Monday, March 17, 2008


Last week, India's Airports Authority Employees Union went on strike to protest plans to open private airports in the high-tech South Indian cities of Hyderabad and Bangalore.

Both new airports are located well outside of city limits and are not yet served by rail.

The more convenient older, state-run airports are slated to be closed down.

Garbage began to pile up at the nation's airports during the strike, although the planes continued to fly.

The union ended the strike after two days, once the government promised it would consider the interests of the workers at the old airports.

I don't think they got anything on paper.

Which is too bad, because experts say keeping the old airports open is not economically viable.

Hyderabad's Rajiv Gandhi International Airport was slated to open Saturday at midnight, although the civil aviation ministry surprised everyone at the inaugural ceremony by saying it would be delayed "by a few days."

Whatever. The high-tech, glass-and-steel Hyderabad airport is a showcase with its own slide show plus a theme song composed by South Indian musical genius AR Rahman. It will open. Soon.

We're not so sure about the 4050-acre Bengaluru International Airport, which was slated to open March 30.

Opening day has now been moved to May 11 due to deficiencies in air traffic and electricity infrastructure.

The Bangalore airport has neither a theme song nor a stunning design. In fact, it is meant to look "like a factory."

It has been beleaguered by delays since day one.

Maybe the delays will keep coming.

I adore the charming old Bangalore airport, where I've spent hours and hours filling out lost luggage forms and waiting for planes to other places.

I love the newly-widened road from Mysore to the airport, and the safe, wonderful pure veg restaurant where we stop at all hours to sit outside and have a bite.

The airport itself small and navigable.

The people who work there are nice (not like in Mumbai!).

It has a Cafe Coffee Day that's open at 3AM.

It's home to my favorite bookstore in the whole wide world.

And it's where I first set foot in India, back in 2002, and encountered its distinct, welcoming, incense-humidity-burning fuel aroma.

I'll really miss it....

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