Thursday, May 24, 2012

Summer Travel Travails

When things go wrong they really go wrong. And being summer holiday time many things are bound to go wrong. The only holidays I have ever had (ever!) had been during summer. And in summer when the city swelters with heat, water is scarce; we all board our trains to our villages, which inevitably are as dry as the government's canals in the Thar desert.

The first hurdle is obtaining the tickets. The damn bloody tickets won't come your way even if you queue up at 4 a.m. in the morning. I book tickets; my waitlisted ticket doesn't show in the confirmed list. The neighbourhood tout promises to deliver a confirmed ticket for 1200 a person. Idiot. I would travel by air for that money. By now my plans are getting a bit wonky, never mind. I travel by air. I worked all those late hours and travelled in crowded compartments not for nothing.

So I buy air tickets. The pilots' strike is on but Air India is selling tickets left and right. As a sucker for cheap fares I book Air India Express tickets. But what do I know? At the airport, the Air India airhostesses sit and chat with smug expression on their faces. I wait for my flight to show up on the screen. Why isn't my flight IX 204 showing though many are taking off? Not even a sorry, cancelled announcement! But the superciliousness of the Indian national airline becomes obvious when I approach the counter staff:

"I have a ticket for IX 204"

"Sorry, sir, I don't know if it is cancelled, let me check."

He calls his buddy on the mobile phone. He has no other computer system where he can check if the flight is cancelled. This buddy of his must be checking with his buddies, and those buddies must be checking with their buddies. So on and so forth.

After fifteen minutes of waiting, I am told the flight is cancelled. Imagine my shock. I had spent nearly 1000 quids on the taxi, another day lost and I am told after waiting 4 hours that my flight is cancelled. Those pilots need one in their posteriors, for sure.

Then I had no alternative but to approach the tout. He gladly accepted Rs 1200 and gave me the ticket the next day. Shows me that in India only corruption works nothing but corruption. Everybody in the government machinery shields the corrupt because they have the power, the money, and the contacts.

Now, my leave has been cut into half by these shenanigans. The short holiday I have is also fraught with perils. I return to Bombay with a bad stomach (too many mangoes!), a nasty cough and, a general feeling that I am losing touch with the world.
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