This time it was the turn of Vistara, an airline in which I hold a frequent flier status and chose to take a flight the other day to Chennai. The flight left Kolkata at the scheduled 20.50 hrs, a mere 10-15 minutes’ delay usually condoned by the fliers.
The flight landed at 23.05 hrs, a couple of minutes before the scheduled arrival, as I joined the impatient crowd to switch on the cell phones, a few doing so as usual even before the customary announcement of the cabin crew. The overhead bins were opened as passengers hurriedly looked for their luggage, as if it may get lost if not taken immediately.
No one knew that the ordeal had just begun, as the waiting went on and on, with an incomprehensible announcement of something to do with runway and mumble of an apology. The substance being, ‘just wait,’ which we all did. No! The cattle class could not murmur, complain, nor whisper for joining the dreaded ‘no-fly list,’ at the slightest expression of exasperation of fliers. All held, with a painful and forced smile and waited…and waited, standing on the aisle all the while.
The gate opened, and we disembarked the stairs and were in the farthest corner of the international airport. Had the plane landed in Trichy of Coimbatore because of runway congestion in Chennai? I was for a moment scared, as my nephew had come over even at this uncivilised hour to pick me up. It was now the turn of the bus, packed with passengers like sardines to go on and on for nearly 15 minutes. Were we being hijacked? I looked around, to see that none were as imaginative with alacrity as me. Many were dozing off standing! We successfully arrived at the domestic terminal.
With a feeling of vanquisher, I picked a trolley and moved to the nearest point, where the luggage appears on the carousel like a protesting child from her mother’s womb. I even disregarded the usual recalcitrant fourth wheel that refused to heed to my directions, moving mockingly in just the opposite path. The trolley forgot that I was from Kolkata, and was used to only this type of wobbled movement. It was a nail-biting wait, much like I waited and walked listlessly in front of the maternity ward when my daughter was born.
It was a long wait again for nearly thirty minutes or longer when the belt came to life as I sharpened my sleepy eyes to identify a small suitcase, a model which seemed to be the choice of every other passenger too! Because of the delay in the arrival of luggage from our flight, the big brother Air India sneaked in, and we had a sudden crowd-swell from an adjoining belt towards our designated one nearly dislodging me. I would have none of the nonsense and held to my ringside place as the crowd slowly waned with their possessions. The spitting of luggage from the mysterious dark depths reduced in its frequency. I cried with joy and sadness “Why say god, that my luggage had to be the last every time?” My suitcase finally made an appearance, lost out in the long marathon, but defiant and dignified to finish the race!
In between, there were calls from my worried wife, to seek the reason of my delay, wondering if the police have confiscated the ‘mishti-doi’ that she had packed surreptitiously inside my suitcase, increasing my already high pulse rate. ‘What if it had leaked and spoiled my papers for the presentation the next morning?’ I shuddered, suddenly more faithful to god.
I made victoriously out of the airport, unknowingly making a ‘Karthi Chidambaram-like-fist-salute’ to my happy nephew. I guess the airlines and the airport will treat the late-night passengers with more compassion in future.