SecurityFAIL: Escape from Mumbai

Singapore: There is free WiFi. Yessssss! It makes you want to shout out with glee! As soon as you step out of the plane, the soothing waves of wireless bliss surround your very existance, caress your sense for information, and, of course, cater to the net-addicts. Ahhhh.

But, I digress: Actually I wanted to write about the sweaty ordeal that I knew nothing about 8 hours ago.

When you get to the Mumbai airport, the full extent of the paranoia prevailing in a city that just suffered some terror hits you like a truncheon. Pillboxes line the taxi drop-off cue, nice big german shepherds fan air to their keen noses in the brooding head, and policemen with moustaches who have absolutely no technical capability to control the validity (or even plausibility) of your ticket will still refuse entrance to the airport (to the check-in counters) to anyone not bearing a printout with lots of numbers on it.

Yes, that was new for me. Normally, these e-ticket things tend to be a bit too easy: you walk there, show your passport, and that's all anyone will ever ask of you, anywhere in the world. Except India.

Okay, so I'm standing in the humid heat of a typical Mumbai night, and trying to keep my inner barbarian from ripping out. The paradox is that, of course, there is no airline office outside of the hall these moustached machos so jealously (and absolutely senselessly) guard. As Terry Prattchet writes "Guarding is in the process of happening." A guard may not question the utility of his or her placement, because that's simply not something guards are supposed to do. But in case someone comes around without said printed piece of paper, the entry to the hall were such printouts could actually be procured is denied.

It took some screaming and agressive walking, followed by some more rational conversations with different people, and finally a clerk at an exchange office pointed me to an elevator that led to the secret hideout of the airline offices. By this time I had realised that such a situation just screams for utterly civilised behaviour and at least some sign that you have money and are therefore important. My Boss jacket, brought along for exactly this purpose, did it's job quite nicely. Guard convinced, printout procured, and a lengthy and sweaty running around was about to end.

The policeman at another entrance checked my Pieces Of Paper Granting Admission (with lots of numbers on them) for exactly 0.4 seconds before waving me through.

Finally IN the sacred halls, a young guy from Singapore noticed my jacket (the rundown flipflops and the old backpack seemingly ignored) and reduced my further waiting time decisively, waving me through a few other security checks and at the end cheerfully asking me if I could mention his good behaviour to his superiours. Ahhh, the appearance of wealth at the right time can be quite helpful.

So far from the wonderful airconditioned terminal one of Singapore Changi Airport, where they sell wonderful coffee and have free WiFi. Bliss!


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