Abu Dhabi Diary: Part One
Finally people, landed in Abu Dhabi safely and it has been quite a pleasant homecoming. Its been a long two years since I last left these foreign shores, and no number of visits will take away the feeling of awe I get each time I disembark from my flight.
I still haven't been out for my customary walking tours of the shopping malls and parks. Those will, I am sure, yield many an exciting mail in themselves. However this time I would like to talk about my experiences from Chennai to Pavaratty, the quaint corner of Kerala I call home, and then on to Abu Dhabi.
My journey started from Chennai, and with Dawood around it wa bound to be an eventful one. This time though the provider of confusion was my travel agent. He told me that I was confirmed for the Allepey express, while the ticket was actually confirmed for the Trivandrum Exp. So Dawood left for the station early with one of my bags, while I followed him later by auto. I told him of course that my train was the Allepey express. And as will always happen when you need to reach somewhere on time, I chose the one auto guy who did not know how much fuel he had. We huffed and puffed and croaked our way to the station a full lavish three minutes ahead of time. Unfortunately that was when I came to know that I had the train name wrong. However I was just able to catch up with the train. My coach was S10 which put a whole new dimension to the stamina I need to run that much. So there I was on the Trivandrum Exp. while Dawood was dutifully waiting at the Allepey Exp. with a bag too. Anyways we parted ways such.
I was one senti session and one bag short. Of course the added bonus was that I did not have a morsel to eat or a drop of water or anything on me. I was banking on getting something to eat on the train. By the grace of the CEO of all things up there, and a dutiful train server, I made it to a veg. meals and a water packet. If you have been tuned into recent going ons you would know that the average drinking water has enough pesticide in it to put a coil of Mortein to shame. But a fulfilling packet ofdiluted pesticide nonetheless.
After a brief sojourn at home which included some hearty sumptuous meals and some quick catch up with relatives it was back to Cochin at 2:00 in the morning for my flight. And from the wword go at the airport I was treated to some vintage Air India service. Dont think I am cribbing or anything but, after ten minutes of trying to be optimistic and patriotic I had to admit that these guys really know how to make a customer contemplate suicide. (Which I guess they could do by drinking a lot of bottled water...)
The lines of people where going to hell. They guy at my counter was maybe ten minutes away from his retirement and was so slow in issuing the boarding pas, it was like watching Chris Harris bowling to Rahul Dravid on the first day of a test match. People were jostling for space everywhere, as if the frist ten passengers got a refund or something. And the irony was that there were atleast three or four counters vacant with a whole lot of AI staff who did not looked particularly occupied. Anyways that through, the rest of the stuff was pretty ok. Cochin Airport is pretty cool. (And that is with no mallu partiality...)
The next site of interest was the plane itself, an Airbus 310-300 I think. And again AI really surprised me with their callousness, and in the case of the Air Hostesses utter ferocity towards passengers.
Now generally the Gulf-Kerala sector is particularly unglamourous with most people on their first flights and a lot of wives going to meet husbands and so forth, a glorified, bed-bug-less KPN bus if you will. But even then the neglect they showed towards the passengers was incredible. I suppose if you need AI to pay any attention you either have to be on a Delhi-New York flight or look very rich and loud in First Class. But your terrycot sari and banana chips accent will get you spite at best. The Air Hostesses had contempt if you ask me. And many passengers were as uncomfortable as Ganguly facing a Brett Lee special in Guyana or some such place.
I could write a whole lot on how well "hosted" we were on the plane. But,as with many things Indian, there was a real silver lining to the whole thing. The flight supervisor, a Mr. Derek Aranha, and Tamilian guy cabin crew member were delightful to watch. Mr. Derek was all smiles and grins for the ladies, and jokes and cuddles for the kids. Really helpful and I felt great just watching him handle all these newly wed brides and paranoid grandmas with their baggage. The tamilian was all sweetness but without the smiles. The guy had this really stern look which some of the sweetest people have. Something like the yankee actor Steven Seagal, even when he's saved the day and got the girl, he still looks like he's being electrocuted through somebody part outside the frame.
One poignant moment was when a small girl sitting a few rows away from me was trying to buckle her seat belt, and was looking around for help. The air hostesses, as I mentioned before, all acted particularly pissed at being forced to both fly on a plane AND help people, to earn their salary. The small girl however worked it out on her own and then had this big bright grin on her face. When she grows up and things of the her first plane ride she will probably remember having to do things the hard way. Not the sweet smile of an Air Hostess, like the ads make out. It was a relief to land in Abu Dhabi and be out of that cabin. We are probably the cruelest to our own. However Mr. Derek Aranha, if you are reading this, hats off to you man.
And once in Abu Dhabi of course all our former co-passengers who had trouble with queues back in Cochin now found it increasingly easy to fall in a perfect line. When faced with a local UAE policeman, who will shoot first, cancel visa later and then deport the body back home when he feels like, following the rules to the letter pays. Maybe democracy isnt all its cracked up to be.
Moral of the story: Back in abu dhabi after two years. And I am sure there will be a lot more to write to all in the days to come. Stay tuned. Make love not war.