Home  -  Back Issues  -  The Team  -  Contact Us
     Volume 11 |Issue 28| July 13, 2012 |


 Cover Story
 Current Affairs
 A Roman Column
 One Off
 Writing the Wrong
 Star Diary

   SWM Home

One Off

Not all Travels are Worth Calling a 'Break'!

Aly Zaker

Such delightful experiences as the butterfly in the flower patch, or the blooming Jarul are, I have come to realise, what keep us going in the world that is becoming boisterously disorganised or won over by organised avarice. There does not seem any end to it. We gasp for breath and then, once in a while, are greeted by freshness of apparently unimportant things, such as the gifts of nature. Other entertainments as the triviality of comfort while travelling or when we check in to stay, out of our own homes, are also important for us when we like to take breaks. Now, there are various ways that I indulge in such pleasures as 'breaks'. I go out to the likes of butterfly patches, drive down to my village, go to the nearest sea beach or, if money and time permits, go abroad to a city of my liking. It also happens so at times that my job takes me abroad, all expenses paid, and I obviously cannot complain about that. This time, I was travelling on business. Not to a far off place but to my very favourite city of Kolkata. I have seen this city at various stages of my life and from various pecuniary dispositions. My childhood visits to Kolkata have been splendid. Or so I thought. We accompanied Maa to our Grandfather's home on the Park Street at Park Circus of Calcutta almost on all our summer vacations while in school. Soon as the Dhaka mail steamed in to the Sealdaha station, the euphoria of 'Calcutta coming' took over. And then the phaeton ride to my grandfather's house followed by a run towards Aziz's shop by the road to have a swig from the chilled bottle of Coca Cola was the greatest treat we could give us until that age. Those were indeed the days of hilarity and laughter and unending happiness. But let this experience be kept pending for another day.

This time, I came to Kolkata for a short business visit. I was advised by friends that I should take the only Bangladeshi private airline as that flies on time. The government run Bangladesh Biman, the only other deshi airline, was not an option since their flights are perpetually delayed or postponed. What is more, this airline offered the cheapest fare. So I did not hesitate in my choice of the airline. Things went fine at the Dhaka airport. The smiling ground crew of the airline were really nice and said that they had assigned me a good seat very close to the entrance so that I would not have trouble getting in or out of the plane. I was mighty pleased. After all, who does not want to be pampered at the age I am in? So I embark the plane and am assigned the seat mentioned on the embarkation card. I discover, while sliding in to my seat that, for my size the situation was rather tight. I, however, manage to take my seat smilingly without a complaint only to find that there was no leg room for a person six feet tall and with an ample girth like me. However, I managed to sit straight up as our school teachers would want us to and felt that I would have done them mighty proud if I sat like that in their classes. There was no way I could move a bit. Even turning the pages of the newspaper that they had given me was impossible. So, I decided to remain within the confines of the first page of the daily newspaper given to me and read every letter of that page. Thankfully, on a cloudy day with a bit of rock and rolling, we arrived more or less on time in Kolkata. On arrival as I was driving towards my destination I was wondering why some of the airlines, especially in our country, made such seat arrangements that people cursed them. Maybe because of the cheap fare, they wanted to make up for the lost revenue by sandwiching passengers between seats. Now, if this contention was true. then who were they trying to fool? At least I would think several times before boarding their Kolkata flight in the future.

In Kolkata I checked in to my most favourite star-studded hotel that has a whole lot of old world charm for me. I have lost count of how many times I have stayed in this hotel and must confess that every time I have been very pleased. So after my horrendous experience with the Airlines, I thought that thankfully I had, as the cliché goes, finally arrived at the home away from home. Well the home was great in matters of greetings. The person at the front office, a very pleasant looking girl, wouldn't even let me sign in at the reception and followed the bell captain to my room to get all the formalities completed. I was really pleased. She went to such great details as to inquire which newspaper I would like to be given in my room in the morning and what time would I wish to leave the hotel on the day of my departure, whether I would want her to book me a table for lunch that day, if I would need a hotel car to drop me off to my place of engagement, so on and so forth. This was more than I had asked for. Curious to discover how very far they had travelled in terms of customer comfort since the last time I had partaken in their hospitality, I answered all her queries. The reality was a wee bit different. At the restaurant, no table was pre-booked for lunch so I had to wait for an empty table. The steward, on being told that the front office had assured me of a table, gave me a smile of embarrassment. The coffee I asked for arrived fifteen minutes later, that too after two reminders. It took a reminder to have the glasses of drinking water filled. I have seldom encountered such irregularity before. The food, however, was good. I had more surprises in store for the next morning. The newspaper I had asked for was replaced by some other one. When I asked what the matter was, there came yet another smile of embarrassment. The concierge service was nothing to write home about. I was fairly busy with my chores in Kolkata to even give a thought to these minor matters. However, on the day of my departure, the girl at the reception stood by and apologised for the things that had gone wrong at the hotel upon this visit and gave me a smile when I told her not to worry. The smile made my day. I must confess that one such smile from anyone at the Bangladeshi airlines I was travelling by would have taken care of all the discomfort I had with them. But, I guess, smiles can't be had for fares so cheap.


Copyright (R) thedailystar.net 2012