Kathmandu looked so pretty and welcoming, viewed from the sky. Glittering lights made one forget its dense population and concrete jungle. After the hustle and bustle of Mumbai, and the frenzied shopping that we did for our cousin’s marriage, we looked forward to going back home.
As we began going down the steps of the plane and onto the high step of the bus, I watched the elderly and the feeble struggling with their bags and trying to find their balance. It made me wonder why on earth the “international airport” in Kathmandu doesn’t have the chute or whatever it is called so that the passengers can have easy access to the airport; as in other international airports!
The crowded immigration area had long queues. The guard policing the crowd began shouting rudely at Nepali passengers to go to their designated line and requesting politely to Caucasian passengers to go to the other. Why couldn’t he extend the same courtesy to his own fellow country people, I wondered!
Once downstairs, the stench of the toilet greeted us and we jostled to go through the x-ray machine manned by a male personnel. The machine beeped as it was beeping when each and every person passed through. He asked if I was wearing a watch and I said I wasn’t; and showed him the bangle I was wearing. He ordered me to go back, and cross the machine raising both arms which beeped with the same intensity. Funny!
After collecting our luggage, we were stopped again at another check point for luggage. They ordered us to stop and open our bags. We did. One rustled through our belongings and declared, “these days, you are allowed to carry only two sets of clothes and here you are carrying so many.” We explained that those were gifts and not for business but they just ignored it and again low whispers were exchanged between the 3 personnel who were there. They began laughing among themselves and appeared to be enjoying themselves at our expense.
They took our passports and declared a sum we had to pay as taxes. We agreed, got all the paperwork done and got our passports back. In the rush, where there were few other passengers that were held up just like us, my sister took another similar looking suitcase and put it on her trolley and when she had moved forward around 5 meters away, the owner of the bag called out to her and ran to meet her and told her that she had the wrong bag. My sister was shocked at her blunder. She apologized profusely to the man, who accepted the genuine mistake and left with his bag.
The guard policing the crowd began shouting rudely at Nepali passengers to go to their designated line and requesting politely to Caucasian passengers to go to the other. Why couldn’t he extend the same courtesy to his own fellow country people, I wondered!
As we were about to leave the airport premises, the same two officers confronted us and shouted, “stop thieves, stop! You are carrying a stolen bag!” Another threatened, “call the police!” We were dazed and wondered what it was all about! Then my sister understood the situation and tried to explain what had just transpired but the officers seemed hell bent on proving that the bag wasn’t ours and we were big time thieves!
After many apologies, explanations and confirmation on the phone that the man who complained about his lost luggage had indeed left with his own bag, the two magnanimously declared, “Okay then, this time, we let you go!” WHAT!?
We all were too stunned and didn’t know how to react! We felt that we were trapped in a cage run by rabid hyenas. That’s how disgusting it was! We had never ever encountered anything like this before in our entire history of flight travels. Later, we talked with a journalist friend of ours, who shouted at us and said why the hell did we even let those officers get away with that abusive behavior!! She said we should have shouted back in a louder voice, and got them to apologise for insulting us in that beastly manner.
The airport actually felt like a mafia run place where the passengers don’t have a voice and are at the mercy of those who are abusing their powers. I have written about it to share this true story. Are we going to do something about it ?