By Amar B. Shrestha
Last week, I had to spend around eight hours in Istanbul Airport, in transit from Miami to Kathmandu. It was a pretty exhausting eight hours, let me tell you, although the departure area is more like a mall, complete with food court and all. You’ll find the best brands of the world here, duty free at that, and because this particular airport is an important hub for international travel, connecting the East to the West, there are as many flights taking off and landing as there are minutes on your watch. In other words, it’s a really busy airport, and very efficient, too. One has to marvel at how they manage day after day to keep up with the hectic tempo.
The shops and the cafes and the restaurants are always packed, and you’ll find people from all over the globe chattering away in a hundred different languages. Oh yeah, this airport is a mini-world as we know it. The departure area is very, very large, with scores of gates for various flights, and I walked and walked throughout the area, trying to make the best of all the extra hours to burn some of the excess calories I had stored in the U.S., gorging on those heavy duty hamburgers, burritos, and what have you, not to mention a couple of all-you-can-eat buffets.
Anyway, by and by, my flight details came up on the information board, and by and by, our gate number was listed. As expected, the flight was exactly on time, and I made my way to the gate. At last, after so many hours, I came face to face with familiar Nepali-looking faces, and heard people speaking in Nepali. I tell you, because it’s such a busy airport, with flights taking off and landing every three-four minutes, and to all corners of the world, the departure area fairly teemed with thousands of people of all hues and colors, and it wasn’t easy to find Nepali-looking faces.
So, we boarded our plane, there were quite a few foreigners, too, but what I most noticed was the presence of many babies and children on our flight. Our flight took off at 1:45 p.m., the crew members were really courteous, as expected I guess. We landed at Tribhuvan International Airport at around 11:30 a.m., and carried on to the immigration counters, where we presented our passport and the arrival form we were required to fill in (wonder what purpose this serves; at U.S. airports we had to fill in custom declaration forms—wonder what purpose they serve, as well) and were ushered through pretty quickly. Then, we went through a security check (wonder why incoming passengers have to go through this process).
Now, the ordeal began, doubtless not a major one, but very inconvenient, nevertheless. Our baggage carousel number was announced some fifteen minutes later, and then we waited for our baggage to arrive. We waited patiently, with our trollies at hand (“Trollies are free” announced signboards proudly; and yes, we should be proud of this free facility, because in the U.S. you have to pay five dollars for one), and we waited. And we waited, and waited, and waited. At last, a couple of bags appeared on the moving carousel, they went around, and for five turns or so, the very same bags appeared on the carousel, and it was such a desultory sight. No signs of other baggage.
I looked around, and seeing some smirking faces, and some grimacing ones, felt quite embarrassed. By now, some more bags were making their presence felt, and one young Nepali girl back home from Cyprus, actually let out a triumphant shout when her pink suitcase arrived. It was around 2:00 p.m. when I could collect my own suitcases, and I was only thankful that they hadn’t been lost on the way, which I actually had begun to believe was the case! After that, the rest was a cakewalk, through the green channel, to the taxi booking counter, and then on a nice small car zipping away homewards.