A non-frequent traveller’s random musings

I hardly travel as I am in a non-touring job. In fact, i jokingly tell some of my friends/relatives in private sector that they travel more in a fortnight (sometimes in a week) than i do in a year.

Amidst these non-frequent travels, i have jotted down some observations  on air-travel which i would like to share. Will  more frequent travellers agree or disagree about the same. Lets see.

Availability and price of air tickets. The earlier you book, the cheaper they are. Unfortunately, with work pressure being so hectic nowadays, it is difficult to plan much ahead for travels. One may have to cancel at last minute, but still better go ahead and book the tickets in advance. Even if you need to cancel, still the “damage” will be lesser than buying costly tickets at last minute.

The above is for private travel. For official travel, one normally does not mind as the journey is in public/company interest and cost incurred by the employer. However often the journey has to be taken suddenly and and ticket bought personally. Sometimes there is a gap between  personally incurring the expenses and getting it reimbursed. Ideally this gap should be minimised.

Over the years i have observed that the role of the travel agents are decreasing. Nowadays its more convenient to do direct booking and one gets the e-ticket details on cell phone. One also saves the extra cost of travel agent commission etc. Giving the cell number is useful (and mandatory too) as one gets flight updates and so on.

It is advisable to take a print-out of the e-mail sent by the airlines. If one goes to the airport and shows only the SMS received in cell phone, then the CISF Official on duty asks to go to the airline office and take a printout. The cost is Rs 50/- which is Ok as there is no free lunch. However precious time is wasted.

After that one has to face the endless queue to get boarding pass. Travel light, travel safe. If possible travel only with hand baggage so that one can avoid the queue and proceed straight to security check up.

Ideally for a hassle free security clearance, one needs to avoid carrying anything which is in the prohibited list. In my infrequent travels , i have come across so many arguments of passengers with cisf security. However one needs to know that they are doing a job, and that job is to help us only, by ensuring security. Hence its better to cooperate, and comply with rules.

The hand baggage usually goes through the x-ray machine without issues. If the CISF has doubts they keep aside bags and call the passenger to explain. Hence its a good idea to more or less know whats inside your baggage.

I remember once a passenger was carrying food items, and the Cisf official asked what it is. The rude answer was “different kinds of meat, including beef and pork, would u like to taste?” I do not know what the CISF chap did as i had to proceed for Boarding but i remember his furious face and have a feeling the passenger would have been taught a lesson.

Once in the waiting area, one sees wide variety of people. Some frequent types I have invariably seen are as follows;

Phoren returned Indian. Easy to identify, Shorts (Almost always), sports shoes, socks, oversized Tee Shirts (usually). And a distinctive “Betaaaa, sambhal ke” to his kid. The Phoren returned Oriya is even more easily identifiable with his Oriya Accent.

Disclaimer- No criticism here. I respect people with accents because it only means he/she knows one language more.

The In House DeeJay (DJ). Listens loudly to music. and wants everyone to listen too. His earlier favorite was Himmesh Reshammiya, now Mika Pahji has taken over.

“Boss, something called headphones exist or not?”

The Gamer. Plays rocket science level difficult games like Subway surfer or Candy crush with ease.  Then looks around , expecting praise and adulation like he has just climbed Mount Everest without oxygen. Do the phones of these intrepid gamers have no Mute button.

Bossy Husband He takes pride in shouting at his wife in public and pointing out to her that he always flies, while she doesnt and hence he should be listened to. Sometimes of course there is a Nagging wife also.

Important Bureaucrat/Company Official. He ensures that he will call someone up at the destination point and “remind” to send vehicle. This ensures that his vehicle reaches and also ensures that others who have to depend on Cab/taxi/public transport have a second look at who is the important person who will have a chauffeur driven car to receive him.

There are others too, but these 5 categories stand out.

One then goes to the aircraft, either in a bus or in the aerobridge. For security reasons i feel that only aerobridge should be there and i think abroad that is the case. Readers may please help me out with information.

Staggered boarding. This is something where i feel we have a long way to go. Self discipline is a must. After all, if one reaches the aircraft seat 10 minutes earlier than other passengers, has an Olympic Gold been won ?

On entering the aircraft one is (usually) greeted by the airhostess and then one proceeds to one’s seat. Sometimes keeping the hand baggage in the overhead space becomes a challenge. It is for instance extremely annoying when one has say a seat in 2nd or 3rd Row, and one has to keep the baggage in 8th row. More so when one is travelling light without checked in baggage. Here too it is a question of self-discipline i guess.

In the aircraft, suddenly almost everyone feels thirsty and request the airhostess for water. This is what i have invariably seen. I wonder why.

After the flight takes off, people settle down. Some with books, some with newspapers, some have work on laptops, some listen to music, some play games ( subway surfer is a big hit, as was angry birds a couple of years ago). Some lucky ones sleep off.

Landing . Many people are tense and one can see silent prayers. Some non-chalently tke pics/videos of the landing. Then the flight lands. Most are in a hurry to open their seat belts , stand up and open the overhead bin to get their luggage, and they ignore the repeated requests of the air hostess “Captain has not switched off the seat belt sign”.

The journey has finally ended. Once again the Important Bureaucrat/Company Official calls up his car to ensure it has come, and to remind all that they have to hunt for taxis.

These are my random musings as an infrequent air traveller. Should i pen my random musings as an infrequent train traveller. I will if u want.








My Civil Services Interview ; Part 2

Part 1 of my civil services interview was titled “The day I differed from a Nobel Laureate” and i published it 40 days back. Here is part 2 of the interview.

In my view, Civil Services interview is more of a discussion generally, rather than a grilling session. The “knowledge” has already been tested in the Written examination and therefore the interview is more of a personality test.

Some of the other questions in the interview were as follows;

Democracy/Dynasty/voting.  The Board asked me thats my view on regimented democracy was. I said that i am not very sure of what it is.

My answer was accepted without probing on and they then asked me to give my opinion on dynasty politics in 1 sentence. I simply said i am not in its favour as it does not allow the competent, efficient and meritorious to come up. I was asked did i think universal adult franchisee is a success and i said that yes, since in all elections the government has been formed by the party which had the support of the people.

On MP’s. One Member asked me whether like the term of US President is limited to 2 Terms same should be for an MP in India. I said no, since there are many good leaders who nurture their constituencies well due to which they are re-elected 7-8 times on merit, with votes of the people. The immediate next question was How an MP can nurture and i said through the MPLAD scheme whereby 2 crores are given to an MP per year to spend on their constituency. I was asked why not this be increased, doubled or trebled and i replied that many MP’s are not able to spend it and so there is no need to increase the amount. A lady Member laughed and said that they are spending on wrong things so its better its not spent, and i politely said we should try and ensure that its spent on correct and right things. She then said that can the scheme be modified to take care of national interest and not only local interest. I said yes thats simple, insert a clause that a certain percentage is spent on education and health, then automatically national interest will be taken care of.

Relevance of NAM. My response was if it means remaining equidistant between the 2 superpowers, then no, it is not relevant as we have only 1 superpower now, USA and situation likely to remain the same. However in my opinion NAM also stands for the equality of nations and also stands for the independence of foreign policy and was a platform for weak, underdeveloped countries to come together

American President’s Visit. I stated that Bill Clinton’s visit was very successful as an attempt was made to understand how complex the Kashmisr issue was and for the 1st time an American President accepted that elements in Pakistan were fuelling unrest in Kashmir. The visit was also successful as in mu opinion trade would increase and in the new internet based Knowledge economy India and USA were poised to be natural allies.

On USA. I was taken back to my earlier statement that USA was the only superpower and asked whether it is good for the world. I replied that any situation of one person/party/country having too much power is normally not good and one can only hope that power is wielded responsibly by USA. I was asked how nations can come close together and i replied that closeness can be through trade. One Member abruptly said that USA will not allow this and i politely disagreed that “While Madeline Allbright has herself said that ever since UN was formed, USA has used it to further its interests, but with trade , nations can come close together and USA will gain the maximum with access to new markets. I was asked a strange question “Is USA Afraid of China’?. i replied no, there is no reason to be , however it may be a bit wary of China’s ascendency, and India should use that wariness to forge a successful relationship.

On my weaknesses. I said that i get irritated sometimes and perturbed, especially if i see that I am working hard but my team member is not. (this was a prepared answer). The follow up question was then you are a bad leader. I replied that i take care not to allow my weakness to affect work, as for me the target is most important and i take care to see that all are motivated.

On Boss giving illegal instructions. There were a series of rapidfire questions as follows;

1. What will you do if your Boss gives you illegal instructions? Ans. I will follow the law. 2. What if he insists.? Ans. I will reason with him. 3. What if he says, I am your boss, dont reason with me, do what i say. Ans. I will point out a way of doing the same work in a legal manner. 4. He says No, i want it done my way, I dont care, I am the boss. Ans. I will point out that the work will land him in trouble and me too. 5. He says Dont teach me, how many times i told u i am the boss, do what i say. Ans. I will go on leave, but not carry out his illegal instruction.

There was a moment of quietness when i said I will go on leave. Then one member asked “Isnt that accepting defeat.?” I said, No as i was left with no alternative, and going on leave is a way of showing protest

The next question was “Will you resign?” I said with a broad smile, “No Sir, I wont resign, I have studied so hard and fought so hard to be in the few 100’s among a few lakhs. Why should i resign for an adamant, corrupt boss.”. Hearing this the entire Board burst into laughter.

The interview ended on this note. It had gone on for 43 minutes. A lady Member wanted to ask one more question but the Chairman stopped her saying, Madam you must have been satisfied. In fact all of us are satisfied, Mr Misra, Wish you the very best.

Hearing this i was ecstatic as this was very positive indeed. When the results came out, i was pleasantly surprised that I had 240, which was the highest marks that year( along with 4 other candidates). That high marks in interview was primarily responsible for my getting a rank of 89 and a job in IRS. In fact the other 4 who got 240 also got IFS, IPS, IPS and IRS (Customs) showing that written exam gets you a job, Interview decides what job it will be.

My Civil Services interview was one of the memorable days of my life, hence blogged it. Hope you enjoyed reading about it as much as i enjoyed giving it then and  writing about it now.