Of airports and other things Indian

February 26, 2000

Yes the airports are not as good as they ought to be. To me the reasons look simple. Indiais an over populated and not a rich nation. Keeping things clean require money which we unfortunately don't have for reasons that are not important in this context. I believe India is doing extremely well given the dynamics of the country. For example put the Indian situation (population) in any other country and I dare say that country will fail miserably and will not be able to cope as well as India does.

I have not travelled much but from my limited experience I can say that we tend to adapt manners. We are so well behaved and cleanliness conscious when travelling by say, Singapore Airlines, but our attitude towards cleanliness vanishes as soon as we board an Air Indiaflight. We stand in a queue and wait for our turn for the immigration check in Brisbane but we feel it not necessary in Bangalore. The reasons are not important, but the final result is what we see - not so "good to see, good to smell" surroundings.

I don't think we need to be ashamed of what we see in our airports or how our cities look. Given similar conditions I don't think any other country would have done better. We should strive to do better but then it takes time and it takes attitude and it takes money.

I think we, who have seen different countries, need to take responsibility. How many of us think of doing something and how many really do something for making India a better place? I am not complaining. But if Information Technology is flourishing in India it is because the country has a very skilled workforce (on a bright note) and because the labour is cheap (on a sad note). Multinationals come not because they like the country or its people or the surroundings, they come to make money and India is a good place to do just that. Show me one multinational that would turn away from a hen that is laying golden egg just because it is stationed in a poor shed? There aren't many, are there?

Privatisation is often discussed. I dread to think what would happen if the railways was subjected to this. There would be a definite increase in timeliness and cleanliness of the trains but it would directly increase the fares, which would make it difficult for a majority of Indians to travel. Privatization comes with a catch and are we prepared for this?

My point is not to say "I love my country the way it is" but to see "why it is the way it is". As I said before it requires attitude, effort and money not necessarily from the government but the people who make the country.

I just thought I would end with a note from my diary that I had written when I visited India for the first time from Brisbane. I think it captures an aspect of India that is not very important from materialistic point of view: "The journey to Singapore was pretty uneventful and I was in Singapore on the dot. For a change I saw so many India faces in Singapore that I was wondering if I was in India already! I had to change the terminals in Singapore and pick up my boarding pass and had a few minutes to spend when I saw a gentleman loaded with a bit too much luggage. I was wondering who he was when he came down to speak to me and I soon found that he was with IISc Bangalore. He was only talking about money and the number of countries that he had visited - these are things that I lose interest in very quickly and probably that showed up on my face, I am not sure, I tried to be polite and listen to him.

I had to sit with him for a little longer as the Air India craft that I was to take was delayed - I was just wondering if I was already in India when it was announced that we could board the plane. Finally I settled in my seat and was soon thinking why cannot the AI aircraft be as good as the Singapore airlines, when I spotted that it was the same us who were dirtying the aircraft, the same people who were so clean in the other aircraft. I am not very sure what went through my mind but I wished for India that the aircraft have been a little better.

I had settled in and soon dinner was served - I was a bit stuffy in the aircraft and was not feeling all that good and decided to skip my meal. I was just planning to make myself comfortable with a cup of coffee. The air hostess, I wish I asked her name so that I could mention it here, wanted to know what I would have, and my pre-prepared answer was spluttered out. I did not expect any reaction, but I was wrong. She was a bit adamant that I eat my dinner. Her argument was that by the time the craft reached Bangalore, it would be near midnight and there wouldn't be a place where I could possible eat my dinner - that took me by surprise and I was still digesting it when she passed on my dinner.

This one incident, at least for me, put AI on a level much greater than any other airline. I think this is the warmth that one can expect probably only in India, this one point will stay in my memory for a long time to come. Many people have told me that the air hostess was doing her duty, but to me it is an act of the warmth that rests in every heart in India. I am a bit biased, I have not travelled much and have not seen many places but after a years stay in Australia I can correlate this warmth to Indian-ness. This was probably the brightest part of my journey.

- Sunil Kumar, Australia

The views of this column are the author's own, and do not necessarily represent the views of NRI Online.

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