Wednesday, October 04, 2006

airports in India

At first, when we arrived in India, I was startled by how frequently you see military men holding rifle-y kinds of guns. They're all over the airports, and it's not uncommon to see them elsewhere. Then I remembered the hostilities between India and Pak, and the bombings and setting-fire-to- trains, and it made sense. They aren't particularly scary or threatening, although they don't smile, and when they're examining your documents there's a moment of pause.

So the airport security here is really tight, no matter if you're flying in or out of a major city like Delhi or Mumbai, or just between two puddle-jumper kinds of places. Your luggage is screened and checked, just like in the US, but here's where it is different. Hand luggage is x-rayed, and every single person is individually frisked and wanded. There's always a line for men and one for women; women step into a booth, the curtains are drawn, and the female attendant frisks you (sometimes quite closely, my butt was seriously groped in Udaipur) and wands you. Then you pick up your hand luggage.

In Udaipur, after we picked up our x-rayed hand luggage, it was searched by hand (everyone's was), then we got to the door to walk outside and it was searched again, then we walked a few feet where we were stopped and it was searched again -- even though the last search spot was within a few feet and visible. It doesn't feel bad, or overly intrusive, especially since they do it to everyone and there's no nasty attitude that suggests they assume you're evil, unlike in the US.

What's really surprising is that, despite this intense scrutiny, the flights still take off within a few minutes of the schedule (or on time). Gate agents will walk through the waiting area calling for an individual, if he or she hasn't come on board yet -- they'll hold the plane -- but still it takes off on time. I don't know how they do it.

Also, on every single flight, even if you're in the air for only 30 minutes, they serve a meal. Before the flight takes off, they bring you a cold wet towel, then serve you fresh lime juice (tastes like salty soap, we don't take it), then they walk through with a big basket of candies. As soon as you're airborne, they come through with a meal. I don't know how they do it.

So today we're off to see the Amber Fort and another one that's full of monkeys, then a little more sightseeing. More later!

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