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Monday, 31 December 2012

2012: A travelogue and last words ...

Wordle: Travelogue 2012
For those who tried to use calendars from mesoamerican times hoping for catastrophes 2012 has been quite a disappointment. Astronomical phenomena for stargazers were perhaps the most dazzling for the last year in its entirety.

In my personal life, there has been fire, something unquenchable, likening what was encountered at a burning bush long ago by an erstwhile prince of Egypt and a then shepherd. My last travel for the year was on 24-Dec-2012, and I landed between the days of 30-Dec and 31-Dec, perhaps to write this blog entry before it is too late.

I met Dad and Mom (Sunita, you'd better read this before shooting me down.) Dinesh was at his courteous best, as were his brothers. I should have spent more time with Tony, but I was too carried away by the sports facilities at PITS. I did give a guest lecture at PITS on the why engineering institutions find it difficult to meet what the industry needs. I find a very strange autism-like development in students of not interacting with the speaker (no it's not just me, there were others too.)

Christmas was Christmas with a choir that was sharp and flat without the right key or chord or scale, but hey, that's what happens when a choir practices not but sings in services to practice. The first kneeler in the church has not been repaired, with its legacy from Rev. William Blake of the 19th Century. That's not very comforting when the whole furniture is rickety and I was worried about dad.

I met a schoolmate, someone who's studied with me twelve (12) years in the same school. He was dreading a visit to a dentist, but all of us have to meet our dentists, don't we? I got a call from a college-mate of mine, a close friend - 'Scholar' translating his name to English, he never fails calling me for that is his courteousness, a quality I'd always wish to imbibe.

I find that IndiGo has slowly grown to become a reliable and courteous airline. Jet Airways has been soaking in losses but still remains the most hospitable airline running. GoAir, as usual packs as many people as possible in an aircraft with a scheme of deplaning that could be improved.

The low-cost airline segment is dying despite its increasing usage, and I can see that happening as the year draws close. Air India Express operates on reduced load on international flights after their first landing in Indian territory. They aren't the most secure, but they are insensitive to the fact that they have domestic passengers too. They would be my last choice in flying. This time, I didn't fly SpiceJet. None of my comments pertain to them as I haven't experienced them, suffice to say that they weren't flying en route.

All airliners can't serve an Espresso in the budget class (even for a price.) GoAir charges Rs.20 for water - reasonable you might say, but airliners and courtesy for the sake of cost have been taking alternate paths.

Chennai Airport, especially the domestic terminal does not have any decent lounges nor enough accommodation for the capacity it can carry. The facilities need a full-time upgrade, not patch-work, but that's stalled. That leaves the entire airport unhygienic, dirty, a little more respectable (guessing) than a Railway Station. The counters for each of the airlines to book tickets are very helpful, if I might add, more helpful than the Airport Authority's helpdesk itself.

The Airline counter for GoAir which I flew last, although closed for a long time, was most courteous. The stewardess at the counter was there 45 minutes prior to it being opened, perhaps for logistics. She gave me the time the counter gets opened and also blocked my seat before I checked in. That is the kind of courtesy I will never forget.

Chennai perhaps has the highest number of hoodlums outside claiming to run taxi services, just to take customers for a ride. Who knows what else can happen in these times when monitoring law and order is tougher. Why not have one government sponsored counter and one private fleet operator in the airport? This is perhaps a barrier to learning that keeps them away.

At all Airports, the security guards are helpful and take time to explain the "why" they can let you in, but not out, with infinite patience. I appreciate their services more than any steward or stewardess in their ivory towers. If you can have stewards inside the aircraft, I see opportunities to maintain the airport itself under the Airports Authority of India. People need courtesy especially when they're traveling. In simple psychology, all people are uncomfortable traveling and would rather be at the destination sooner rather than later.

When I took a cab late at night in Pune, the cab driver took the best possible route, saving me quite a distance. His rationale was that he'd be back for another pick-up or drop and earn far more than if he were to take me all around the city. I like the way he put forth his rationale and am most grateful.

At every point, I always received a Window seat, something I love while flying. From my experiences in 2001-2002 till date, I find that most engines haven't been replaced. The worst part is bad patches on the run-way, high air pressure and unmaintained squeaky ailerons, flaps that don't make you feel comfortable enough. The best part of my journey while reaching Trichy was the driver lowering the landing gear about a second before touchdown. Most others didn't seem perturbed, but considering that the runway is short, that was a scare.

Every once in a while, you find a random passenger in the waiting lounge who ends up on the same row with you. With all probability theory, this probably needs examination as I had some good company while flying back to Pune.

The GoAir flight commander Capt. Bhattacharjee as he introduced himself, decided to take a landing approach 235km away from the airport dropping his ground speed drastically, although we didn't have major visibility problems up until 30km away from Pune (which was 6km.) I would hope he lands in Ladakh once in a while to get that sorted out (on a simulator of course.)

Home, was always sweet home. Mothers make home sweet. Dad seldom shows how overjoyed he is when he sees me, so he silently tells mom. I met Judy girl who had injured herself during the cracker-mania during Diwali. For an Alsation, she's recovered soon. Her mate, Punch, is doing good, missing me, pretending to ignore me, and then playing with me for the love of dogs can never be hidden, certainly not themselves. They are family.

Heavy rain lashed on Saturday and perhaps during the late hours of Friday letting me have a nap longer than it  must be. The electricity scenario in Tamil Nadu is terrible. We, the people of India accept almost anything without question and that has become their trump card. Either they let us ignore them and if we don't then they frighten us and in the furthest they nullify us.

The toll-highways are a farce. The money came from the world bank and maintenance funds must be allocated through it. This was project "Golden Quadrilateral" in the time of Hon. PM Shri Vajpayee, but greed has taken all that out leaving toll highways everywhere possible. When there is a toll highway there must be an alternate, but there is none as this is the Golden Quadrilateral Project. Why do our elected politicians not attend to this thievery? They care not, for their own pockets are full and they don't mind paying.

I read "Pharoah" by Valerio Massimo Manfredi, which was most disappointing for I had high expectations after reading his series on "Alexander" (3 parts), "The Tyrant." It seemed ghost-written, lacked passion and style that he has always used.

Our driver at home has matured his driving style quite a bit, also getting used to our car. It was indeed a pleasure to be in the car whilst he was driving. Mom as usual laid all the planning to make sure I caught my first flight on time.

The best part of my travel is "How to spend 6 hours in an airport without getting thrown out by Security" which I intend to release as a separate book in itself. I have my observations on fellow-passengers perhaps those going home, some going for a quick vacation with all their concerns.

In a strange manner, 2012 is traveling out of sight and 2013 is coming in. What's in a number, which by any other symbol shall change naught! Yet, there's a lot in a symbol. The novelty and the change of the numbers of the year are for us to bring in change to ourselves at least while switching numbers in the calendar. Otherwise each day just follows the other and that recurrent change numbs us into routines that we never grow out of.

Das Vidanya!