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… And a Flight to Forget

Posted by RB Kollannur on February 12, 2009


Author’s Note: You can read the first part here.

HONK. HONK. The Volvo at the APTDC office announced itself ready for its ride to the airport. Not that it meant much. There were only four passengers and we were all deep into the complimentary copy of The Hindu they provided. The day before, one of my good MBA buddies (Thanks, Bugs) had recommended this bus service when I had mentioned I was planning to take a cab back to the airport.

As we passed through the Hyderabad city, I was astounded by the progress in the city in the last four years. I had felt Hyderabad had the better road network among the Southern Cities. But that was four years ago. The longest flyover then, at least to my knowledge, was the one in Begumpet. But that has changed completely. A long flyover connecting Begumpet to Panjagutta had surpassed it by a distance (Though I got stuck under it for over half an hour, because of some VIPs). Even more incredible is the new Begumpet flyover that now dwarves the old one by landing on old one. Then there is the 13 odd kilometer long freeway they are building connecting the city with the airport. The city is being build in an anticipation of a continuing economic upswing, unlike Bangalore were people have had to satisfice and wait for the infrastructure to be put in place later.

The airport is well designed. The lounge and the restaurants for the non travelers were open air and little birds were chirping in delight away from the hot sun. I had reached exceedingly early at the airport owing to the extra security expected. With not much to do, I checked out the airport.

There were two McDonalds and a Café Coffee Day for the fast food enthusiasts. Unfortunately, there was a power cut at McD and I had to settle for a sandwich from CCD for lunch. There were apparently five store Landmarks as well, though I only saw two. The recently (at that time) released “Imagining India” by the Infosys Chairman hogged the stands. 699 bucks! Instinctively put it down. Imagine an India where people can buy books worth 700 bucks. I finally settled down for KA Nilakanta Sastri’s “A History of South India”, though I have no clue how good the book is. The second history book in my library after Adrian Goldsworthy’s “In The Name of Rome” (An absolutely delightful and informative read).

Saina Nehwal was at the airport. She was headed for Vijayawada. This was the time when she still had a valid passport. I would have asked for an autograph, but I wasn’t sure where to ask for a signature. It was not like I would carry an autograph book around expecting to meet celebrities at the airport.

3:30 PM. The people for the 4:30 flight were called for. I got my luggage checked in and went onto the boarding area and waited for the airplane to arrive. The trip had gone well so far, though the result of the interview was still awaited. There were three more rounds, the last with their European parent, which happened after the close of work at the Hyderabad office. It was a bit awkward when I left the interview at 6:30 in the evening to see an empty, almost unlit office and a security guard waiting at the door to let me out. I met up with a couple of my MBA friends as well, one for dinner and the other for breakfast (He has a night shift job).

Things turned awry soon though. At four, the airplane was delayed by half an hour. Later airplanes were being called in to board. Every five minutes from then on, the airline added another ten minutes to the scheduled departure. I was a bit perplexed about the cause, since I was traveling by the same airliner (and I had assumed the same plane) to and fro. The later it got the more difficult it got for me to get back home, since I had to travel interstate.

6:30 PM. Finally the sign for boarding appeared and the relieved passengers were led to the airplane. Even while boarding, there was an unnecessary delay as some of the passengers were instructed to wait for the baggage trolley to arrive. Something about balancing the weight of the plane and preventing it from falling. WTF. The thought of the mechanical delay started weighing on me. The airplane was of a different make than my earlier trip, taken from its sister company’s roster.

Nervously, I waited for the flight to take off. The flutters in the stomach that had been comfortably vanquished the previous flight returned. The takeoff was not pretty, but I was glad to know we were up in the air. The lights took a long time to come back on.

Hang on, why are the windows slanted?

Then I realized the airplane was flying slanted. Do planes fly slanted, as though they were struggling to stay up in the sky? I recalled the statement while boarding about balancing the weight and prevent it from ….

Oh My God!

Everybody else seemed to be behaving normally, though. But then most of them were already asleep. Am I the only one who’s thinking the airplane may not reach back safe?

The airplane seems to finally evened out. A small sigh of relief. But not for long, as airplane continued on its slanted course. I tried to ease my mind with some music. But the first song was Sweet Home Alabama, as Steve Buscemi put it well in ConAir a song about a plane crash sung by a band who died in a plane crash. That eased my nerves, all right.

The air hostesses went on with their normal routines – Appetizers were served, trash taken away, flyers distributed. One of the air hostesses was cute, while the other looked average. Not much worth mentioning there. I was still tense as the airplane announced it was landing.

I gripped the seat belt strongly worried the plane is about to crash. The air hostess sitting in the front, the cute one, looked calm. Practically no emotion at all. The plane landed on the runway with an uncomfortable jerk. But it landed safely. I ran out of the plane and out off the airport to get some fresh air. Curiously, nobody got in my way as I hurried out of the airport. No security. Nothing.

The exit of the Coimbatore airport had an eerie feeling to it. It was desolate like a grave in the midnight. No autos, cabs and their like. No street light either (If there were, it was not well-lit). I had to walk on for ten more minutes through a dark road to spot any sign of life; near the highway to the city.

With some help from the people around, I managed to get a bus to the city. I got off the bus to a maze of bus depots. There was a depot for inter city buses, one for intra state buses and a flurry of tourist buses going around. In the midst of this muddle lay the inter-state depot which I was looking for.

I had got off at the inter-city depot where I was told I’ll get inter-state buses across the street. There I was informed to go to the other end of the depot, where I had to deal with the marauding tourist bus operators. Reluctant to shell out extra bucks for the tourist buses, I searched around for the inter-state depot.

One of the bus operators informed he had a ticket for a 9:15 bus. Fifteen more minutes. With no luck in finding the inter-state and only bus operators and clueless travelers to ask around, I finally took the ticket, partly relieved to be heading home soon. As he took the cash, he mentioned the bus was at 9:45 and not 9:15. Drained of every ounce of strength to protest, I reluctantly took the ticket and waited for the bus at the operator’s office.

9:40 PM. No sign of the bus. Annoyed at yet another delay, I asked the operator where the bus was. He kindly informed me the bus was at 10:45. The chap who sold me the ticket was an agent and had outright lied to me about the bus timings. Tired and angry, I waited for the bus to arrive, while trying to think if undue stress caused can be reasons to justify murder on grounds of temporary insanity or self protection.

While waiting for the bus to arrive, I found where the inter-state terminus was. The bus agents had carefully hidden it, by crowding in front of it. There weren’t many buses there either and I had mistaken it for just another shopping or office building.

The bus finally came at 11:00 PM and I somehow had all my senses functioning when I reached home at 3:30 in the morning. Another 90 minutes delay en route. Exhausted from the entire journey, I was finally relieved to just reach home.

As for the interview, I was later informed I didn’t clear it. The company, after going through my CV for over month, decided I lacked the experience for the role. At least, I got my travel expenses reimbursed, after waiting for two months, though three weeks were courtesy of the banks.

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