October 08, 2009

Toys in the bath

When we enter Amritsar airport, there's a sign saying "Pick Up and Drop", with an arrow indicating an immediate right turn. We follow the arrow and turn. Immediately, we see a second sign, and this one says "Toilet and Bath".

I'm suspecting that somebody is trying to say something about people arriving at Amritsar airport.

After checking in, I head for security. I pass two counters that say "Uzbekistan Airlines" and "Turkmenistan Airlines". I'm intrigued, because I had no idea that there were flights between Amritsar and these countries that fell off the former USSR. No idea that enough people would want to fly between Amritsar and these countries for their airlines to operate such flights. What connects this city to them, does anyone know?

Speaking of such connections -- firm by name Mahan Airways has multiple signs on the airport approach announcing flights five times a week from Amritsar to Birmingham, Dusseldorf and Dubai. Another intriguing set of cities. What might connect all four?

Inside, I have to wait, because the security counter is not yet open. So I amuse myself by reading two large blue signs, and by resolving to offer you some extracts from them.

The first is a 23-item list titled "Circular no. 41/2005, Exemption from pre-embarkation security at Civil Airports." On this list, #1 is "President". #2 is "Vice-President". #3 is "Prime Minister". It goes on from there, working its way slowly through various levels of officialdom and dignity.

Then there's the famous #23: "Shri Robert Vadra, while travelling with SPG Protectees."

I really wonder where else in the world you'd find a list such as this, that actually has someone listed by name: Dusseldorf? Turkmenistan?

The second blue sign is "AVSEC Order 05/2005", a list of items you are not allowed to take on board aircraft. It has all the items you might guess -- box cutters, ice picks, metal cleavers, flare guns, hand grenades and many more.

Then there's "Realistic Replica of Toy Weapon".

The levels of fascination here leave my mind reeling. The list does not, I assure you, mention "Toy Weapon". So why, I can't help wondering, would a toy weapon be ok, but a "realistic replica" of one not be ok? In any case, why would a "realistic replica" of a toy weapon not amount to a toy too? And if someone was caught trying to smuggle one such on board surreptitiously, say in the hands of her 4-year-old, could she point out that it actually is a toy? Or that it is an unrealistic replica of one? Would such explanations satisfy a conscientious security guard, may their tribe increase?

But the most important question of all might be this: what if Robert Vadra tried to board a flight carrying a realistic replica of a toy weapon?

All we can say is, if he tried to do so at Amritsar, it's at least possible he had a bath on the way in. Put him on the flight to Turkmenistan, then.


Rahul Siddharthan said...

I would guess that Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Mahan airways are in the business of giving cheap rides to and from the UK (I know students in the UK do take these airlines, and there is also a large Punjabi population in the UK). Looking at Mahan's website, the only non-Iranian destinations they fly to are Birmingham, Dusseldorf, Baghdad, Istanbul and Bangkok. I suspect only Birmingham is of interest to Punjabis; they mentioned Dusseldorf because the option is there, while it doesn't make sense to fly Amritsar-Bangkok via Iran, and traffic from Amritsar to the other destinations is probably negligible...

Anonymous said...

Pure guess: reportedly very high levels of migration incl illegal from Punjab thru the countries of former USSR to E.Europe, targeting finally some EU member states. Earlier used to be landroute thru Pak and Iran, v.risky I'm guessing.

Maybe Turkmenistan/ Uzbekistan is the starting point.

Girish Shahane said...

There's a fair amount of business happening between Central Asia and India, and I guess much of it is routed through Punjab.
In the early days after the collapse of the Soviet Union the arms trade was pretty lucrative. The Indian military needed all kinds of spare parts for their soviet made ships, planes and weapons, the factories for which were now in independent republics beyond Russian government control. I believe many of the spares still come from places like Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.

V M said...

There exist historical non-ocean trade linkages between modern-day India and Central Asis which most people from the rest of the country have not the faintest clue on. Just think of a single factoid - the global narcotics economy exceeds that of the oil economy and automobile economy put together. And while you are looking at what Mahan Air is all about, do check out Kam Air too, and see how much the BCs and MCs in Punjab have progressed while Maharashtra squabbles about Bs and Ms.