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This is India

India is a Good Place, Well, If Chaos Is Good That Is – Trivandrum January 1999
We arrive at Trivandrum airport on the flight from Bahrain, following on from Discarded Boxes in the Airport Lounge. There is a can-only-happen-in-India moment with passports at the airport. Is it only a package-tourist who would take a passport without checking whether it is his?
Onto the tarmac at Trivandrum airport and yes, we are in India. An old truck with steps pulls up alongside the aeroplane and the driver gets out and leads us all from the foot of the steps to the terminal building, underneath the aeroplane, right behind the jets. The Brits don’t follow him; they go round the aeroplane, while the cabin crew stand at the top of the steps looking horrified that someone might not.
Passport (lack-of) Control
Into the passport control area where the system is that a man ticks every item on your embarkation form and corrects any errors, then hands your passport to another man who stamps it, then passes it to another man who carries it to a different desk. What happens at this desk is not clear but the carrying man then brings a handful of passports back and says: ‘Whose are these?’
My passport didn’t appear. Most other people were getting theirs after a while, but not me.
The carrying man, meanwhile, was getting quite agitated because a passport was not being claimed. He kept taking it back to the desk and bringing it out again, waving it about and calling: ‘Nicola Jones!’.
It began to seem likely that Nicola Jones had taken my passport in error, so Hilary, who by now had her passport, went down into the baggage hall, to see if she could find Nicola Jones.
I, meanwhile, eventually got the man to allow me to look at the unclaimed passport, where I could see that it belonged to someone whose name was actually Nicholas James Jarvis.
I couldn’t get down to the baggage hall as I couldn’t leave passport control without a passport, however I could look over the balcony, just about, so I shouted down for Nicholas James Jarvis and a man with a walking stick looked up. Hilary honed in on him and got him to check his passport, to find it was mine. He had already used it to change some currency, still without noticing.
Hilary persuaded the man to limp up the stairs back to passport control, where he and I exchanged passports over the shoulder of the controller man, and then I could get out.
This is India. Or is it that we are perhaps just still in package-tour land?
The story continues with The Streets of Trivandrum.


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