It has been 11 years since I have set foot in India. I flew out of Calcutta and this time I flew into Kolkata. What should I expect from this emerging global powerhouse?
I expected that the International airport should have several ATM machines. Wrong!! The airport had one ATM machine which is between the international terminal and the domestic terminal and it was being repaired. Lucky for me it was working in about 10 minutes and I was able to get money in order to pay to get into the city.
Next, how difficult is it to get a prepaid taxi coupon at any airport in the world? Since I had exited the international terminal to find an ATM I could not enter the terminal again. I had to get special permission to enter the domestic terminal and then waited 15 minutes in the que to get the voucher. One person takes the details and inputs them into a computer. You then move to the second person who gives you the voucher and takes your cash. I gave the man 500 rupees and as I was walking away I noticed that I had been shortchanged by 200 rupees so I turned around and broke into the que and asked again how much was the ticket. I told him I had given him 500 rupees and was told I had put the change into my bag. I proceeded to get bigger and bolder the 200 rupees was quickly given to me. Interesting! I went out to the taxi stand and someone went to fetch the car number that was on my voucher. Did I say I was inside the domestic terminal? The counter is surrounded by glass with 2 small holes cut out. The other side of the counter faces outside the terminal and also has a small hole cut into the glass. Periodically a face would peer through the hole and a voucher would be handed to a third man in the kiosk. This man procceded to give money to the man peering through the glass. I presume it was for payment from a previous fare.
The ride to my hotel, the Broadway Hotel (another story) was fascinating. I do not think anything has changed. Garbage is piled up everywhere. Traffic is chaotic, horns are blaring and overall a cacophony of noise. The sensory overload of India.
The next experience is the Internet. I saw an Internet cafe and went to send a quick email. I found out I needed my passport to register to use the Internet . My passport was being scanned by the hotel. So I went back and retrieved it. A copy of the passport is not sufficient. It has to be the real thing. My passport again was scanned and I had to provide email and street address information and had my thumb print taken 4 times. Beauracracy will kill terrorism!!