08.10.2010 - 08.10.2010 32 °C
Once upon a time there was an airport known as the Indira Gandhi International Airport. The airport welcomed flights from all over the world. It was massive in size -- however, it eventually became dilapidated as a result of wear and tear and a lack of general maintenance by those in-charge. Soon visitors started dreading having to visit the airport and once they were in it, hurried to escape.
As I step off the plane and onto the aerobridge, my eyes and nose get ready for the sights and smells that, I anticipate, will greet me -- the sight of pot-bellied police officers, in decade-old mud-brown uniforms, wearing a look of genuine boredom, lazily gazing at passengers making their way to the immigration counter, while forgetting their duty to secure the safety of those around them -- and the combined smell of a dirty old carpet, smoke, sweat and mango pickle. I'd also usually expect to see a couple of airport workers in white uniforms bearing badges with generic "A Sharma"-type names printed on them, guarding rickety wheelchairs, waiting by the door of the aircraft and a solitary greeter with the name of a "VIP" scribbled in white on a board standing next to them.
I quickly realise that that was then. Today, now, this time..was different.
This time I immediately notice that we are in a new terminal (the T3!) with a brand spanking new carpet (not my choice of pattern but let's not get caught in the nitty-gritty). I then notice that the terminal is comparable and generally at par with the airports in cities such as Dubai and Singapore, with all the conveniences that one would expect in those places. The signage is clear, correct and brightly illuminated. Everything, from the airport personnel to the baggage trolleys, is in its place. There is an air of efficiency around me, neatly enhanced by a lime-lemon air-freshener. The lines at the immigration counter are moving a rapid pace and the immigration officers are smartly turned out. Most even have a smile on their face and are making a real effort to talk to the passengers. Did I hear one of them say "Ma'am"? I give the South African team who were travelling in the same flight a look to say "See! We can do international standards too!" and then proceed toward baggage claim. I see the team being directed to a different part of the airport by a smart, 5 foot 6 inch female CWG volunteer, clad in a red and white tracksuit and carrying a clipboard. They follow her without question, looking like lost toddlers in a public park.
It takes less than a minute for me to clear immigration and our bags are already on the assigned carousel when I reach. As mine steadily makes its way to me, I notice posters depicting various things that Indians are undoubtedly proud of (such as Mahatma Gandhi) all around me -- an attempt to add an artistic touch to the place. "Delhi 2010 XIX Commonwealth Games" proclaims each pillar. I feel a sudden and unexpected sense of pride and reach for my camera.