By Madhav Mohan
It’s that time of the year again. I am en route to India on one of my regular trips and I make yet another weary pit stop at good old Frankfurt airport. As arriving flights spit out people crisscrossing the globe, I am reminded of the Spaceports in the Science Fiction novels of yesteryear. Frankfurt airport could well be an intergalactic transit planet (or was it a white dwarf?) with hyper ships bringing in creatures from worlds light years away, on their way to some other exotic universe. I’ve traveled this route some years now and have long since ceased to be amazed at the sight of the throngs of Indians lounging in the transit area or sleepwalking past the Duty Free Stores in Terminal 1. But I never fail to get a kick out of the fact that I will typically meet 2 or 3 people I know.
Sprinting out of the aircraft to beat the rush to the shower stalls in the Business Lounge is a part of the layover ritual. The shower really eases the pain of taking the next long flight. The housekeeper who manages the stalls is a genial Fraulein who of course speaks no English, but goes with gusto at all the million-syllable Indian names on her PA system; Venkatasubramaniam a la Deutsch does provide for some quiet laughs…
Once refreshed, I hit the breakfast bar for a quick bite. A quick glance around the busy lounge and sure enough I spot the ex-boss; the colleague from a past life; a long lost friend from my school days, Bala or Arjun or Rahul; and I step over to pick up where we left off and share war stories. For a country of 1.2 billion people we certainly give a new meaning to the phrase “Flat World”.
5 or 6 years ago, it was mainly folks from the Outsourcing community that you met – now it is way beyond that with so many Indian Corporations spinning a global web.
In one way, this is testimony to the growing influence of India on the world stage. There’s a real feel-good about this. It reflects how much the world is investing in India and, increasingly, how much India is investing around the globe. We’re already a Top 10 economy in the world and in the next 25 years, we’ll be in the Top 3. Heck, is that a pleasant shift from 15 years ago! The implications of this are felt by us as we speak – Indians are probably the most prolific travelers globally, salaries have skyrocketed 15-50 times in the last couple of decades and the Sensex is part of the leading stock indices in the world. Like I said, there’s a real feel-good about this – we should pat ourselves on the back, take a bow. We’ve all contributed to some small degree.
Making my way to my next flight, I rapidly move past the smoking areas – wait, smoking areas? I pick up the mandatory fridge magnet and reach my gate. As the line shuffles towards the plane, I hear snatches of conversation…’do they allow us to take the pickle through customs?’… ‘My son has a lovely condo in the bay area’…’these flights are so exhausting, no?’….and I feel right at home!
Pictures from Creative Commons