Wednesday, June 15, 2005
Dhaka Diary (Pts. 1 - 432)
The start was ominous. A yawning airport lounge in the aftermath of a Lunch. (What a lunch ... those who rant about Calcutta have obviously been deprived of biriyani from the Bengal Club. And have no idea what Munna Maharaj can do with a mango).
I'd been warned that I might be offloaded if I didn't turn up in time, Biman is famously the only airline flying out of Cal that doesn't have a computerised booking system (the web-site just about sums it up). So, still sweating from biriyani + gilawati kebabs + heat, I rushed into the airport.
I was the second person at the check-in counter.
The other passengers (an A-300/310 can carry 325 passengers. Except when it's Biman, then it's configured to carry 580. Do the math) were squabbling at the X-ray machine behind a looming stack of about 7835 pieces of baggage . Mostly cardboard cartons tied together with nylon cords.
I swear there were even TVs in there. Who comes to Cal to buy a television?!
And of course the flight was late.
The lounge was different (from the lunch, that is). The crowd had B.O. And the man next to me had halitosis.
I moved. The television was too loud. To be fair, J.P. Dutta's LOC is probably loud even when you use the 'Mute' button.
I moved. Right to the other end. Baghbaan this end. Tolerable when muted, because of The Man. But of course it wasn't muted.
So I'm old and bald, but I LIKE looking out of the window. So I'd asked for a window seat. Got it, too. Right over the wing. Damn.
The air-conditioning didn't work. How much of a moron do you have to be to make people sweat when outside the plane it's something like -40 Celsius?!
And the bloke next to me also had halitosis.
Then the steward spilt Sprite in my lap. After I'd told him politely that I did NOT want his tray of scavenged scraps.
I woke up as we were landing. The part of the view that wasn't blotted out by the wing was amazing. Water. Except for the occasional patchwork divider, it was like landing in San Francisco (which is scary the first time, the plane skims over the waves, you can't even see the airport and a little voice in your head keeps telling you This-is-not-a-normal-landing-the-pilot-is-dead-up-there, we're-going-to-come-down-in-the-water-why-don't-you-panic)
But the glimpse of Dhaka was serene, beautiful, clumps of greenery and toy houses in an expanse of water that reflected the last of the light. Very Kevin Costner but without the stoopid costumes. I relaxed, breathed deep, thought long cool green thoughts.
Then they opened the aircraft door and my glasses fogged up. Cool. Yeah, right.