Saturday, October 11, 2014

The madness and the romance

It has been quite some time since the last post. Apologies. I have been frightfully busy with professional work. Demands were made on `my’ time which unfortunately left me no opportunities to blog. Well, on Friday 10th October we flew out on vacation. I now have time and mental bandwidth.

Just before we left the country, I had opportunity to witness the madness and insanity that is typically Indian. One morning, waiting to pay the toll on the Bandra Worli Sealink getting into South Bombay, I saw this insanity at work. I was so happy, India was alive and well. The extreme left lane is for cars that have an electronic tag to enable them to use the Sea Link without stopping for payment of the toll. There is an electronic tag on the car, a reader on the road and a sensor that lifts the barrier. All very simple, all totally regular technology available all around the world. In India of course this simple device had failed, at peak hours. The connection between the barrier and the sensor was kaput. So what do our boys managing the toll collection do? They ask a man to hold a broken traffic separator and become a human barrier. Two other gents, similarly gainfully employed look at the sensor and once it records the arrival of a car they indicate to Ganpat the Human Barrier to lower his arm with broken traffic separator and allow the car to pass. Brilliant. Please see the photo.

We were flying on Emirates to the UK. I am quite fed up with British Airways. Yes they have direct flights, a brilliant terminal – Terminal 5 at Heathrow and brilliant connections all over Europe, but British Airways has become absolutely third rate. After paying all that money you get no value. BA has old aircraft, terrible entertainment systems and mediocre food with cost cutting being applied everywhere. So Emirates it was for us. Not only were the tickets cheaper but the product is so much superior. We are on holiday; a couple of hour’s layover in Dubai waiting for a connection is not something that bothered us.

I am sure you remember reading stories recounting the romance of flying. In 1939 the rich and famous paid USD 675 to fly on the Boeing 314 a Sea Plane, across the Atlantic. This was luxury travel. The faithful Wikipedia says this about the flights.

Pan Am's "Clippers" were built for "one-class" luxury air travel, a necessity given the long duration of transoceanic flights. The seats could be converted into 36 bunks for overnight accommodation. The 314s had a lounge and dining area, and the galleys were crewed by chefs from four-star hotels. Men and women were provided with separate dressing rooms, and white-coated stewards served five and six-course meals with gleaming silver service. The standard of luxury on Pan American's Boeing 314s has rarely been matched on heavier-than-air transport since then.

This was in 1939, an unbelievable 75 years ago! Let me tell you that Emirates have come close to achieving that. You get a seat that becomes a flat bed at the press of a button. The Air Hostess will make a bed up for you; no she will not tuck you in, even if you ask nicely. You have a bar on board where you can stand and drink what you want and eat bar snacks. When your meal is ready you can go to your seat and eat. You have movies, music, TV shows to watch. And, since this is 2014 and you need to stay in touch, you also have internet on board. So you can WhatsApp your pals, SMS them, send and receive Emails. And the aircraft? Well the A 380 is really a class above everything else; it is amazingly silent and extremely gentle in flight. Flying on Emirates, long haul, on an A 380 is a return to the romance of travel. The whole experience was very pleasant.

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