Of bureaucracy, and airports

Last month my wife and I had to go to Bengaluru to sign a document that could have been signed electronically. After all, we had uploaded all the required documents that the state government needed. But such are the ways of bureaucracies that they can, and often do, do you a good turn with one hand and undo it with the other. So off we went and spent a small fortune just to sign because, said the bureaucracy, you must come in person, never mind digitisation and all that. Thus far with technology and no further. It was annoying but after the long and enforced Covid break, welcome, too. A quiet request to a senior member of the state bureaucracy ensured that we were treated like VIPs and the whole business of “sign here please, and there, thank you very much” was over in 20 minutes. They even gave us a cup of coffee each.

It was all so smooth that we could have gone in the morning and come back the same day. But it became five days because we went over on a weekend so that we could visit the many relatives and a couple of friends. So although I might sound as I am complaining, on the whole it was an enjoyable five days, not least because of the hotel we stayed in on MG Road.

What was not enjoyable, however, was the airport experience, both in Delhi on the way out, and in ­Bengaluru on the way back. The ­reason: extreme crowds. In fact, the lines were so long that we nearly missed the outbound flight. We had forgotten to web check-in and our names were not showing up on the computer. It took the very nice check-in guy 25 minutes to sort it out by which time the line behind us was a mile long. But for us it was the line at the security that mattered and that was much longer — so long indeed that the airline sent an escort with us to take us through the business class line — which was absolutely empty. Not a soul.

The airline had changed the gate, but because of short staffing due to Covid, not announced it. As nasty tricks go, it was a nice touch.

But nothing is so simple in India. The policeman there refused to let us through. So my wife pulled the senior citizen card. It was only then that he took pity and let us through. We nearly had to run to the gate which was around 700 metres away. Huffing and puffing we collapsed on the seats in gratitude. When we caught our breath and looked around we saw there was hardly anyone there. “The flight seems empty,” said my wife and promptly pulled out her phone for her usual rest and recreation. I was gazing idly at the departures board when suddenly I saw something that made me leap up, yelling at my wife “chalo, chalo”. She, poor thing, was so surprised that she did something she rarely ever does — listen to me. The airline had changed the gate, you see, but because of short staffing due to Covid, not announced it. As nasty tricks go, it was a nice touch.

Anyway we hastened over to the new gate and managed to board — ­sitting eight rows apart in middle seats. Our cup of joy was running over. I will not bore you with the details of our return flight. Suffice it to say that it was nearly the same. But there is always a positive side to everything because when I narrated our saga to a friend, I learnt an entirely new phrase. “Aah” she said, “revenge tourism”. I asked her what that meant. It’s the people’s revenge, she said, for not being allowed to travel for so long.

So, folks, go ahead and take your revenge but make sure you reach the airport four hours in advance and, yes, don’t forget to web check in — and keep checking to see if they have changed the gate. Because that’s what they did on our return which meant an hour long wait before the new gate became operational. Cooped up in the plane after landing for 27 minutes and waiting for suitcases for 45.

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