Having left Mumbai after NASSCOM to spend a few days in Delhi with the Steria/Xansa BPO teams in various Noida offices, I am now in a cab on the way to Indira Gandhi International Airport, Delhi to fly back BA ot the UK. It's 15 minutes past midnight when I leave the Hotel for my flight which is scheduled to leave at 03.25 am. Unlike Mark Kobayashi-Hillary's journey to Mumbai airport, mine is relatively quick and uneventful. I mentioned in an earlier post the peculiarity (at least to those coming from the UK) of having to prove you are flying even to enter the terminal. I have my boarding pass already, however my way in is barred by a huge crowd with luggage trolleys. I figure it could take me close to 45 minutes to get in... that's to go about 10 yards with my 500 cosy companions. Frederick Winslow Taylor would be turning in his grave.
I recalled from previous journeys that all doors emerge in the same terminal, so wandered up to a forlornly empty Door 4 and entered within 2 or 3 minutes. (Top Tip!)
The next step in leaving India is to x-ray any check-in luggage, which you must do just through the door that you should have entered by. This done the next hour and a half's challenge is to get the bag actually loaded onto the plane by checking in. Best to avoid this step by taking hand luggage, but this is the one time of the year I always need more luggage to take back NASSCOM books and materials, so this time I queue. And boy do I queue. Every two years Delhi plays host to a major Defence Conference, and my flight back coincided with the last day. So it is heaving in there. I meet a couple of the conference organisers who take pity on me and load my (overweight) case on top of their trolly. I guess they figure the extra mass will help in the strategic push forward. I begin to think air rage will start early in the terminal, a little worrying with all these military types and arms dealers, and some less familiar with the norms of Indian airports do seem a little hot & bothered, but generally the air is one of resignation borne of tiredness.
Bag dropped and we need to join the next queue. International travel - it's just a barrel of fun. This one trails back to the x-ray machine by the door. We fill in our departure form (best not to make a mistake on this and get sent back). We wend our way in a giant snake to immigration. A rather drunk Indian from Amsterdam wants conversation from anyone who will oblige. It's now about 02.00am. I discover my fellow queue neighbour is not flying until 07.00am. That's a little too risk averse for me. After an hour we get the requisite stamps and are allowed into the terminal. My friend on the 7 o'clock says goodbye and goes to peruse Delhi airport's extensive shopping opportunities. It's so hard to convey irony in words isn't it. For me it's time to join the queue for security. It's as long as the other one, so I estimate another hour - pretty accurate.
I mentioned India as "the" place to network, and this queue I meet some interesting guys including the founder and head of new Indian airline SpiceJet. Yes even he has to queue. He's on his way to Franfurt for his other business interests, and tells me en passantthat Delhi has outsourced airport opertations to Frankfurt airport. Some German efficiency would not go amis here. I later find on the internet that terminal 2 - the international terminal has a capacity for 12.5 million passengers p.a., but the total passenger traffic in 2006/7 was over 20 million. Quite an imbalance, which is why they are upgrading the facilities. The refurb is is aimed to be complete in time for the 2010 Commonwealth Games. As a quick diversion, the 2010 Games will be held in Noida and we see the impressive site every time we travel from central Delhi to Noida. Indeed I was struck by how much Noida has improved since my last visit. Much less litter and pollution, the greenery is growing up now and the highways and metro across Delhi are creating a much improved infrastructure.
At around 03.00am I get through security to the gate. The plane, inevitably I feel, has been delayed an hour just to top our travelling experience. By 5am I am boarded. I wonder idly if an American would think they were "planed", since they have created the strange "verb" to "de-plane". ipod headphones in, set to shuffle, and Mr Brightside is playing. That's it for another year.
This is the end (2008 NASSCOM mix)