Sunday, April 07, 2013

The Maharajah's Whiskers - Part Ek

For the people who know me, they’d say I was a fairly even tempered person. (Shaddup! You there- stop snickering!) No really, I believe everyone has their bad days and one ought not to be quick to decide based on one experience. But I think three times kind of pushes it a tad bit.
I am of course, talking about our favourite airline, our national carrier, The maharajah’s whiskers. It’s been three months since my return from the homeland and is only now that enough time has passed that I can talk about the incidents (pliss to note the plural) without hyperventilating or foaming at the mouth (which in this country of the stiff upper lip is vitally important. You only have to flare the nostrils ever so slightly before you are dismissed as being a drama queen. A sliver of a sneer whilst describing the events in Q is apparently just the right touch of emotion).
I now lay down the events that transpired and shall leave you, the reader to be the judge. I shall recite just the first incident in this post, as one needs time between the accounts to recover from the sheer incompetence.
Incident 1: After a goodly three years or thereabouts, I, very excitedly reached the shores of Mumbai, with a flu-ridden toddler, and sleep deprived brat and four pieces of luggage. Or so I thought. I mean that’s what I left London with. One flu- ridden toddler – check. One hyperexcited six-year-old who wasn’t going to sleep a jot on the plane – check. Luggage – ek, do, teen… hang on, where’s my fourth piece of luggage? An airline official bustles in just then to inform the unfortunate few of us that have been awaiting our luggage that due to a technical mixup (meaning the off loaders screwed up), our luggage was earlier put on a different conveyor, but we’ll have our luggage in this conveyor shortly. He was quite pleased with that. To be honest, so were we. At four in the morning, all I wanted to do was find a nice, warm bed and crash until it was time for my connecting flight to Cochin that evening.
Luggage comes and luggage goes, but my bright pink strolley remains stubbornly absent. The airline official, trying to helpful does the following:
Scratches head, the peeks out into the loading area to see if there’s any luggage left (why anyone would leave just one bright pink suitcase unloaded was beyond me, but hey, it was four in the morning). Finds nothing. Scratches head again and asks me if I was sure I had a pink suitcase (why anyone would hallucinate about pink suitcases was, again, beyond me, but hey, it was four in the morning) scratches balls (we all need a change) and then asks to see my luggage tags – and counts them (yes, there were four) then counts my luggage (counts three). Having now satisfied himself that I was indeed missing a piece of luggage and was not playing the fool, he scratches his ear and the leads me to the ‘missing luggage’ department.
An equally helpful airline official then takes over, writes out my form in Marathi (we are still at the international air terminal at this point), asks me to read if what’s written is accurate and sign it.  While I try and understand what’s been written in my rusty Marathi, the official informs me that I have nothing to worry about. Apparently this is quite a common occurrence. I seem to sense this was true from his lack of alacrity with a Spanish woman trying to locate her child’s buggy. His colleague was trying to convince her to pick one from an array of buggies they had in their possession, and nevermind the small matter of the buggy not being hers. My helpful airline official, in the meanwhile, reassures me that my luggage has probably flown to Cochin without me (probably thinking I’m going to compliment the airline on being proactive and taking a call on my behalf. I couldn’t possibly need all my luggage with me in Mumbai when I was only going to stop over for half a day), and it was ultimately my travel agent(!!) who was to blame, since he had booked me on an evening flight to Cochin, when clearly, there was a morning flight to be taken to the destination (which apparently my pink strolley has managed to board).
By now, toddler and brat both decided that they’ve had enough of India and were ready to head back to ol’ Blighty. It was only the bribe of an infinite supply of chocolate and the promise that they’d never ever have to wear jackets in India that made them change their mind.  I was lucky enough to have an extremely patient relative waiting for me outside, and as he escorted the scruffy trio out of the airport, I was glad there was someone to take over the haggling of the prices with the taxis.
Thirty minutes into the car ride. I get a call. From the airport. The helpful airline official had located my luggage and could I please come a collect it. I was getting mildly annoyed now. I informed the helpful airline official that he could now load my luggage on to a plane to Cochin, without me, as promised. I wasn’t about to turn the taxi around only to find that this was a false alarm.  Another fifteen minutes later I get another call. From the airport. The helpful airline official informs me now that it was after all a false alarm, but not to worry, my luggage was safely on its way to Cochin (my luggage seemed to be having adventures of its own).
That evening:
As I land in Cochin, I collect the rest of my luggage and duly hand over two exhausted babies to two elated grandparents while I set out on search of my bright pink strolley. The solitary guard on duty at Cochin International (ha!) Airport (helpful airline officials were missing at this port) informs me that I’ll have to traipse over to the Maharaja’s whiskers counter located some distance away to have any hope of seeing my pink suitcase. The helpful airline officer at the domestic terminal tells me ‘ Ais, ais, ewe see, youze was un international fleit. Sow, eye think, your luggage, it will be at the international terminal’ Ah. The terminal is a hop, skip and a jump away. And the office is connected internally. But I naturally have to hop, skip and jump to the international terminal and repeat my request. Where another helpful airline official tell me, ‘But ewe floo domeztic wonly now, no, madam? So, it will be in the domeztic terminal’. Hop. Skip. Jump. Domestic terminal.
Helpful airline official#1: Madamm… why will I lie, madam? Nothing is here wonly. Wait. Wonly for ewe, I will check with the domeztic.
Strolls to next room. Has a cup of tea while chatting with other helpful airline official. Comes back.
Helpful airline official#1: nooo, maidamm. Are ewe sure they have sent the luggage from Bombay? It will come tomorrow, perhaps?
Me: But I was informed that your very helpful airline has very helpfully sent my luggage before my arrival to Cochin. Helpfully.
Helpful airline official#1 (scratching head meditatively – seems to be part of their induction training): wait, huh, madam. I will check customs. Maybe it haasn’t cleared that wonly, no?
Fifteen minutes later
Yes! It is waiting madam. You need to clear customes with it wonly no? (beams at having helpfully solved this puzzle)
Well, luggages, even bright pink ones have limitations to how clever they can be. As to the limits of helpful airline staff stupidty, there seem to be none.