Travel Made Difficult

If life is at stake, it is best to avoid risk. Therefore, when I got an SMS from IndiGo airlines (a private Indian airline) which informed me that my flight (6E – 3645) was delayed, I did not complain. But I would have been happy had they informed me the reason for the delay. Later, just out of curiosity, when I inquired about it, I got to know that fog was responsible for the delay. Fog affects the visibility of the pilot, so they would not fly in this condition. That was quite all right. It is better to save our lives than to put it at risk. No one wants to die. I was also told that as soon as the visibility was clear, the flight would depart. The otherwise sparsely crowded airport in Guwahati (namely Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport) was fully packed today, and people were still coming in. The flight was scheduled to depart from Guwahati at 3:10 PM and arrive in Delhi at 6:20 PM. The departure time was revised to 3:55 PM. Then it was further revised to 5:10 PM. Another revision: 5:55 PM. Yet another revision: 6:30 PM. The flight finally departed a few minutes after 6:30 PM.

While I was getting the SMSs of the revision of the departure time of my flight, there was another flight that was getting delayed. I was receiving SMSs for that as well. I had a connecting IndiGo flight from Delhi to Mumbai (6E 665). The actual departure time of my flight from Delhi was 9:30 PM and it was supposed to reach Mumbai at 11:35 PM. The revised departure time for the Mumbai bound flight was 11:30 PM. It was again revised to midnight. Further revision: 1 AM. One more revision: 1:30 AM. One final revision: 12:30 AM. But the flight actually departed at 2 AM and reached Mumbai at 4 AM.

I had booked my tickets two months back. It is with some considerations, some thoughts that I did so. I made some plans about the things I wanted to do. Now that I was not going to reach my place in time, all my plans were ruined. But, yet, I did not complain. I was only sad. However, other passengers in Delhi were furious. I saw a young girl, an old woman, a middle-aged man, complain about the inconvenience caused to them by the airline. Some wanted immediate compensation, refund, replacement, etc. Delhiites are vocal about their rights, it seemed. Some of the customers, to be properly heard and informed well, even entered the customer care representative’s cabin and shouted, which I thought was uncivil. No proper information was, however, given to the customers. I saw a customer service officer argue and disrespect few customers. I am not sure how true the logic that customers are always right is, but in the present situation the customers did have a right to protest and seek a reliable answer. I think the representative was new to work and needed more time to learn. There were other representatives who seemed to understand what the customers had to say and they tried their best to be good and be of service.

After reaching Mumbai, I was trying to get my bag at the baggage conveyor belt. My bag could not be seen. But still I hoped that my bag would come. Alas, it never did. I went to the Indigo baggage counter and told a lady there that my bag was missing. I was given a document to file my complaint. The document was called Property Irregularity Report. The lady asked me to provide the description of my bag. I told her it was a blue coloured duffle bag. “Which brand is it?” She asked. “Skybag,” I answered. The lady at the baggage counter kept the original copy of the report and handed me the xerox copy.

I was not the only person who had lost his bag, there were two others also. One was a girl and the other a man. The girl came from Delhi and had to write an exam in Mumbai. Her exam hall ticket and a few other important documents were in the bag she had lost. She said she had a medium size bag. The man, accompanied by his wife, on the other hand, had lost two bags (one large-sized and one small). The girl who was to write her exam a few hours from now was bewildered and angry. She kept asking the lady at the baggage counter to give her bag immediately. She was not easy to pacify, after all she had an important exam to write and only she could know what she was going through. The lady at the baggage counter said, “Give me some time, let me see if your bag is at the Delhi airport.” When the girl asked the lady how much time she needed. The lady answered that she needed two hours. “Two hours!” The girl said in disbelief. “You need two hours just to tell me if my bag is at the Delhi airport! I wonder how much time it will take for you to actually handover the bag to me.” The lady at the baggage counter ignored her and this infuriated the girl further. “Look,” the girl said, “I don’t have much time. I need my bag now!” This prompted the lady to immediately call the people at Delhi to find out the whereabouts of the girl’s and of mine and of the other person’s bags. The lady confirmed that my bag was still lying in foggy Delhi, but she could not say anything about the girl’s bag and that of the man’s (and this gave the girl more reason to foam at the mouth and wail, but the man still remained calm, perhaps he did not have an exam to write few hours from now).

I asked the lady at the baggage counter when could I get my bag back. The lady said that my bag would come in the next flight from Delhi which departs at 6:30 AM and reaches Mumbai by 8:30 AM. It was 4:30 AM at that time. If I had to wait for the arrival of the next flight, I had to wait for another four hours. Already the flight was delayed by so many hours and the wait for another four hours seemed only to add insult to injury. I was exhausted. I wanted to sleep. I wanted to go home. I asked the lady at the baggage counter if it was necessary for me to stay back or was it possible if I go home and come back to the airport after sometime. But, as it turned out, I would not be allowed to get in the airport once I got out of it, unless, of course, I was travelling by an airplane from Mumbai. But the lady offered me an alternative: she said that I could go home and someone from IndiGo would bring my bag at my residence. I asked her how long will that process take. She said that the bag would be brought to me soon. I said how soon. She said very soon. I said how very soon. She emphasised, “very, very soon, sir!” I was, however, not sure how long that would take, for “very, very soon” may have a different connotation for her and a different connotation for me. I had a few stuff in the bag that were of immediate need. I could not make up my mind whether to go home or to wait. Seeing my confusion, the other man who had also lost his bag suggested that I should go home and take rest. I called up my girlfriend and she was also of the same opinion. I, therefore, decided to go home. I told the lady that I was going home and I asked her to send the bag to my residence. She said she would do so and she had given me a note where she had mentioned a number which I could dial to know the status of my bag.

I came home. Set the alarm of my phone for 8:30 AM (for that was the arrival time of the next IndiGo flight from Delhi to Mumbai) and went to sleep. My phone rang at 8:30 AM and gave me a start. I was drowsy and wanted to sleep more, but it was important for me to get up and get active. I dialled the number that the lady at the baggage counter of IndiGo gave me. This was the number: 7045591805. It was busy on another call. I tried again but it was still busy on another call. I tried after half an hour but it was still busy. I tried after another half an hour. This time it rang and immediately a smile came to my face, but as soon as the smile came to my face it also faded. The person whom I called disconnected the line after two rings. I was absolutely disappointed. I dialled the number again but now the number was not reachable. I tried to find the customer service number of IndiGo from the internet. I came across many numbers, tried one. After listening to an automated machine for a few minutes, the line finally got connected to a human voice. The person speaking to me on the other end announced that his name was Mukesh. He tried to listen to me however, perhaps from habit, could not help but interrupt me every time. Suddenly, without even telling me anything, he put my call on hold and vanished. I held on the phone for 15 minutes and finally gave up. All this only increased the already heightened level of anxiety in me.

I once again tried calling on 7045591805 many more times but it was either busy or, when it rang, someone disconnected the line, or, now a new problem, it was switched off. I tried the customer service number once again. I had to wait for five minutes before finally getting connected to a customer service representative. A female spoke. I told her what had happened and she offered to help me. She gave me two contact numbers and said that my queries would be answered to my satisfaction if I called on those numbers, but, as it turned out, those did not concern the department I had to get in touch with. They catered only to international flights. I only wasted my money and time by trying to get my queries solved. Then I tried finding more numbers on the internet, and got connected to a few. One department after the other said that it was a different department that was answerable to me. Their peculiar way of evading their responsibility irked me. I expected them to provide me solutions instead of excuses, and they miserably failed. I would have been better off if I had traveled by a train instead of an aeroplane. That way I could have saved my money and energy and would not have gone through all this unwanted problems and frustrations. Though I have travelled by plane many times, but the experience I had this time was the worst so far. Now I would think twice, gauge all other good possibilities, before travelling by a plane. The whole day I was restless, but the day was over, and the next day followed.

The next day was a Sunday and I had to go to the University of Mumbai where I am doing a part time course on Human Rights, and the airport of Mumbai is not very far from the university, so I decided to drop by the airport after attending my lectures to know the status of my bag (though, of course, I had to incur the cost of going there). But, I was lucky, a man called me up and informed me that he was looking for my flat in order to deliver my bag to me. I was relieved and very happy when I heard that. I told him that I was away from my flat but he could hand my bag over to my neighbour next door. He said he would do that.

After reaching my building, the first thing I did was visit my neighbour’s flat, get hold of my bag and examine it thoroughly for any damage or for anything that went missing. The strap was torn, but other than that there were no damages, the bag was still locked (as I did after packing all the stuff), and the key of the lock was in the side packet of the bag (as I kept it, and only I knew it). Everything inside the bag was well intact. Happy though I am after getting my bag but my thoughts reach out to those who miss a great opportunity in their lives (like the girl I mentioned above who might have missed appearing at an important exam she had prepared for) and those whose valuable is damaged/pilfered due to the flippant attitude and irresponsibility of some authority (like that of IndiGo).

Copyright © 2016 RAMU DAS

It Happens Very Rarely

The bureaucrats can betray us; can do anything with their prowess and by administering their powers wrongfully. Of course there are few exceptions. But what most of them do is only for their own benefit. Seldom can one catch them doing something unethical and illegal. Even if they get caught, they can easily get away with their misdoing, they have all the means as you, dear readers, may know. After all, aren’t the lawmakers the lawbreakers, and vice versa? I mean, they show the way: the wrong way, the selfish way.

But, I cannot help being happy now. This short story will elaborate the reason for my happiness… read it.

You see, I went to the MTNL office to pay my internet bill for the previous month. I asked the women on the billing counter to give me my bill. She was playing chess (or something) in her computer and didn’t pay me attention. Perhaps she thought I wouldn’t mind sitting there till she was done with her game. But I did mind, and I made my displeasure known. She left the game, and after muttering something under her breath and glancing at me disapprovingly, started looking for my bill in the computer.

“What’s you number?” she asked, meaning she wanted my telephone number by which she could get my information and printout my bill. I didn’t remember what my number was. However, I saved it in my cell phone, and so I took my cell phone out from my pocket and gave her the number. The woman was slightly deaf, for I had to repeat the same numbers thrice and I had to speak with all my strength.

She typed the numbers on the keyboard, and looked at the screen. I guess she was not only slightly deaf, but also slightly blind. Although the screen of the computer was really very big (twenty inches, I suppose), but she had to move her head as close to the monitor as it was possible. It seemed, as though, she would get inside it.

“You are,” She said looking gravely at me, “Ramu Das?”

“Right,” I confirmed.  Then she said that there were no bills pending. I thought she was joking. As far as I could remember, I didn’t pay the bill, and nobody would pay the bill on my behalf. I’m always on my own.

“Are you sure?” I asked.

“Hundred and ten percent, take my word for it!” she answered impatiently.

“Good heavens! How is that possible? Please check the database one more time,” I suggested. But by that time the women was already busy with her game. She raised her brow and gave me weird look, I was petrified. Why? Why isn’t she behaving in the right manner? Perhaps she has not known about the new philosophy that ‘customers are the kings and queens’. Doesn’t she care about her business? I thought.

“Ma’am, you need to be a little more diligent in your duty,” I blurted out. When she heard what I said she smiled by opening her mouth as far as it stretched. I saw she was absolutely toothless – a sign of old age. She, then, suggested that I should go to the left corner counter and speak with the gentleman reclining on his chair. “Out there,” she pointed out, “he might be able to help you.”

What, I didn’t need any help. In fact, I was the one trying to help them out, because as it seemed they made a mistake in their entries, and therefore, could not generate my bill. I felt it was my moral duty to speak the truth, so I did. I spoke with the gentleman. He said the same thing as the women.

I was happy, I considered myself lucky, moreover, I was in great need of money at the time, I had to take care of those needs, and the MTNL people proved to be a saving grace. Oh, it happens very rarely. I didn’t try to fool them by any means. But what should I say about their stupidity?

I think these MTNL people should get some vigorous training from the high level bureaucrats and politicians, especially from the officials of UPA (Under-Privileged Alcoholics’) government. Of course, in the mean time, they will also learn some Italian cuisine. And y-y- yes… some Italian political tactics as well. Ha! That goes without saying.

Copyright © 2012 RAMU DAS