitutes. They seem to respect me for having such a bastard ability within. I had triumphed over the behemoth of Bangladeshi Airline bureaucracy.

Kingfisher Airlines actually rescued me.  Up-graded to business class non-the-less.  This after 6 months of slagging off their poor attempt at fizzy pop beer. 
This is my least favourite airport, more of an assault course, a test of resolve, than an apparent service environment.  From the dour officials, to the stray cats in the departure lounge, sniffing at my greasy kathi roll.  I was vigorously searched and asked questions like “what are these batteries for?”, what is this (the answer, ‘this a wallet’) etcetcetc.  The man with the hand-held metal detector thing seemed surprised when it beeped over my crotch region.  He was not the only one.

In the end, the duty manager actually came to the departure gate to wave me off. Smiling, he seemed genuinely sad to see me go.  Six months in India and I’m non-the-wiser, but lighter in spirit.  Open to it all.  I’m leaving with a bottle of Cotes du Rhone from duty-free and a more whole heart.  A greater, broader sense of life, or having lived and a wonder for Mother India that will never cease.

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