I am back after a week-long sabbatical. That reminds me, ever tried doing absolutely nothing? I have. And trust me, it’s not at all easy. I have been jobless over the last week and I am absolutely looking forward to having something to do once again. It is so goddamned difficult to vegetate. I feel like I have lost a couple of IQ points over the last week. The only thing that kept me sane was the news. I know that sounds pathetic, but it’s absolutely true.
Anyway, my last post was on Pottermania, something that I had written during my 9-hour long flight to Bombay. However, I spoke very little about the flight in itself. I would like to register my disappointment in, and utter lack of professionalism on India’s celebrated national carrier, Air India. Agreed, my experience with international airlines is rather limited. But, even in comparison with the not-so-good Delta Airlines, and the slightly better Air France, I can say that travelling by Air India is the worst experience one can ever have. Where do I start? Right! The baggage check-in. Air India must be the only blasted airline in the whole wide world that actually weighs your hand baggage. After a ten minute-long argument with the in-charge at CDG on my baggage, I was forced to chuck some clothes to bring my baggage weight down from an alleged 26 kilograms to 23 kilograms. First of all, I had serious doubts about the accuracy of the scales. It is difficult to lift a suitcase that weighs 26 kilograms. I could lift mine quite easily. I am pretty sure it was only about 22. Then came her problem with the tiny silver Ganesha idol I was carrying in my suitcase. She refused to let me check it in on the grounds that it was considered a cultural artefact and that I would have to declare its value at the customs counter at Bombay Airport. After much argument, which involved me telling her I would handle Indian Customs if the need arose, she allowed me to check it in. By the time I was done with that woman, I was so pissed off with the Airline that only excellent service could salvage their reputation in my eyes.
Then came the flight itself. What can I say about it? It was a Boeing 767 bought by Air India sometime in the 1970s. And, it has never seen the inside of a mainenance shed since then. The window edges were blackened and rusted and the wallpaper (or whatever you call it) was peeling off from everywhere. To top it all, the aircraft smelled of ginger, garlic, onions and fish, mixed with sweat and cheap perfume worn by its illustrious passengers from Newark, its original airport of departure. As for the pillow and bedsheet provided, the less said, the better. It smelled like my grandmother’s old saree that had been abandoned at the bottom of the attic for several years. In short, the flight was the dirtiest and worst-kept I have ever seen.
Now, all this brings me to my overarching concern. What image does the illustrious national carrier present to the rest of the world? I do not know if India is shining, but after that flight, I can say with conviction that Air India definitely is not shining.