Trolley Tales – Madras and DC
Corruption – Corrosion of functionality
Have you ever stood by the luggage carousel at the airport, watching baggage flow down the conveyor belt in large intermittent bunches?
Well, if you stood at the international airport in Chennai, you’d see a few hundred people at crowded around a carousel with their eyes fixed longingly at the vertical flaps at the beginning of the conveyor belt waiting for the bags to appear. After an interminable wait, one or at the most two large suitcases would traipse down on the pleated rubber sheets.
After it gets picked up, the empty conveyor belt would do two more rounds before the entire sequence repeats itself at an excruciatingly slow pace. The passengers – several of whom would have flown half way around the world, would have finished their disembarkation process in less than thirty minutes but would have to wait for nearly two hours before they can pick up their bags and leave the airport.
On our trip to India last year, the frustrations of the slow filling baggage carousel at the Madras airport were compounded by trolley complications.
There were simply no luggage-carts to be found anywhere in the vicinity. A flight had brought a few hundred passengers – exhausted and irritated as they waited for the trolleys, while at a nearby counter there were men in shirts and ties arguing with rough looking men in less sophisticated attire in equally filthy language about the absence of luggage trolleys, while at one end of the spacious hall a crowd gathered around two large closed doors, like restive devotees waiting for the sanctum-sanctorum to open.
The security pushed the crowd forcefully further down the large hall, as they opened the doors and brought in a long-row of nested trolleys. Pandemonium ensued in the next few seconds as the crowd jostled, shouted and shoved one another as they grabbed two, three trolleys per person and melted away, while a large segment walked away empty-handed.
One of those who walked away empty-handed was my husband, who gave up his spot around the revolving belt and went after the trolleys, while I stayed with the hand baggage.
A sweet, demure looking lady stopped on her way back from the hustle-bustle and lamented gently about the pushing and shoving. I looked at this graceful, gentle soul and wondered how someone like her could survive in a city where ruthless rat-race was part of everyday life.
The next time when the doors opened for the next batch of trolleys, I wheeled both the hand-baggage furiously to the rapidly diminishing trolley line, grabbed two trolleys from a porter who was wheeling away four. I landed the hand baggage on the outermost trolley and refused to budge until I got the two I demanded.
By contrast, the luggage trolleys lay in quiet, nested lines at the vast, less crowded Dulles airport in Virginia, held together by a steely arm controlled by digital will. An occasional passenger or two, trying to grab a stubborn trolley would realize its futility as they read the sign and quietly seethe as they made their way up to the automated cash collecting machine and dropped a hefty bill of five US dollars digitally or physically, to rent a trolley for just about half an hour.
If you are a passenger on a domestic flight in US, chances are you are paying legal extortion just to check-in your travel bags. After all, travel is not about the baggage, it is about wearing the clothes on your back and suffering through the incredibly shrinking seats on an airplane – not much unlike the incredibly shrinking middle-class of USA.
The Trump republicans’ tax plan and other destructive policies seek to ensure that the shrinking middle-class would disappear and turn this country into a populace where everyday life would become a ruthless rat-race and turn its people into cold-hearted, mean-spirited version of themselves.
Corruption can be loud and boorish, corruption can be quiet and sophisticated. If the people are not vigilant about the corruption of their leaders, it’s only a matter of time before a developed nation degrades, into an under-developed country.
Welcome to Chennai, capital of the Indian state of Tamilnadu where a bald, middle-aged celebrity drops loud hints about running for the post of the Chief Minister in an effort to promote his terrible movies.
Welcome to USA where a bald, old celebrity who used to run for the presidency in order to promote his terrible television show has been elected as the most unpopular president of what used to be the most popular democracy on Earth.