The Overcrowded Railway Station

My driver drops me off at the “D” gate, which is hidden behind a throng of travelers and their relatives sitting and standing with large bags on multiple trolleys. I finally find the line. The person behind me keeps shoving the entire 5 minutes it takes to get to the gate and then actually hands his ticket and passport to the policeman before I can, while “charitably” telling him that I should be allowed to go in first.
Then comes the wait at the check-in line. Twice, people come and stand behind me for a few minutes before they realize that they are in the line for the wrong airline. I look around but the displays are all working just fine.
I use the time to fill up my immigration form and I am fortunate that the lady handling my check-in is super-efficient.
Then comes another long line at immigration, reminiscent of the situation a decade ago, when it used to take up to an hour or more to get past the immigration officers. This time it takes 20 minutes. Three people in front of me have not filled up their immigration forms properly and the officer waits patiently until they do so, in no hurry to clear the slow moving line that I have found myself in.
Thankfully, because of the slow immigration lines, the queues at the security check are shorter. At least two foreigners, who are not used to our security methods, forget to carry their boarding passes along with them and have to wait till their trays come out of the x-ray unit. You can’t really blame them…there is not a single sign anywhere that says that you have to carry your boarding pass in your hand and except for Nepal, no other country stamps boarding passes.
The baggage security stamp breaks down in front of my bags. Luckily they are able to find a replacement in about 5 minutes, but by then, the line behind me has grown that much longer.
Boarding pass and bags stamped, I walk towards the escalator and find myself in another line where another guard makes sure that I am properly stamped…luckily he doesn’t check my forehead for one, though that day will come soon as well. I reach the lounge only to find that each and every seat is taken and the air is fetid and stale. I turn around and walk towards my boarding gate. Though crowded, I find one empty seat in a corner and settle down to check my email. Fortunately, the free airport Internet works. Luckily, a bottle of water costs only Rs. 20.
I still have an hour to go before boarding commences. Within 15 minutes, all the seats around have become occupied. People are talking loudly, one group of young men shouting away in Hindi, cracking jokes…a little more time and they would have probably burst into bhajans and started playing cards.
Another line soon forms for boarding…
It is always a mind-numbing experience and the only way to stay sane when traveling alone is to behave as if you are doused with lignocaine, or to travel with someone and make fun of everyone and everything. How else can you remain calm when people shove or can’t read displays or can’t fill forms properly, when security guards and immigration officers take their own sweet time, when baggage stamps break down and the lounges are like the front of a Bryan Adams concert?
And all of this on a day when I am lucky to find myself flying business class!

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