By P.R. Ganapathy
When I last counted, I estimated that you have to stand in line 7 different times before you board a plane in India. At the entrance to the airport, baggage scanning line, check-in line, security line,
check-your-boarding-pass line, to get on the bus, and finally, to get on the plane.
Over the last few trips, I’ve noticed a certain hyperaggressiveness among passengers in India.
One of the most egregious experiences I had was on the last trip to India. Very often, when a flight is called, a long line forms in front of the counters to check your boarding pass. And you’ll often notice someone sidle up to some meek-looking soul in the line, hoping to be
able to slide in, and avoid having to go to the back of the line. Very little makes me see red, but this is unfortunately one of them. And so, I make it a point to call them, and ask them to go to the back of the line, even if they’re not trying to slide in in front of me.
So on this particular instance, I was boarding a flight to Mangalore, and a tall young man stands beside and slightly ahead of me. The line is already 5 or 6 people deep behind me. So I look him in the eye and say “Excuse me, I think the end of the line’s back there”, pointing
behind me with my thumb.
Whoa, did that set off a nerve somewhere. He started shouting at me for “acting smart” and being a “villager who seemed to be traveling for the first time”, etc., ad nauseaum. So I told him I was surprised that he was being so aggressive about such a small issue. That really set him off – he took a few menacing steps towards me, and I almost reached up and took my glasses off so that they wouldn’t shatter when he hit me. Thankfully, it didn’t come to that. He then proceeded to
bully a smaller guy right behind me to let him stand in line, and shadowed me all the way through the bus ride to the aircraft, glaring at me at every concievable opportunity.
What’s driving this? Some of you may say that this is because airline travel in India has become progressively less expensive, and that’s brought a whole new stratum of travelers into airports. People who may be traveling for the first time, in some cases, or less familiar with airport procedure. That could be true, but I don’t think it adds up.
Have you had such experiences when you travel in India? Why do you think it’s on the rise? Can something be done about it? If so, what? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Picture by Soumik Kar