To say I felt pure excitement when the plane was landing at the Hyderabad airport is an understatement. It was shortly after 6 am and when the plane was on it’s final approach all I saw was a series of small clusters of street lights guiding us to the runway. The first thing I noticed was that India didn’t have the amount of lights on, the way Toronto does. That was my first clue of what I was going to experience on my first 2 days.
Hema and I weren’t bumped up to Business Class again and we had to sit in economy class. The difference was a shock to the system. Just barely room for my knees to clear the seat in front of me. The food was painful to digest. They served Paneer that set my stomach on fire. The pampering I received was truly missed. Now I want to make it perfectly clear that this is not a complaint on British Airways. I am a true believer in, you get what you pay for. Except when you are lucky enough to pay for economy and you get bumped up to Business Class. The crew and the plane were top-notch. We flew on a Boeing 777. One of the things I was impressed with was the automated windows on the plane.
When we sat down in our seats, we immediately remembered how much space we had in Business Class. Then I thought, I will be able to get some sleep on the flight because it would be an 8 hour flight. I looked at the window and then realized, there is no drop down shutter. The window had no way to block the sunlight. It was 2:30 in the afternoon and my energy was at it’s lowest even though I my joy and excitement was at it’s peak. I told Hema of my discovery and she was also taken aback from this unusual predicament.
This plane had it’s most up to date navigation system and they couldn’t install shutters on the window?
I know that Brexit was hitting Great Britain but this was more than just an economic decision. It has to have a rational and technical reason. I then noticed that reason.
I was lucky enough to get the window seat. The child in me wanted to see everything, even though it would be completely dark when we arrived in India. Hema sat in the middle and a young lady, who was the best companion, she literally slept the whole way, at least she hardly opened her eyes. She only said 3 or 4 words and was pleasant enough to give us a small grin when we did make eye contact. On my left was the window. About elbow level there was this circular device which had a semi circular button and a series of small LED lights above it.
“What does this button do?” asked my inner child. My brain forced my right index finger to press it. A light came on, nothing happened. A Flight Attendant never showed up asking if I needed assistance.
“Press it again.” My inner child was very demanding at this point. I pressed the button 3 more times and 3 more lights came on. Then my eyes caught the difference. The window was turning a few shades darker. It reminded me of the eyeglasses that turned a few shades darker when you stepped outside. Instant sunglasses without having to get a separate prescription.
“Oh wow, check this out Hema.” The little boy had to share his new discovery. Hema was also in excited shock over the new technological wonder.
“That is so cool.” She replied, seeing how excited I was.
I put the window back to its original setting so I could see London drift away behind us and I could see the vast white clouds ahead of us, guiding us to India.
So we landed in India, my energy level ramped up. Hema had told me that I did fall asleep during the flight for a good portion of the time. So I was feeling a bit refreshed. Well as refreshed as a cramped can of tuna would feel when it first gets peeled open. We were sitting quite close to the front so we got off the plane in decent time. The plane docked at a gate, which was a bonus because at Heathrow we had to take a bus to the gate. We proceeded to walk along the gate hall and we were welcomed by Hema’s son Nikunj who was in the departure area as he was heading out to visit other family that morning. When I say welcomed, he basically shouted from a distance and we saw him a floor above us. My focus in getting to the passport desk didn’t even question how this was possible, later I would find out why he would be there. My sole focus was to get through immigration. I was so overjoyed to be in India that I would have confessed to anything if they would just let me in.
From the moment, I landed I had to go to the bathroom. It was a fierce feeling. I found a bathroom on the way just before the passport desk and was so happy. We reached the passport desk and I was so very happy, there was no line up. I turned to Hema and said,
“This is why it’s great to land so early in the morning.”
At the Toronto airport, all Customs and Immigration Officers are in uniform. Their presence is everywhere. Not in Hyderabad. The officers, I’m using that term loosely, were in plain clothing. We approached the desk and the man said nothing to me. Hema handed over our passports and entry cards.
He did ask Hema to switch sides with me and then reviewed her passport. He scanned it and put it on the top of the desk. He looked at me and just motioned for me to now switch with Hema. I found it so odd that he didn’t speak with me. Maybe I should say something, anything.
“Excuse me sir, you do realize I’m a white man trying to enter your country. If this was the other way around I would have to profile you and send you into interrogation.”
I decided that saying something like that would make things difficult. I said nothing.
We cleared the passport desk and headed for the x-ray scanner that was required before proceeding to baggage claim. I leaned over to Hema and voiced my bewilderment of why he asked us to switch places twice and didn’t even ask me any questions.
“That was for the camera.” She stated.
What? You mean my basic Human Canadian Rights were violated and I didn’t even realize it?
I knew I should have written down the phone number to the Canadian Embassy. Huh? What’s that? Oh right, I should be grateful that the process was so simple. (plain wide sarcastic political stare).
We get to the scanner and it is even simpler. I didn’t remove anything, I didn’t take out my laptop from my carry-on, there was no one on the other side of the scanner to pat me down. I walked through and the scanner went off. I turned around anticipating someone to jump out and tell me to hit the floor and spread my arms and legs.
My carry-on showed up on the other side and I just kept walking.
First observation, this country with the dynamic that it has, literally takes every threat seriously. It manages them with rational thinking. The airport has armed soldiers but in the critical and important areas. The West reacts with extremes and does nothing to educate their citizens. Let the fear of a potential threat be the guideline. Put unnecessary checks and inspections to manipulate the perception of a threat. India obviously takes a different approach, it knows there are threats but also communicates a hardline message.
You don’t want to mess with us.
I will continue with this in a later entry, let’s get back to my arrival.
We proceed to baggage claim. I really hope our bags come out first so I can take in my first breath of Indian air. So many people warned me about the smell.
“Welcome to India!” followed by a constant vomiting. I will get to the smell later, maybe in my next entry. We stood there for 4 hours, well at least that’s what it felt like. From disembarking the plane to exit, was an hour.
I stood there patiently waiting as Hema stood off to the side with the baggage carts. We gathered our luggage and headed to the exit sign. I’m ready for the questions now.
We walked through and Hema reminded me to take out my phone and record my moment of entry. I had asked her to do so because it was a moment I didn’t ever want to forget. I took it out and began recording. I walked out to the arrival area.
There was no smell, there was no gag reflex to expel my stomach juices.
What was there?
Your brain was bombarded with car horns. The arrival area was open to the outside.
You could hear the traffic, the car horns never stopped.
They haven’t stopped.
The only time they do is late at night and when I say stop, it only gets replaced with dog barks which aren’t really barks but more like cries of declaration of war with other dogs.
I had landed in India! I had realized my dream.