Sunday, July 20, 2008

Bangla Diaries

As a matter of fact, yes, I am. I am here. Not Kolkata - its Bangadesh.

When the opportunity to visit B'desh was building up a few months ago (mind you, for purely business purposes), I thought the country wouldn't be very different from India - anyhow, the country was an offshoot of India, and shouldn't be very different. Though many advised me not to visit this place for numerous reasons (many reasons being social, many developmental, many others, only a few reasonable) - I chose my work to take priority, and went ahead planning for the visit.

So, the plan finalized; Visa received; hence cometh the date to travel.

We get to know that Friday and Saturday are the weekends in B'desh, so we had to be in the country before Sunday morning, so that we may start our meetings Sunday first thing (like Monday first thing in India). Hence we had to take a Biman Bangladesh (BB) flight (this is the official airline of B'desh). My travel agent double checked with me before finalizing the ticket, suggesting that I should travel a day later, so that I can take a Jet Airways flight, which would reach B'desh Sunday mid-day. In order to save that half day, I overruled and asked him to get the tickets.

So here we were, at Delhi IGI Airport, at 12 noon on Saturday (flight scheduled to take off at 1500 hrs, to reach Dhaka at 1730 hrs). Reached airport, and we don't see at BB counter - on inquiring, we are told that the flight is delayed by a whopping 5 hours. Striving to catch hold of any BB official, we waited for an hour, and then lost hope - went back home, to again come back at 1700 hrs. So, we come back at 1700 hrs, and see a mob standing near BB counter - there are two helpless ladies standing at the counter, trying to help people get their boarding passes. I was amazed to notice that after Raipur airport in India, this was the second place where manual entry was done (imagine, no computers at the counter of BB, to check records!).

So back to the boarding pass queue - a flight of a capacity of 200, and out of them 100+ were Surds! I thought it wasn't to Dhaka, but to Ludhiana. Anyways, 2 hours hence, we get our passes, and we are off to the lounge, and subsequently for the aircraft.

In the aircraft at 2030 hrs, and surprizzze - no air-hostesses! No stewards as well. Wait 30 mins, and we see two stewards coming in,asking everyone to keep quiet. Another amazing thing - person sitting next to me - takes his shoes off - brings out his radio - and we all a part of the melodious thumping Punjabi songs courtesy Jaggy-D and Mika! True, Music has no boundaries!

So the stewards trying to tell everyone to fasten their seat belts, but alas - they don't speak in Punjabi, which most of the junta in the plane understand - so the steward goes out of the place, and calls security to help people with tying their seat belts! Amazing.

Cometh 2200 hrs, and the pilot come in - we fly, at last! (Should I expect any soft drinks to start with, or a 3 course meal? A wine bottle please? Joking?)

The course of the journey refreshed my memories that date back ten years - to the days when Blue line and Red line buses used to ply in Delhi. If I were to say that those buses were better than this journey, THAT would be an understatement as well!

Another key observation - everyone has his own bottle of Scotch handy - flight takes off and the glasses come out. People start drinking as well as hiding. I have never tried to hide as much while cheating/copying in my college exams, as these guys were trying to, from each other. Wonder if people thought drinks will be taken away from them, if caught??

And food in flight - well, don't even talk about it - I couldn't even have half a bite. Thankfully, I had a sandwich at the airport, that kept me alive.

Finally, we land at the airport (how many airports have I seen like this - ufff!), and head for immigration - 0200 hrs, day 2. Another 90 minutes at the immigration/luggage collection, and we are off to our hotel (thankfully the airport pickup by the hotel was patient enough to wait for us all the while).

And at the hotel, when at the reception we told that we came in BB, they were awe-struck! I am not surprised why!

So a journey that started 1200 hrs day 1 from Delhi, ended at 0200 hrs day 2 - time taken from Delhi to NY non-stop 14 hours. Time we took - 14 hours. Cool, not very far. Just yet!

PS: I am here for a few days - so more action awaited!

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