Will India lose its charm as it becomes 'world class'?

Discussion in 'Defence & Strategic Issues' started by Rage, Jun 8, 2009.

  1. Rage

    Rage DFI TEAM Stars and Ambassadors

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    This is an article, that for some inexplicable reason, hit real deep. Perhaps it's because I'm an old soul, perhaps it's just because I'm Hindostaani...

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    Will India lose its charm as it becomes ‘world class’?

    By Anand Giridharadaas
    From: The Teheran Times


    WASHINGTON (New York Times) — “But you haven’t eaten anything! Come, come, you must have something. At least take some bread. Please.”

    They barely serve peanuts aboard American airlines these days. But just a few years ago, in India, it was not uncommon to encounter flight attendants who took it personally when you did not eat.

    Their behavior was not that of a pre-programmed employee following a script. It was the universal response of an Indian to an Indian, a horror at the thought that someone in your charge might go hungry.

    Then the Indian airline industry became what business-book writers label “world class”: it got with the global program, signing on the dotted lines of the contract with modernity.

    Delays waned. Aerobridges were erected. New airlines were born.

    Thinner, younger flight attendants were employed. Miniskirts replaced saris. To fly the Indian skies today is to have a perfectly modern experience.

    But it is not to have a very Indian experience, because they don’t care if you eat anymore.

    These thoughts stirred as I traveled in America in recent days, on a short break from life in India. Here, of course, the notion of flight attendants’ caring if you eat sounds laughable, since they don’t even serve you food much of the time. And yet it is toward this colder, more detached relationship between customer and employee that India is heading.

    India has long been a jazz republic, functioning without a written score. People involve themselves in each other’s lives without regard to propriety or privacy. They insist on feeding you even when you want nothing. They insist on paying a price other than the price listed.

    They pack as many cars onto a road as possible, without regard to the painted lanes. They pay as little tax as they can get away with.

    If you call Domino’s after closing time, you can sometimes cajole them to reopen and deliver a pizza anyway. Everything is a negotiation; everything is improvised. Things are a “no” in India until they are a “yes.”

    But a kind of modernity is coming to India, with a Western emphasis on regimentation and formalization. The flight attendants now walk down the aisles carrying out their detailed training, offering food if you want it, moving on if you don’t. A new breed of companies resists hiring the cousins and friends of senior managers; they insist on children’s educating themselves and working hard in order to inherit the family business. More and more people faithfully pay their taxes.

    And yet now when I visit America, where I grew up until moving to India six years ago, I wonder if this is where India is bound: a society that is fairer and more ordered, but in which something of the warmth of improvisation is gone.

    It is especially visible in customer-service relationships. In India, those relationships are often hierarchical and tinged by a blend of fear and reverence in the service giver’s eyes. But India has not yet crossed that line beyond which such transactions lose their human aspect.

    Moving through America, I was struck again and again by the superficial politesse and underlying coldness of so many customer-service moments.

    In restaurants, the waiters have become performers, not merely hosts seeking to tend to a guest: “May I ask if it’s your first time dining with us? Wow! Well, it’s wonderful to have you here. Can I begin by telling you about our wonderful specials?” And then the sparkling-or-still-water dilemma, and the practiced Disappointed Look when you want tap water. And the 50-percent-too-elaborate “Are you finished enjoying that?”

    Language was invented to connect us, but it sometimes drives us apart.

    You see it, too, when you fly. There are the airport-security officials who grimace at you with a “What? You think you’re better than me?” face when you ask them to replenish the stack of trays. Or you finish your glass of water on a flight, and now you wonder about asking the flight attendant, who is now just moving forward to the next row, for a refill. She might do it; but she might, glaring at you in the manner of a headmistress, tell you that she has to serve other customers first and that she will get to you, sir, thank you very much.

    And she is right, in a way. Why should you drink twice before others drink once? The attendant’s fidelity to her training is impeccable.

    But one senses something robotic at work, cutting between what are, at the day’s end, just two human beings.

    And yet, with India as the foil, one can see a deeper meaning in the brusqueness and coldness. So much of this behavior seems intended to draw a red line of dignity around the individual, to declare to the world that she is somebody whom no one can push around, that no one is better than anyone else.

    But which is more real, this cold dignity or India’s warm servility?

    In my six years there, India has begun to go the formal way. An oversweet, artificial politesse is audible now on certain airlines and customer-service calls and in restaurants and bars. The rules, which have long existed in abundance in India, are no longer things to be broken. People seek space for themselves and give space to others.

    They fuss less and less over others, including over whether they have eaten.

    And one wonders whether, as modernity comes, India will lose a certain warmth, a certain tender involvement of everyone in everyone. Is the warmth that lingers just a product of this stage of history, residually feudal and agrarian and poor, a stage from which India will eventually move on?

    Is destiny the barrier between us?


    tehran times : Will India lose its charm as it becomes ?world class??
     
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  3. NikSha

    NikSha Regular Member

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    Soo.. this article is based on the fact that most airline staff here has stopped asking him to eat more?

    Haha. The so called "charm" is part of a culture. Like Hindus believing that the Guest is like a god and all. No matter how much you bitch about religion being the cause of evil, it is also the cause of all this "charm" and "hospitality". Now days more and more people are beginning to just copy everything from west, it's true, but as long as there are people believing in their religion, this charm will live on for a long time.

    Then after we become atheist and want to do whatever we feel like, we can stop caring (because most people, who say they are "Atheist", think that it's an invitation to be an ass towards others). In the end it's all about religion, the cause of all evil and the cause of all charm. When India becomes a emotionless wasteland like China, we will become just another western country. It'll take a long time for that to happen.
     
  4. A.V.

    A.V. New Member

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    --------- bumped ---------------
     
  5. pmaitra

    pmaitra Moderator Moderator

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    Personally, I would be happy if by losing it's "charm" Indian airlines (not a proper noun) and IATA become professional. I don't care if I am not asked whether I had enough to eat. I don't want to stand at the luggage belt and wait, and wait, and wait, and watch all the passengers leave, only to discover my luggage is lost (as if by some magical charm)!

    P.S.:
    • Two of my friends actually lost their luggage when flying on Air India from India to US.
    • There is virtually no check at Customs and Immigration at IGI, Delhi about what people are bringing into the country. Not even a scan through a machine.

    One piece of Advice:
    If you are on a code sharing flight with one portion in a domestic carrier, better carry loads of cash in INR.
     
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2011
  6. Armand2REP

    Armand2REP CHINI EXPERT Veteran Member

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    If you can base a country's charm on its airlines, I have to go back to Japan. I flew ANA Nippon on my way to China in coach, I was treated like first class. Fed better than average free meals every three hours, refills anytime the stewardess walked by, all the free beer I could drink, had a kick back seat so I could lay down to sleep, plenty of leg room, practiced my Japanese and got a few flirts from these great looking attendants. When I got off the plane, I had a cute little personal escort through customs, to the China Southern desk to get my ticket and walked me all the way to my gate. All these girls spoke French or English. No problem with luggage, never had to look at my checked bags. Talk about a great flight for little cost.

    I flew Air India twice in and out of Mumbai. Flight over there was mediocre, seats were cramped, food was good but not enough meals, attendants were kind of rude. They look at you funny if you hand them uneaten food. They didn't like picking up your trash unless they had the cart out, which was rare. Oh yes, the control for the video screen on the seat kept poking my leg. Good leg room though. Didn't lose my luggage that day. On the flight home, the boarding ramp didn't cover the door well and all these mosquitoes got in the cabin. Everyone was swatting for hours. I was too miserable to think of anything else. Lost my luggage for three days.
     
  7. Rage

    Rage DFI TEAM Stars and Ambassadors

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    I'm pretty sure this is not true:


    http://www.prosecurityzone.com/News...ng_system_for_indira_gandhi_airport_15153.asp
     
  8. Bangalorean

    Bangalorean Stars and Ambassadors Stars and Ambassadors

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    Though the article is a good read, I agree with pmaitra. I would prefer to get things done fast and efficiently rather than pine for something subjective like "warmth".
     
  9. pmaitra

    pmaitra Moderator Moderator

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    Sorry Rage, this is prima facie evidence. I cannot prove it. I do have a picture of me at IGI airport with copper discs and several hands making signs in the background, but that won't prove anything either.

    P.S.: I arrived at Delhi from Chicago, picked up my luggage, walked straight out. Yes, it was T3.
     
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2011
  10. Rage

    Rage DFI TEAM Stars and Ambassadors

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    Wow. Then I'm stunned!

    Where'd you pick up your luggage from tho? Because, I know at the Mumbai airport the baggage is screened before it is put on a conveyor belt for collection.

    I'm also pretty sure there's a separate room for verification of contents. My suspicions have been confirmed by previous reports, that several contents were pilfered from baggages of others, when they were valuable. Could, perhaps, something similar exist at the IGI?
     
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2011
  11. pmaitra

    pmaitra Moderator Moderator

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    Maybe the baggages were checked before they were put on the conveyor belt. In that case, I am wrong in assuming they were not checked and I admit that.

    This is what happened on my return flight into the US:
    I arrived at Chicago, picked up my luggage from the belt, took them to customs, placed my luggage in conveyor-cum-scanner, picked them up from the other side and walked out.

    I was under the impression that one has to go through customs after picking up all their luggages and that is when they are checked or scanned. Moreover, while I was walking out, one CISF jawan asked me if there were any electronics. I said my camera. He asked if I had laptop. I said no. He let me exit. Why would he ask if the baggage was supposed to have been scanned before?
     
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2011
  12. Rage

    Rage DFI TEAM Stars and Ambassadors

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    The way it works in India at int'l airports, if I've got it right, is that the baggage is taken immediately upon arrival to a back room, where it is sorted out, passed through a scanner and then put on the conveyor belt that corresponds to the flight on the dash board. All this is done, while you're standing in the line waiting for Immigrations. Once you've retrieved your baggage, you put it on your trolley and wheel it out, where CISF and local airport security officials are waiting, to do random checks on some passengers.

    I know I've heard some people from the middle east, especially the rich mallus, have had gold stolen from their baggages upon arrival. Local police officials, upon a *suitable* payment, later found the gold to be 'misplaced' at the airport.
     
  13. pmaitra

    pmaitra Moderator Moderator

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    Oh yeah. There is no doubt about that. I have a habit of checking online fora before choosing a carrier and also airports I will be going through.

    Yet another piece of advice for all:
    Make sure you check your passport properly when it is handed back to you. See report below:

    Link: http://www.mid-day.com/news/2008/aug/300808-NRIs-Indian-Passports-visa-pages-Indian-Airports.htm
     
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2011
  14. thakur_ritesh

    thakur_ritesh Administrator Administrator

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    What has happened over the years is the profile of the customer has changed with the competition sneaking in, back in the days the times of this gentleman is referring to, then generally the high end traveler used to board a flight on the domestic circuit since the fare used to be huge but not any more and with the changing profile of customer the behavior pattern of on board flight attendants has also changed but so has not changed a bit in the business class, the staff there is as courteous as ever.

    Anyways I have travelled with air india a few times, long back when Indian air space didn’t have any competition (back then the stewardesses were very polite and caring as well, may more so since then we were kids and so used to get that special attention and love) and in recent past and thankfully in recent times each time I was traveling with them they were using a330s and not a320s/b737s which is what the private airlines employ which meant the leg room was good and so was the sitting area and contrary to my belief I found the stewardesses to be well dressed, all in good shape though you can sure bump into an older woman once in a while, well behaved much on the lines of what awaits in private airlines and food as good as one would find in jet or king fisher and same has been the experience at the check in counters, though aged people, not in shape but very courteous and very helpful indeed though they can sure come across disorganized and I wont be exaggerating if I were to rate my experience with ground staff of air india better than any of the other private airlines where the younger lot can just be a little restless with first time and the older travelers.

    My rudest experience ever was when I first ever boarded a low cost airline, spicejet, my co passenger also a colleague asked for ear plugs at the time of take off and unlike the full service airlines the stewardess there asked for the money and my colleague shrugged off with a remark, what?! and there came the reply, you get what you pay for, now this was highly unexpected and then when we were about to land they came with long transparent plastic bags in their hands and in them they were collecting all the waste though now that has changed a lot and then the really ugly uniform for stewardesses of air deccan, thankfully they got bought over by kingfisher.
     
  15. Armand2REP

    Armand2REP CHINI EXPERT Veteran Member

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    How stupid do you have to be to leave gold in checked baggage? Take it carry-on, at least you can watch them go through it.
     
  16. Flint

    Flint Senior Member Senior Member

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    What a ridiculous article. Air India has sucked ever since it was Nationalized.
     
  17. Rage

    Rage DFI TEAM Stars and Ambassadors

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    Some of them, are, pretty stupid. But most carry so much gold, they couldn't fit it with all the other stuff they wanted to carry in their carry-ons.

    Dubai used to be really cheap for gold biscuits, once upon a time. And these people used to buy 'em like they were gonna have 'em with tea.
     

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