The Flight to Seattle
My travel plan was like this : Kolkata-Mumbai (Jet Airways), Mumbai-Seattle via Amsterdam (NorthWest/KLM). It started with a bad experience in the flight to Mumbai. The Jet Airways offerred me a raw deal – asked to have Vegeterian meal. I don’t like it. So, I decided to go for a Satyagraha – to reject the food. I am not yet aware of what caused the debacle but I know that it is a open secret now – Jet wants Indians to become Vegeterian. I had been offered a Vegeterian meal in Jet thrice in my last four journeys – those too within last three months. Is the Jet Airways going to become another budget airline?
Whatever the Jet plans, I was interested in having more food at Mumbai Airport. Once I gave my luggage to the Northwest officials, I was free to take a look at the city, since I had almost 4 hours of time. I went to a luxurious hotel nearby and had the buffet dinner at Rs. 900 (all inclusive). Then I realized the mistake that I should not have committed.
In Mumbai, the Domestic and International Terminals are 4kms away from each other. And I have to take an auto to travel to the International one. The domestic terminal doesn’t allow people to get in with an international ticket. So, I can’t use the inside shuttle service for transit. It’s a warning for all transit passengers in Mumbai airport – don’t come out of the Domestic/International airport before the transit. However, getting an auto was not that difficult in Mumbai and I at least unloaded my luggage beforehand.
I should write something about both these airport terminals. The domestic terminal looks gorgeous and as per my knowledge it’s been renovated by GVK. The international terminal was equally bad – and it’s under renovation. As expected, the good to better conversion first takes it to the worse state. The road beside the international terminal had also buses plying on it. And the international travelers had to make queues jostling with the commuters waiting in the bus stops. There are no electronic board showing the correct terminal one should choose. It’s pathetic – worse than an under-construction road. To make it worse, there were no signboards saying that it’s actually under construction (and offering a ray of hope at the end of the tunnel that we’ll show you better things next year) – wrongly putting permanent bad impression in foreigners’ mind.
I was on time and was able to board the flight to leave the country successfully. The first NorthWest flight journey was far from satisfying – the quality of food was not good and they offered breakfast twice in a nine hour journey. Come on, isn’t it a punishable offence to offer only BREAKFAST in such a long route to Amsterdam? I believe it is.
However, the Amsterdam Airport impressed me. There was a quiet book store – full of people who’re trying buy a journey assistant. I bought a book named “The State of Africa” since I have quite less knowledge about the entire continent and I believe it has a lot of things to offer to the rest of the world in near future. The problem stated with the coffee shop. All the pricing written in the shop were in Euro and I didn’t have it. For a item like a cup of coffee, I was not interested to use my card. Hence I asked the “May I Help You”-lady if the shops accept the US Dollar. She assured that they do. However, there was a fine print that she omitted from her sentence. Now I stepped up to a nearby shop and asked the shop person –
“Do you take United States Dollar”.
“What’ the problem with it, except that it’s value is getting lower day by day …” – he laughed and said.
“Well …”, I said “let me have a cup of hot coffee”. It was marked to cost 3 Euros, i.e. close to 4.5 dollars.
Now at the time of payment, I gave him a 10 dollar note and he returned a few coins. I saw those are Euro coins. That’s what they do – they “accept” dollars and pay the change in Euros. How can we say that they “accept”? Well, definition does matter … what else I can say. I only can blame myself for creating 4 Euro non-performing asset. I should have asked a few more questions.
I was planning to take a city tour but I had to abort it since I did not have any EU Visas. It was another hard reality – in Singapore we had no problem, but Europeans don’t trust us.
The last part of the journey was a better one – from the quality of the food to the level of comfort one should have in a 10 hour journey. I sat beside a 55 year old Estonian Woman, who was not at all comfortable in English. She was going to her son’s place after a break of three months in her own country. She has her daughter in Estonia and her son in USA. So, she is shuttling between and hoping to get her daughter in USA once she gets the citizenship. She started showing a lot of old styled photographs of her journey.
The thing that amazed me was her awareness about Indians – especially of Bollywood. Once I said that I was a Bengali, she started remembering that she actually knows a Bengali actor named Jimmy. Can anybody recognize this person? I could not. Madam herself was able to recollect the actual name – Mithun Chakraborty. It’s a pleasure to hear a Bengali getting recognized in different part of the globe. It was the film “Disco Dancer” – where Mithun was known as Jimmy (the famous song : Jimmy Jimmy Jimmy …). Madam later referred to that song also and remembered the days when she used to watch at least four to five bollywood movies in a year. She also knew that Mithun was engaged in some sort of social work and about her three sons. It was really an amazing experience.
In the flight, there was an option to watch movies. I took the opportunity to watch “No Country for Old Man”. The same time she asked me to find a Hindi film from the list and she was happy to watch “Om Shanti Om”. If you think I don’t have a good choice then let me tell you that I had only one more option – Sawariya and I was not keen to torture with the Hindi film with different taste. I followed her closely while she was watching “Om Shanti Om”. She was getting drowsy when the film was been screened in front, but got rejuvenated every time a song was there. The USP of Bollywood movies are the songs in between – something I personally feel good about. But there are customers all around the globe who are ready to grab those and Bollywood gives them a unique choice to enjoy it. That’s whereexactly Bollywood makes money.
Well, I have nothing more to add to this already lengthy blog entry, and also I did not face anything remarkable before I actually landed in United States. So, that’s it for the day and hopefully I’ll be able to update you on my experiences in US.