Rants From Delhi Airport

I’m in a bad mood. I am at Delhi International Airport waiting for my flight back to the US. The flight leaves at the ungodly hour of 330 am and is already 15 mins late. I go through security and learn that the lounge is before, not after security. Since I have three hours to kill (I spared my brother who dropped me off from waking up in the middle of the night) I go through the process of cancelling my security check stamps. And of course, the mandatory entry in a register with the police. I then try making my way back to the lounge but going back through security is not easy. The process wasn’t designed to handle it. I was stopped twice within ten feet by men in khaki who wanted to know why I was going the wrong way. Finally I get to the lounge. Luckily, there’s wifi so I can rant.

Have you ever wondered about visitor registers? They have become less common in the US, where in places like New York building security is the real stuff. In New York you won’t find god-knows-what-purpose-it-serves vistor registers. On my India trip, there were visitor registers everywhere. For some meetings I had to fill out two entries in quick succession, one in the building foyer and one before entering the office of the company I was coming to meet.

I have never understood what is achieved by visitor registers. (If anyone knows any better please leave a comment.) To me it seems like a perfect waste of time. I walk in to a building, mumble something to the guard at the reception and he asks me to fill out the register – my name, company, my host’s name and company, my cell phone, mother’s maiden name…- how this improves security is beyond me. My photo id is not checked. No call is made upstairs to ascertain if I indeed have a meeting as I claim I do. So what is it for? What do they need my cellphone for? To call me if the building is on fire?

And what of the registers themselves? Where do the registers go when they get filled up? Is there some visitor register heaven in a warehouse on the outskirts of every metro? Or maybe telemarketers buy them up to make cold calling lists. Telemarketing calls on your cell phone – that’s a rant I’ll leave for another day.

I spent most of my trip to India in Delhi this time. Of the eight days I spent in Delhi, we didn’t have broadband for six days. Unbelievable but true. Apparently, MTNL changed their back-end infrastructure and the old modems didn’t work anymore. Frantic calls to MTNL support yielded nothing. They said something like – these things happen from time to time; it should be restored by tomorrow. Our neighbours were in the same boat – no broadband, and no clue why.

The next day, we learnt from the internet cafe downstairs that everyone had to change their modems. Apparently, MTNL had put an ad in the papers a while back which informed their hapless subscribers about this matter. And that was that. The subscriber had to make an appointment for the modem to be replaced. If you didn’t read the ad, tough luck. My father had to call the area manager at MTNL and throw his weight around a bit (he’s retired but he can still carry it off) and we got our new modem yesterday. Today I had all my meals brought to me in front of the computer.

I am now in the airport lounge with a huge backlog in my feed reader. So I fire up the old Macbook in the lounge and check if there are any comments on the blog. There are quite a few, but of them, fifteen comments are from a guy calling himself Rohit Khanna. Many identical comments were posted multiple times. None of the comments had much to do with the post. All the comments had a link in them to a website – http://www.toostep.com. Here is RohitK’s comment stream on IntenseDebate. All the comments have links back to toostep.com. This doesn’t include his commenting on blogs that don’t have IntenseDebate.

What’s going on here? This is not your garden variety comment spam. Akismet is pretty good about catching comment spam left by bots. This is human generated comment spam. The comments make some kind of twisted sense and they do relate to the post’s content. But they don’t pass the smell test. The comments are posted with the sole objective of driving traffic to and raising the google rank of toostep.com. I don’t mind genuine comments that link back to something related – say the commentor’s own post on a similar theme. But I certainly don’t want my blog to become a repository for comment crap. If you are a blogger, you too shouldn’t stand for this. Ruthlessly delete the comments and expose the company that is sponsoring it. toostep.com – shame on you.

There – got it off my chest. Venting always helps. But venting on your own blog is way better.

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11 Responses to Rants From Delhi Airport

  1. Satya says:

    Basab,

    Same case here in Bangalore in a bit different domain.

    I pay 8,000 INR (200 CAD almost) for rent – 1BHK. I will get a decent apartment in Canada for it as I have stayed there for quite some time. Now, the house owner (who has settled here in Bangalore from TN) is a money starved machine.

    – They do not listen if there is a problem in water leakage (it takes weeks)
    – They do not listen if there is a problem in doorbell (it took a month)
    – They do not even listen if there is power brokerage somewhere

    Now, will I change the house. I can not. In my experience here in Blore, every house owner is behaving the same way. Everyone wants money, but do not want to do anything for some portion of the money that we pay them as rent.

    I have never seen such greed even in places like Delhi. May be Delhi would have changed over the last 7/8 years. But then, Delhi or Mumbai are pretty old cities and have been commercial for decades. Bangalore has not even seen commercialization for a decade. But, the greed has already crossed limits.

    I can bet that my house owner never saw a paycheck of 8,000 in his entire life, but the disgusting look he gives when I give the money – as if it means nothing. He gets approx. 1 lakh in rent and the entire family of 7 (2 young fella included who are around 23/24) have stopped working.

    Now you come out the house, auto driver is there is loot you the way they want (everyday you have to ask them to put on the meter). Only calm and "induced" civilized place is your office. When you come out to eat dinner at night – they do not wash well, bring food after 45 minutes and behave as if they are doing charity to us and charge it high.

    Govt. offices are worst off (and your blog started with them). Everytime you walk into anything maintained by the Govt, they will make you feel like a spineless moron. I I have to run from pillar to post for RTO or a Gas Connection or anything related to Govt. I have stopped expecting anything from them.

    Only money talks, walks, smiles. It is like the Jerry McGuire movie – "Show me the money". The player who was saying it does not have any character at all and but he wants money.

    If you start fighting once, then it goes to another level. I do not have a mustache, I look relatively fair and body language is not that of a local, and worse of it all, they automatically think my mother tongue is Hindi (for most Hindi is everyone other than people from these parts). And there you go, they have learned some abusive words only in Hindi and will throw at your face as they want it.

    In all these cases, only thing that works is "just ignore" and find out alternative routes. I can feel your frustration in staying in such places. And you have succinctly put it, venting always helps. And, I have vented it here as well and hope did not misuse the space.

    Like

  2. RTri says:

    Just curious – How many years have you people lived in India before you went abroad??

    Like

  3. Rustey says:

    Basab, I am on the same flight a couple days later, but knew the layout of the Delhi airport better! ๐Ÿ˜‰ There is a clear opportunity for "common sense" based design consulting out there.

    Things are certainly getting better in India, though. The same Delhi airport lounge was cramped and crawling with people in my last visit there, but seemed more civilized this time around.

    I have to agree with @RTri, though. Fore-warned is fore-armed! Since we grew up in the mother country, we should allow for chaos and confusion as part of everyday life in India!

    Like

    • Rustey – I may not have 'read the manual' on Delhi airport before I arrived, but I did provide for enough time for snafus. But it still deserved a rant especially since the airport was recently redesigned. If you have to put the lounge before security, at least put some neon signs so passengers won't miss it.

      RTri – I see where you are going with your question. It has been 14 years since I came to the US but because of travel and what not, I don't feel disconnected from India. And I certainly don't feel like a guest who can't criticize the hostesses' cooking.

      Like

  4. Bharat says:

    True, we seem to have a lot of pointless security with very poor exception handling. I had a weird (but positive) experience at Bangalore (old) airport. I had a bottle of wine in my cabin bag, which the security guy said he wouldn't allow. Fair enough. It wasn't particulary expensive, so I was about to leave it behind. But the security guy insisted that I should check with Jet airways if they would pull my checked in bag back and put the bottle in! Whether this was out of genuine concern to save the bottle of wine or whether he was just following some instruction to the letter I couldn't tell. Sure enough, I got my security stamps removed, walked back to check in, got my check in bag retrieved, re-examined (in X-ray) after my bottle went in and re-checked. I had some spare time, so it worked well and I didn't have to part with it.

    Like

  5. Anu says:

    Visitor registers! A very good thought, Basab. But I think it is something we cannot dispense of – at least not yet. I cannot imagine a company where anyone and everyone cannot come in and out without any sort of control. Visitor's register do not block the unwanted – agreed. Neither can they, the way they function now, stop anyone with any planned mal-intentions. However, it gives some control at least. Imagine the Infosys Mysore campus without a visitor's register (electronic with a photograph or otherwise). I am sure there will be a thousand outsiders just roaming through the campus for no purpose whatsoever. Remember the IIM-A campus? At least 5% of all people you find there in the evenings there have no business to be there. That was my observation while I was there. Not that they are causing any serious problems inside. Occassional thefts are often attributed to these people (I myself lost a cell phone once). What a visitors' register can ensure is that at least those people with no business (good or bad) inside are at least discouraged from entering.

    Like

  6. Vanthi says:

    Vanthi,

    I remember this incident in bangalore…

    I was stopped by cops mentioning i drove in the wrong way… I asked him to notify where was the onw way signal… The signal was facing wall… I fought with the constable that he cannot charge me as the signal was not correct…

    My wife is a lawyer from bangalore… She spoke in Kannadiga… They did not fine me as police generally will not fine lawyers.. They (Sargent and constable) advised my wife "Ask your husband to be little cool… else he will have BP problem".. The state govt officials are bas****s number 1

    Like

  7. Vijay Basrur says:

    I understand the sentiment totally. In my first workplace we had a register you had to sign if you left office late. The security guard had no clue about what anyone would enter into the register. For months together we used to get away by faking our names as Donald Duck, Billy Joel etc. with fake employee ids and no one gave a damn. My guess is no one EVER looked at the register.

    PS: I owe you a hat tip for the blog theme. I started using it a few months back after I bumped into yours. Only if you had a "online register", I would have left an entry on it ๐Ÿ™‚

    Like

  8. Nikesh says:

    Basab

    While you must admittedly rant,
    the darned lounge was always there
    before the security um right here
    it didn't move – it can't.

    the real airport redesign alas,
    is happening elsewhere
    this is just an ol' bugbear
    so no neon signs or a xenon smile lass.

    so step up and sign the register
    with a smile close to sinister
    remember one day the lounge will move
    till then dude, just wifi in the groove.

    Like

  9. Kumar says:

    We Indians seem to have a fetish for stamping/documenting registers and documents (and without no purpose whatsoever). Just one attestation at a Notary/Govt-official takes away half of the page with multiple stamps and signs.

    I travel back and forth between India and Europe a couple of times a year – and EVERYTIME when I enter India, there is a stamp on my passport – eating away valuable pages for visas etc. Why would I need a stamp on my passport while entering my own country? They could just scan my passport and/or enter my arrival/departure in their centralized system. (only if they have any… Currently the arrival/departure forms that we fill must be getting stashed up somewhere, without being updated in a computerized database)

    Speaking of misinformed govt. employees, I was once kept waiting at Ahmedabad Airport departures for 15 mins bcos the Immigration desk could not find a visa for 'Germany' on my passport, while I was boarding a flight to Frankfurt. (There was a visa which said 'Deutschland', but the official had to call in a senior to confirm if that was the same country ๐Ÿ™‚ )

    But yeah, its probably the experience of this chaos and disfunctional systems in India that make our lives so smooth and easily manageable when we live outside. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Like

  10. Nimit Kumar says:

    One of the purposes these registers serve is during an emergency, such as fire. I am not sure how it works in the US, but in India most companies have a fire evacuation team. This team undergoes certified training by a professional organization.
    In case of an emergency, everyone inside the office is asked to assemble at a common point where a roll-call happens. For the employees carrying a swipe card, this is roll-call is trivial because the list can be quickly generated. For the visitors, it can be tricky and you may not know how many of those are trapped inside. It is even more critical for visitors because they may not be familiar with the office lay out.
    Visitor registers do serve some purpose for these emergency situations. However, for a lounge in the airport this is nothing but a legacy we have conveniently gotten used to.

    Like

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