Sunday, September 23, 2007

Airports of India

Don’t be surprised by the title of this article. And don’t take this as a positive article on the airports. I used to be surprised whenever I hear that the culprits of various bombings in India were some foreign terrorist outfits and their members. I used to wonder how can they enter India so easily and carry on their missions. I got the answer around 2 months back.

You might have read many mails about the notorious Hyderabad airport, some about how some passengers found out after reaching their destinations that some papers have been tore out from their passports, some about the bribes we’ve to shell out from our pockets. We don’t know whether these are really true or not. But after I’ve experienced a weird incident, I’m clear of my doubts. I was travelling to Bahrain from Hyderabad after a short vacation in July, 2007. I was a bit late to reach the airport but not too late to miss my flight. It was a good 90 minutes before my flight lifts off the ground. As I was checking-in, the Qatar airways official told me that they will not allow me in, as the lamination on the last page of my passport tore off and they treat this as a case of damaged or manipulated passport. I told them that they can check out the authenticity as I got down at the same airport about 3 weeks back without any issue, with the same passport. They told me to check out the issue with the immigration officials and if they allow me, then the immigration officials will book some sort of report against them. I left my luggage there and headed towards the immigration counter. The official there checked out the passport and told that they can’t allow me in and I’ve to go to the passport office where I was issued this and get it checked for authenticity and correction. I pleaded with him saying that I’ve come on a short vacation and it’ll be a big mess at my office if I don’t reach there by next day. He seemed to be in deep thought (he’ll definitely make a good actor) and then told me that he’ll allow me in if I paid a Rs 1000. I was shell-shocked to hear this from him in-front of everyone in broad daylight. The other passengers were also shocked but they can do nothing about it. I just stood there waiting for his next words. He told me after a few minutes that there’s no way they are letting me in, if I don’t pay the money.

I checked out the time and found that my flight takes off in just under 25 minutes. There’s no other option for me other than to pay the money. I was not carrying any Indian currency, so the “deal” was set for 20 USD. I was just wondering whether I was duped as they won’t allow me in so easily, in normal conditions. All these suspicions were rubbed off once I reached Bahrain. There, I was stopped at the immigration counter again and it was only after a series of check were done on my passport that they allowed me inside Bahrain. It them around a good 45 minutes to check the authenticity of my passport. And their Indian counterpart asked me the bribe after looking at my passport for just under 5 minutes. God, save India.

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