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Friday, December 26, 2008


Leaving India or not?

I got the feeling that somehow India didn't want me to leave. When I was about to enter the departure terminal of New Delhi Airport, I was stopped by a security guard who insisted on seeing my ticket. 'Ticket? Ticket? I don't have a ticket. Haven't you heard of etickets?' Lately I usually rock on into the terminal, show my passport and that's all they need to find the details on their computer and give me a boarding pass.

'Who are you flying with?'

'Malaysia Airlines.'

'Go to their office in the building over the road and ask them to print you a ticket. You can't enter the terminal without a ticket.'

Down the corridors of the building over the road I find a door with the Malaysia Airlines name on it. But the door is locked. I hang around for a while; wander around in case there's another but there isn't; wander back to the same door; still no one there. I go back to the main entrance. Fortunately I came plenty early.

He asks to see my passport and then asks again which airline I'm flying on. He goes inside and gets someone from Malaysia Airlines to come out. This guy takes my passport, disappears for a few minutes and returns to confirm that yes I do have a seat on the flight. I am allowed to enter. The guard, by the way, is quite friendly. He's just doing his job.

I join a queue which eventually brings me to a check-in counter. I show my passport and yep, there is absolutely no hassle getting a boarding pass. They have some forms on the counter. I notice others have been taking them. I ask if I need one. 'Yes, and take one of these for your hand luggage too.' She gives me a tie-on label.

I find a seat and fill in the form and label. I find a couple of money exchange counters but neither have Malaysian ringgits. Nothing else to do. No one to see me off. They won't allow anyone who isn't flying to enter. Nothing to do but enter through the immigration gates.

Go through the gates. My form is OK. I'm legally out of India. No hassles. And then I get to the security section.

There are several gates with a guard on each. There doesn't appear to be a reason to choose one or another. I choose one. He wants to see the label for each piece of my hand luggage. I have three pieces and one label. 'Well, what am I to do? I have only one label.'

'Go back outside and get labels for your other pieces of hand luggage.' He points back through immigration.

I go over to immigration and ask if it is possible to go outside and get some more labels. The answer is a definite 'No.'

I ask what I am to do as security won't let me go on. He answers in English but what he is saying is not within my comprehension. I say 'I'm sorry, I don't understand.' He repeats the same sentence a little louder and a little faster and points towards the security gates. He then turns away as if to say 'I don't want any more to do with you.' I still do not understand what he said. I decide to go to a different security guard. He lets me through.

I am scanned and frisked. My bags are scanned and a stamp is put on the label. I go inside and wait. I am quite early. The exit gate is not even acknowledged on the electronic notice board. I sit down and read.

Eventually my flight is called. I join the queue. While I'm waiting a woman says to me that I had better put my small black bag inside my larger white one or security won't allow me to bring it on board.

Eventually I reach the security guards at the exit door. They want to see the stamp on each piece of my hand luggage. I have one on the label that is attached to the largish bag that contains my computer and camera but I don't have one on my white cloth bag.

'You stand over there,' one guard tells me in a firm voice.

I feel like a naughty school kid. 'So, what are you going to do?' I ask. 'Keep me in India?'

The second guard comes over and takes a closer look at the white cloth bag. He finds that the stamp has been put on the bag itself. Perhaps they put one on the black bag too but of course it wouldn't show. Anyway, I'm allowed to board my plane.

Security in India is stricter than I have seen anywhere else I have travelled. I understand. Terrorism from various sources is a big issue in India. Every time I entered a shopping mall in India I was scanned and frisked. I accept that this is for my protection and safety. However, I wish the security guards could be taught how to do their job without having to unduly inconvenience innocent people. How simple it would have been if the security guard I encountered after passing through immigration had a supply of extra labels.

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