By his own admission, UBL got some 2,500 innocent citizens killed in the bombings of 9/11, including of the World Trade Centre twin towers. America knew he was coming for them, but did not know how, where and precisely when. We seem to have a better understanding of all of that today, except maybe when. And yet, our lives have not got simpler, just more painfully difficult. Let me narrate an incident that's still fresh in my mind.
Between last night and this morning, I spent approximately two hours at security lines between Mumbai (Bombay) international airport and London Heathrow airport. If you think security in India is tight, you’ve got to see this and what it can do. It took me two hours to transfer from one terminal to another and I made it to my connecting flight to Munich with five minutes to spare. The only reason I was accepted is my luggage was on board.
Fifteen other passengers were not so lucky. Their baggage was offloaded as we sat in the aircraft. Like me, they all had confirmed tickets and someone waiting for them at Munich. And it was not their fault they were late. “We will put them on the next service,” the captain of the British Airways flight announced cheerfully. I am sure they did not similarly when they landed at the gate.
Banking On Averages
I arrived in Munich almost three hours later (the flight was an hour late) to discover BA had misplaced my only suitcase. The amazing thing was there was a Lost Baggage counter right next to the baggage carrousel. I’ve never seen one so close and so strategically located. Its like every airline that arrives at Munich usually forgets a few pieces of luggage behind. Not surprisingly, our half-full Airbus A320 had seven or eight people standing for lost luggage.
That’s still not the issue. Baggage gets lost I guess. Actually this is the first time its happened to me. So from a law of averages perspective, Im doing okay. The BA lady at Munich was pleasant and helpful. She ran my numbers through the computer and said the baggage would arrive in a few hours. She promised to deliver it to the hotel by late evening, despite it being 150 km away in a Bavarian village.
So what’s my grouse ? Its like this. I usually carry my toiletries in my hand baggage, along with my laptop and other electronics. Thanks to this heightened state of alert where toothpastes and shaving creams are seen as explosive material or triggers for the same, every bit of toiletry has to be thrown out. I thought I would use the small toothbrush and toothpaste that BA gave me on the first leg at Heathrow.
The Fear Of Terror
No way. I was running all the time, or standing in lines. The last line was the security check to enter Terminal 1 where I had to chuck the little tootpaste and toothbrush into a huge bin. What I thought was a 45-minute process of transferring between terminals took two hours, resulting in the last minute dash into the connecting flight. So, here I am in Munich, with no extra clothes and no toiletries. And no time to brush my teeth !
And that's my point. Terrorism or the fear of it has made us alert and aware of a whole new world out there. Its put on us guard. That is very good. I know why the United Kingdom is on high alert but now its getting a little ridiculous. Even Indian airports are following the same security rules whether or not the threat perception is the same. Fear obviously spreads faster than anything else. And Im not saying this because I had to run around for tootpaste and shaving cream.
Some of my fellow delegates from India told me they had vowed not to transit through Heathrow till things settled down. Guess I should have been a little smarter about this. But then that's precisely the point. We can’t get so scared that we make our own lives so miserable and difficult. Or keep configuring and reconfiguring our existence because of some madman sitting in a cave and plotting the world's end.