Friday, October 17, 2014

Canada Travelogue 1 - The journey begins...

I'll be attempting to blog as I travel this time - let's see how far we get!


The journey began on a wrong note; I wanted to sleep for at least a couple of hours before starting but once I was in office I wasn't able to leave early; happens all the time, doesn't it? You somehow get caught with work; even bunking a meeting didn't help!

The flight was at 2am; I reached the airport by 10pm. And on the cab ride to the airport I remembered about a couple of work related tasks that I hadn't completed; uh - too many thoughts about work.

Chennai airport had a surprise visit by some minister two weeks earlier and he gave a list of suggestions for improving the airport; but judging by the plight of the toilets it didn't seem like much had been accomplished.

Wake up call

I was pleasantly surprised to see a senior colleague in the airport - he was heading on an official trip to the US and was in my same flight for the first leg of travel till Germany. We chatted about programming in the good old days when programming was considered a geeky thing, talked about startups that tried to get venture capital funding from a firm he was working for, appraisals and the special skills needed for having associates reporting to you.

The gate number said 14 but we saw only directions to gate H14 and followed it. As we waited, I dozed off hoping to catch my 2 hours of sleep - I kept the boarding pass in my shirt pocket and I was confident that the Lufthansa staff would wake me when it was time for boarding. It wasn't long before I opened my eyes to the sound of a lady repeating 'Sir'; I checked the time - it was only a 20 minutes nap.
'Sir, the gate is on the top floor on the right. This is H14. You have to go to 14.'

Gate number 14 was not even mentioned in the initial signpost and that's what misled us; oh well, Chennai airport still has a long way to go! The seating area near gate 14 was extremely cold; the AC was in full blast and didn't seem like there was any temperature regulation. They surely were giving me a feel of the Canadian winter!

As people boarded the flight, there was a guy sitting 3 rows in front who was talking in a very loud voice. He was conversing with the German air-hostess.
"Chennai is the worst international airport," he said in a European voice.
The air hostess laughed and replied, "Delhi used to be bad but now it's really good."
I learnt more things about them; he didn't like the way Indians manufactured hardware parts - he said they were never fully tested and quality was bad; always have to keep a close watch on labourers. The air hostess had a schedule of 1 day work and 2 days leave - would have an international flight and then stay in a hotel for 2 days in that city before going on her next trip. She knew places in India where one could meet pretty Russian students who came to India for academics. She also liked the Sheraton in India where she was often given accommodation. Once the flight engines started, it was hard to overhear their conversation.

My first Lufthansa flight

I slept off when the flight took off; after 30 minutes when I woke up I had a severe headache. The air hostess were serving food - with headache I ate and felt a bit better. I went to sleep again. My schedule was as follows: sleep, wake up, take a walk to the back of the flight, have a glass of water or apple or orange juice, stretch my legs and return to my seat to sleep or watch a movie till I fell asleep.

The in-flight entertainment system was a lot better than what I had seen in British Airways a few months earlier. No remote; it was all a touch screen. I searched for movies with subtitles; Edge of Darkness was interesting - a movie that went in loops; but somehow you didn't get entirely involved because you knew that the hero can always reset to a initial state and start all over again when he felt that things weren't going his way.

British Airways would feed us plenty but Lufthansa was a bit limited in that sense; food was good. The snacks that were kept in the pantry (near the air hostess area) were also limited - just 2 items but both were really good - 'Prince' chocolate biscuits and cashew packets. 

There were many Indians on our flight - many having onward journeys while some like my neighbour were going to Germany for higher studies. He told me about the low tuition fees, accommodation rates, the visa process and possibility of doing a PhD there. There was another elderly Indian who was going to Norway alone to visit his son.

We arrived in Frankfurt well within time to a bright Friday morning and my next flight was in 90 minutes. We stepped out from the flight on the tarmac, took a connecting bus that weaved around the airport for a long time before reaching the terminal.