My days in Pune went by too fast. Of course, what would one expect? The evening before my departure, we went out for a nice meal at Rutugandh. I highly recommend the place (even as I am about to write what follows).
I woke up sick the next morning. Does that remind you of anything? I suspect that in some way, I didn’t really want to leave Pune… ; )
It wasn’t as bad as last time, though. But it did mean that I reached Bombay airport pretty weak, dehydrated, tired and with an empty stomach. I had been wise enough to stay in all day and avoid walking around – no more fainting alone in shops for me, thank you!
I slept throughout most of the journey to the airport. There were only three of us in the bus, which meant that each person had a complete row to sprawl or lie down on.
When we stopped at the airport, a couple of shady guys rushed to the back of our bus with two trolleys. I calmly walked off to get one for myself – you never know what rights you are giving up on the contents of your purse when you use a trolley which has been kindly brought to you by somebody else – and the driver waited for me to be there with my very own
trolley to empty my luggage from the boot (behaviour which is not to be systematically expected from bus drivers). As I walked off, shady guy #1 trotted beside me, trying to grab the trolley, explaining to me that his position as an employee here entitled him to push people’s trolleys for them when they didn’t want him to. I repeated “I’ll push it myself, thank
you” at least three times before he gave up.
I had been told to reach the aiport at least four hours before departure because of the tightened security checks. Indeed, the place seemed packed with staff wearing badges, dressed in shades of blue, kaki, or white, and walking around more or less importantly. Three big screening machines were sitting in the hall which leads to the check-in desks, and
they seemed to be screening stuff for some import-export company.
I walked up to the check-in desk, learnt that the counter for my flight was due to open in thirty minutes or so, sat on my trolley and waited. When time was up, the girl at the check-in counter told me that I needed to get my luggage screened. I courageously made my way back up the corridor, stood in the queue for 15 minutes, checked that a panel
indicating screening for my airline was placed on the screening machine, and got my luggage screened.
That is when they informed me that they were not screening for my airline, that I had to wait again or – version which came up when I loudly protested that their machine was flaunting a big panel which read “KLM screening here” – that we had to go to the next machine.
Some blue employee grabbed the panels and three-quarters of the queue shifted from the old machine to the new one.
Now, I told you there were three screening machines. Two were active – I mean, some guy would be sitting behind the machine, absent-mindedly staring at the screen, another two guys in uniforms would be smoking cigarettes and clapping each other on the back, and a few other people whose work was not as readily identifiable would be hanging around the
They made us wait in front of the machine which was not active.
We waited for over 30 minutes before a KLM employee came to see why nobody was checking in for our flight. Of course I had tried shaking various people up, but you know how it is – a smile, “5-10 minutes only, Madam”, followed by giggles and exchanged glances as I return to my place in the queue.
Maybe twenty minutes after that, the screening started. During the journey between the conveyor belt and my trolley (make that one metre at the most) two of the little orange “screened luggage” stickers fluttered down to the floor. I can’t say the guy whose job was to stick them on was taking things very seriously – though he did get told off a bit after I
pointed out the problem to the white-shirted man who was telling me that my hand-luggage needed screening because it didn’t have an orange sticker.
Did I mention that I had done quite a lot of shopping in Pune? Well, I had managed to pack everything in my two bags, but I knew that my luggage would be in excess of the 20kgs that I was allowed to carry. As postage seemed to turn out as a more expensive solution than what I expected, I decided to try my luck with the airline – knowing that the rules for
excess luggage are usually not enforced very strictly.
Of course, two weeks after September 11th was a very bad moment to try and play this kind of game – especially with an airline company which has been losing lots (euphemism) of money. The check-in girl was nice though, and only made me pay two-thirds of my excess.
While I was waiting (and waiting, and waiting) for them to process the payment with my VISA card, I started to feel pretty faint. I sat down on the trolley, and that did the trick for five minutes, but I soon started to see the beginning of a dark veil before my eyes, and feel that fainting would probably be part of my activities during the next minutes.
I called out to an airport guy not far off and told him I was going to faint. He gave me a blank look. I repeated my statement, and he gestured me towards a second guy. “You’re going to where, Madam?”. The dark veil was getting blacker, and the two guys just resumed their work. My position was really too stupid – and I couldn’t remember how to say
“faint” in Hindi (brains don’t work too well in times like this).
Luckily for me a white-shirt woman came up to the check-in desks, obviously on an important and urgent mission. And she just looked like she would understand English. I managed to grab her attention long enough to say my line and saw her shift from a “Can’t you see I’m busy” to a “Oh my God get her some water” attitude in a split-second.
I finally did collapse (though I luckily didn’t go right out unconscious) and was very grateful that she was there to hold me on he trolley and spare me what could have been my third concussion in less than six months.
I don’t know where this (seemingly) Indian idea comes from: when somebody faints, give them water and fan them. After a few minutes of this treatment, the nasty black veil was still there (but luckily I could talk). I remembered something Barbara and I had talked about at Rishikesh, discussion fainting and low pressure attacks: if you can’t lie down and
stick your feet up, sitting on a chair with your head beneath your legs will be just as efficient in bringing a bit of blood to your brain.
In less than fifteen seconds, I could see clearly again. Remember head-between-legs next time you feel faint!
They put me on a wheelchair and drove me down to the lounge, where I got a little food and sleep. I must say I was very happy not to have to walk the whole way and stand in the queues like everybody. By the time we boarded the plane two hours later, I was functional enough to walk on my own legs.
The journey itself was uneventful enough for me to spare you the details. You’ve probably had enough of this anyway, haven’t you?